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Volume Editor's Introduction

Volume Editor's Introduction

(p.1) Volume Editor's Introduction
Nicholas D. Paige
University of Chicago Press

This introductory chapter discusses the life and works of Marie-Madeleine Pioche de La Vergne, comtesse de Lafayette, and her novel Zayde. Lafayette was the only woman author of Old Regime France who had a work accepted into the canon of world literature—The Princess of Cléves, variously referred to, depending on context, as the first psychological novel, the first historical novel, even the first realist novel, and at any rate as the epitome of classical style. Zayde is considered the last great French romance. It marks the last time a writer took the reader on a tried and true Mediterranean tour resembling those of Xenophon and Heliodorus—from Catalonia to Cyprus and back, with battles, prophecies, and shipwrecks along the way. Lafayette gives romance devices free rein to function without shame and to jewel-like perfection.

Keywords:   Marie-Madeleine Pioche de La Vergne, women writers, Zayde, romance novels, The Princess of Cléves, French romance

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