Marie le Jars de Gournay's only work of fiction, the raison d'être of her first published volume, falls under the generic rubric of histoire tragique. The forerunner of the Gothic form, the histoire tragique had for some decades been a popular kind of romantic and sensational narrative, typically involving tangled erotic relations and invariably ending in disaster. The Promenade of Monsieur de Montaigne delivers the standard elements in profusion, beginning with an exotic setting (ancient Persia) and a beautiful princess (Alinda) menaced with arranged marriage. The main action then gets underway with a desperate love affair, an elopement, and a shipwreck on the shores of barbarous Thrace. In processing it, however, Gournay makes several provocative contributions—much against the grain of the genre, which tended to wallow in standard female (and male) stereotypes—so as to produce a text that may fairly be labeled feminism.
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