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Dangerous women : Roxane and the Marquise de Merteuil in Montesquieu’s Les lettres persanes and Laclos’ Les liaisons dangereuses

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library
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  • Political Science


In eighteenth century France, both Montesquieu and Choderlos de Laclos tackled the question of women’s place in society and the notion of female liberation in their epistolary novels, Les Lettres Persanes and Les Liaisons Dangereuses. In creating two strong female protagonists who launch personal attacks on the men who surround them, both authors demonstrate the potential threat that women posed to the male hierarchy if females were to recognize their power and unleash it. Though neither heroine fully succeeds in launching her battle against the society that enslaved them, each makes a case for female freedom and embodies their author’s views on the French regime of absolute monarchy, as is the case with Montesquieu, and the state of women in general, as is the case with Laclos.

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