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Faculty Mentors

Dr. Hedwig Fraunhofer

Abstract

The role of women in literature and society has been ever evolving and has also varied between writers and even individual works. In both society and literature, women have often been either marginalized or idealized. In this essay, I will focus on the works of French writers Pierre Corneille and Denis Diderot, specifically their plays, Le Cid (The Cid, 1636) and Le Fils naturel (The Natural Son, 1757). In terms of the role of women in these two plays, there are marked differences regarding their significance as characters and their expected feminine roles as well as how they interact with the men of the plays. In Le Cid, Corneille gives his main character, Chimène, a vital role in the plot. She is a character who is treated with equity in relation to men and, interestingly, even takes on some masculine qualities in the play. However, Rosalie, Chimène’s counterpart in Diderot’s Le Fils naturel, only plays a peripheral role and is underdeveloped as a feminine presence.

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