Renaissance and Reformation Louise Labé
by
Kirk D. Read
  • LAST REVIEWED: 04 July 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 September 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0104

Introduction

Louise Labé (c. b. 1522–d. 1566) is the most well-known and celebrated woman writer of non-noble birth from the French Renaissance. While her published work (Œuvres, 1555) is modest in length, the variety of genres she employs (epistle, sonnet, elegy, prose dialogue), the robust evidence of her proto-feminist vocation, her strength of voice, and her mastery of Petrarchan and Neoplatonic conventions have made of her a hugely important figure in the literature of this period. Labé was born in the early 1520s to a family of wealthy rope makers in Lyon, a city at the crossroads of the burgeoning cultural Renaissance given its situation between Paris and Italy. Daughter of Pierre Charly and second wife Etienne Roybet who died shortly after Labé’s birth, Louise received an uncommonly thorough humanist education, most probably in a convent setting (Le couvent de la Déserte) where it is conjectured she may have been sent by her very young stepmother. The volume that Labé published with one of the premier printing houses of her day (Jean de Tournes) offers a stunning trove of evidence in both prose and poetry of a female writer’s negotiation of the literary and social conventions that challenged learned women of this time. The Œuvres are prefaced by the epistolary dedication to the young Lyonnais noblewoman, Clémence de Bourges, a manifesto for women’s participation in letters wherein she implores the ladies of Lyon to look above their distaffs and join the writer’s enterprise. This call to writing is followed by a much lengthier but no less fiercely gendered Débat de Folie et d’Amour (Debate of folly and love), a mythological play that enacts many of the epistle’s issues in allegorical form. Following the debate are three elegies and a sonnet cycle of twenty-four poems, all manifesting a deep engagement with contemporary literary conventions as told in a consciously feminine voice: In her poetic work Labé inscribes on several occasions her regional sisterhood (ô Dames Lionnoises). Labé’s final sonnet (and final words in the Œuvres) serves as both an entreaty and apology to the women she invites into her literary project. On the very next page begins the inscription of twenty-four homages to her by male contemporaries, an insurance policy of sorts, against the tide of scandal and criticism attached to her work and reputation. Their success continues to be the subject of some debate, as Louise Labé has endured centuries of both criticism and praise, culminating most recently in the proposition that her works were not at all hers but cooked up by a clever male collaborative. Such is the legacy of a powerful woman writer at odds with 16th-century social and literary conventions and norms of gender.

General Critical and Biographical Overviews

Given the scant amount of information that exists concerning the life of Louise Labé, biographers have generally written highly contextualized speculations about her life based on a variety of sources concerning the humanist milieu of the city of Lyon and Labé’s contemporaries—whence a plethora of somewhat misogynist stylings by writers overly reliant on (or enamored of) the fictions of her detractors. Lesko Baker’s excellent presentation and translation of Labé’s life and works in the definitive University of Chicago Other Voices series (Labé 2006) as well as the author’s earlier monograph tracing the entire trajectory of Labé’s complete works (Lesko Baker 1996, cited under Translated Editions (Complete and Selected Works)) are currently premier resources for Labé. Berriot 1985, an earlier treatment of Labé, is a bit more popular in tone and approach yet still useful and includes the complete works and other supporting documents. Cameron 1990 is a helpful introduction to Labé and her work as it takes up issues in and approaches to her writing in seriatim across the volume of her work. Chang 2009 on Labé and print culture as a gendered phenomenon is particularly useful in situating the author’s work within the material realities of her time. Lazard 2004 is the most recent and thorough biography of Labé by a revered scholar working in France. Martin 1999 is a supremely useful overview of Labé’s work that retraces the linear trajectory through the Œuvres to reveal a coherent and carefully crafted architecture to the work; O’Connor 1926, an early biography, while somewhat dated, is a useful early treatment of Labé and complements and informs later works. Rigolot 1997 is the most widely distributed and consulted version of Labé’s works to date. François Rigolot is considered one of the best-known and most authoritative Labé scholars; this work is a superb and sensitive treatment of this author not to be ignored.

  • Berriot, Karine. Louise Labé: La Belle Rebelle et le François nouveau, suivi des Œuvres complètes. Paris: Seuil, 1985.

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    An extensive treatment of the life and works of Labé, written in a more popular style with a bit of poetic license to reconstitute a life from few historic details. Many references to her works as points of departure as well as contemporaries. Includes Labé’s complete works and last will and testament.

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    • Cameron, Keith. Louise Labé: Renaissance Poet and Feminist. New York: Berg, 1990.

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      Concise introduction to Labé, helpful for undergraduate study in translation. A useful chronology is included.

