Portrait of Sappho by Mademoiselle de Scudéry or inclusion through exclusion
In the 17th century, Mademoiselle de Scudéry, because of her sex, lack of wealth and tarnished name, did not occupy any significant place among the writers and the elite salons of Paris. However, she won the admiration and respect of her contemporaries by skilfully combining the promotion of her intellect with far-reaching modesty. She was highly appreciated by the literary circles for publishing her own book under her brother’s name and thus observing the rule concerning female propriety. Portraying herself as Sappho in the novel Artamène ou le Grand Cyrus, Mademoiselle de Scudéry presented herself as an outstanding intellectual, but at the same time she strongly dissociated herself from the bluestockings who publicly demonstrated their knowledge. She believed that no woman should do things reserved for men. If she had such predispositions, she should do so discreetly, without questioning the traditional division of social roles. Mademoiselle de Scudéry’s attitude was greatly appreciated by 17th century critics and readers.