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      • Chang, Leah L. “Sapphic Desire and the Desire for Sappho: Είςώδάς Αοϊσης Ααβάιας and the Euvres de Louize Labé Loinnoize.” In Into Print: The Production of Female Authorship in Early Modern France. By Leah L. Chang, 100–138. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2009.

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        This chapter of Chang’s recent book deals with the recently evoked problems of 16th-century printing practices, textual ownership, and textual authority as applied to the question of Labé’s female authorship.

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        • Labé, Louise . Complete Poetry and Prose: A Bilingual Edition. Translated by Deborah Lesko Baker and Annie Finch. Edited by Deborah Lesko Baker. Other Voice in Early Modern Europe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.

          DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226467160.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          A superb side-by-side edition of the entire works of Labé with excellent notations and commentary, each section of her works analyzed in the light of the most definitive scholarship in the field. Also see Translated Editions (Complete and Selected Works).

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          • Lazard, Madeleine. Louise Labé. Paris: Fayard, 2004.

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            A thoroughly researched life of Labé by a well-known scholar of a number of Renaissance luminaries told in characteristically engaging, confident prose. Presented helpfully around the architecture of Labé’s Œuvres themselves.

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            • Martin, Daniel. Signe(s) d’Amante: L’Agencement des Evvres de Louïze Labé Lionnoize. Paris: Champion, 1999.

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              A thoughtful, close reading of the entirety of Labé’s work that Martin reveals to be a highly constructed literary creation, closely in tune with the references and movements of its time. Martin meticulously maps themes, intertexts, and formal aspects of the Œuvres in ways that honor and augment the wealth of Labé scholarship to date with his own particular structural approach.

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              • O’Connor, Dorothy. Louise Labé: Sa vie et son oeuvre. Paris: Presses françaises, 1926.

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                An excellent early work on the life, works, and milieu of Labé. This essay is divided into chapters on what can be gleaned of her life with attention to the city of Lyon as a particularly propitious provenance for a learned woman, followed by a concentrated study of Labé’s complete work. The study includes Labé’s last will and testament as well as other contemporaneous witnesses to her reputation. Reprinted in 1972 (Geneva, Switzerland: Slatkine).

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                • Rigolot, François. Louise Labé Lyonnaise, ou, la renaissance au féminin. Paris: Champion, 1997.

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                  An excellent and definitive work by one of the best-known scholars working on Labé. By contrast with most other works tied to the structure of Labé’s publication, Rigolot develops a series of essays on tropes of female models and influences from the Early Modern period as they shed light on Labé and her literary enterprise: Sappho, Laura, Athena, Arachne, and Venus, among others.

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                  French Editions (Complete and Selected Works)

                  One of the defining characteristics of Louise Labé’s legacy is the dramatic period of dormancy in her edition and publication from the time of the Œuvres’s first appearance. Through the online digital resource of the French National Library (Gallica) one can consult the original Labé 1555 and Labé 1556 texts (Evvres de Louïse Labé Lionnoize and Evvres de Louise Labé Lionnoize: Revues et corrigée par la dite dame, respectively) as well as many subsequent editions and treatments of Labé. Given the paucity of editions, it is instructive to consult the entirety of those that do exist, of which the following prove most interesting and definitive: the Labé 1762 edition by Duplain as the first re-edition (Œuvres de Louise Charly); Labé 1824, edited by Cochard and Breghot du Lut as the first in the 19th century edition; the Labé 1887 version edited by Boy as the first scholarly edition since the original; and the Labé 1981 edition edited by Giudici as the first contemporary presentation by the standard bearer Textes Littéraires Français. Labé 1983 is the author’s edited poetic works along with contemporary Pernette Du Guillet and includes a series of blasons that is accurate, affordable, and useful. Labé 2004 (originally published in 1986), the Flammarion edition, is the definitive version to date, widely distributed and referenced, edited by Labé scholar Rigolot.

                  • Labé, Louise. Evvres de Louïse Labé Lionnoize. Lyon, France: de Tournes, 1555.

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                    The original edition of Labé’s work by the renowned printing house of Jean de Tournes. Text available online from the French National Library (Gallica).

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                    • Labé, Louise. Evvres de Louise Labé Lionnoize: Revues et corrigée par la dite dame. Lyon, France: de Tournes, 1556.

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                      The second edition of the works revised and corrected by the author in the following year. Text available online from the French National Library (Gallica).

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                      • Labé, Louise. Œuvres de Louise Charly, Lionnoise, dite Labé, surnommée La Belle Cordière. Lyon, France: Duplain, 1762.

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                        The first re-edition of the works after over two centuries.

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                        • Labé, Louise. Evvres de Lovïze Labé Lionnoize. Edited by N. F. Cochard and Claude Breghot du Lut. Lyon, France: Durand et Perrin, 1824.

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                          The first 19th-century edition marking the more official “re-discovery” of Labé. Text available online from the French National Library (Gallica).

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                          • Labé, Louise. Œuvres de Louise Labé. Edited by Charles Boy. 2 vols. Paris: Lemerre, 1887.

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                            The first scholarly edition of Labé’s work since its original publication. Reprinted in 1968 (Geneva, Switzerland: Slatkine).

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                            • Labé, Louise. Œuvres Completes. Edited by Enzo Giudici. Textes Littéraires Français 292. Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 1981.

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                              A well-annotated modern edition of Labé’s works by a renowned publisher.

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                              • Labé, Louise. Œuvres poétiques: Précédées des Rymes de Pernette Du Guillet. Edited by Françoise Charpentier. Paris: Gallimard, 1983.

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                                A popular and well-presented edition of Labé’s poetic works as well as those of her contemporary with accompanying “blason” poems on the female body. With helpful introduction and notes.

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                                • Labé, Louise. Œuvres Completes. Edited by François Rigolot. Paris: Flammarion, 2004.

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                                  The definitive modern edition of Labé’s works by one of the premier scholars in the field for the last thirty years. Excellent notes and introduction. Original edition, 1986.

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                                  Translated Editions (Complete and Selected Works)

                                  The translation of literary works, both prose, but more particularly poetry, is a difficult enterprise, with acceptable versions vetted according to various registers of accuracy, poetic rhythms and nuances, and a more or less sensitive or coherent grasp of authorial intent across language and culture. The editions included here present an array of approaches. Labé 2006 of the complete works is well-edited and annotated by Lesko Baker and Finch as are the translations offered in Lesko Baker 1996; Lesko Baker and Finch keep rhyme schemes and the Italian sonnet template but not meter; Labé 2000 is an excellent scholarly dual-language translation of the Débat, one of few and therefore useful for comparison. Labé 1608, which features Greene’s Early Modern, almost contemporaneous translation is useful for comparativists of this era and is a testimony to Labé’s recognition at the time within this genre. Labé 1964, translated by Knapp, takes some liberties with interpretation of the sonnets but offers an interesting, stylized version of the work. Labé 1972, Labé 1986, and Labé 2000 have been in circulation for a long time and are often referenced, the first especially faithful to voice if not poetic structure. Labé 1947 reflects the writerly sensibilities of the noted poet and scholar Frederic Prokosch.

                                  Labé’s Poetry

                                  Louise Labé’s notoriety and the source of much consternation and calumny by her contemporaries was clearly rooted in her poetic production that defied tradition and dared to infuse female agency into heretofore male-gendered literary tropes and conventions. In time, this defiance of convention and the gendering of Renaissance lyric became the much admired and scrutinized foundational material for many feminist and gendered rereadings of her work and that of her contemporaries. Labé 2006 (cited under General Critical and Biographical Overviews), a critical edition edited by Lesko Baker, and the monograph Lesko Baker 1996 (cited under Petrarchism and Women’s Lyric) are essential reading for the pioneering studies of poetry and gendered voice in the Renaissance period in France. Lesko Baker 2004 is an excellent encapsulation of her close reading and attention to gendered conventions; Charpentier, editor of a widely used edition of Labé and Du Guillet, is a highly respected Labé scholar whose work here (Charpentier 2004) bridges the poetic and prose work convincingly; Demerson 1990 is an earlier compilation of essays by top scholars in the field emanating from an important conference on the author in 1988, many of which are reworked or reprinted in subsequent publications; Hanisch 1979 is a solid introduction to Labé’s elegies, sometimes overlooked in favor of the more scrutinized sonnetry; Jones 1981 is an early article on Labé and Du Guillet and is the ground zero of much of gendered lyric scholarship of this period; Read 1994 is a comparative essay that elaborates on themes of gender and agency in the works of these two Lyonnais poets, with particular attention to Labé’s more pronounced feminism; Rigolot 1984, a work on the famous “baiser” or “kiss” sonnet, is one of the first studies to take up this work seriously and reclaim it as artful rather than purely salacious or scandalous as so much of contemporaneous discourse would describe.

                                  • Charpentier, Françoise. “Le Débat de Louise et d’Amour: Une Poétique?” In Louise Labé 2005. Edited by Béatrice Alonso and Éliane Viennot, 211–220. Saint-Etienne, France: Publications de l’Universite de Saint-Étienne, 2004.

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                                    Insightful study, whose epigraph from the author—“the greatest pleasure after love is talking about it”—provides the terrain for developing a theory of Labé’s poetics of love with evidence from across her genres.

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                                    • Demerson, Guy, ed. Louise Labé: Les voix du lyrisme. Paris: Editions du CNRS, 1990.

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                                      A varied and useful collection of essays by the pioneers of Labé’s rediscovery, variations of which recur in subsequent volumes and anthologies.

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                                      • Hanisch, Gertrude S. Love Elegies of the Renaissance: Marot, Louise Labé, and Ronsard. Saratoga, CA: Anma Libri, 1979.

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                                        A comprehensive study of the love elegy and its rediscovery and evolution in the work of three influential writers of the French Renaissance. The study situates Labé both within the genre and among her near contemporaries.

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                                        • Jones, Ann Rosalind. “Assimilation with a Difference: Renaissance Women Poets and Literary Influence.” Special Issue: Feminist Readings: French Texts/American Contexts. Edited by Colette Gaudin, Mary Jean Green, Lynn Anthony Higgins, et al. Yale French Studies 62 (1981): 135–153.

                                          DOI: 10.2307/2929897Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                          The essential, ground-breaking study on gender and women’s lyric with particular attention to Louise Labé and her Lyonnais contemporary Pernette Du Guillet. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                          • Lesko Baker, Deborah. “Louise Labé’s Conditional Imperatives: Subversion and Transcendence of the Petrarchan Tradition.” In Louise Labé 2005. Edited by Béatrice Alonso and Éliane Viennot, 133–150. Saint-Etienne, France: Publications de l’Universite de Saint-Étienne, 2004.

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                                            An essential and excellent comparative treatment of two of Labé’s most famous sonnets with particular attention to Renaissance poetic conventions. A distillation of much of the approach of her monograph-length work (see Petrarchism and Women’s Lyric).

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                                            • Read, Kirk D. “Poolside Transformations: Diana and Actaeon Revisited by French Renaissance Women Lyricists.” In Renaissance Women Writers: French Texts, American Contexts. Edited by Anne R. Larsen and Colette H. Winn, 38–54. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1994.

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                                              A close, textual analysis of Labé’s and Du Guillet’s treatment of the story of Diana and Actaeon with particular attention to voice and women’s community.

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                                              • Rigolot, François. “Signature et signification: Les Baisers de Louise Labé.” Romanic Review 75.1 (1984): 10–24.

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                                                An early, deeply literary, and contextualized treatment of Labé’s most (in)famous poem as emerging out of contemporary and classical references.

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                                                Labé’s Prose

                                                Although historically less scrutinized than the poetic works, the Débat de Folie et d’Amour and, to a greater extent, the epistolary preface to the Œuvres, have more recently been valued and mined for the evidence they give of Labé’s proto-feminist sensibilities. The debate presents a dense (and sometimes inscrutable) dramatic set-to among Folie, Amour, and their “lawyers,” Jupiter and Apollo, all adjudicated by Jupiter. By contrast, Labé’s epistolary prose to her friend Clémence de Bourges is a clarion call to women’s participation in letters, referred to often in Labé criticism and scholarship as a manifesto. Regarding the prefatory dedication, famous for exhorting women “to look up from their distaffs” and set themselves to the pleasures of writing, are Clark-Evans 2004, which focuses on the letter’s enactment of humanistic educational themes, and Read 1990, a treatment of the work as a rallying cry for a literary community of women. The Débat has garnered attention, both as exemplary of this hybrid genre and as a highly gendered dramatization of issues relating to love and folly. Benkov 1992 and Cottrell 1987 provide an excellent base for studying the rhetorical strategies of the debate; Charpentier 2004 is a highly nuanced treatment of the debate as inextricably linked to the poetic preoccupations of the rest of Labé’s work; Logan 2004 embeds its study in the context of the philosophical underpinnings from Plato onward to Labé’s near contemporary Erasmus. Larsen 1983 and Rigolot 1983, both early seminal treatments of the debate, are erudite investigations of the debate and its implications for women’s voice and agency, particularly in the latter where the answer to the author’s titular question “Which gender (or genre) of love for Louise Labé?” remains tantalizingly unanswered.

                                                • Benkov, Edith Joyce. “The Re-making of Love: Louise Labé’s Débat de Folie et d’Amour.” Symposium 46.2 (1992): 94–104.

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                                                  A study of Labé’s debate as what the author terms an “allegorical preface” to the elegies and sonnets that are to follow. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                  • Charpentier, Françoise. “Les Voix du Désir: Le Débat de Folie et d’Amour de Louise Labé.” In Louise Labé 2005. Edited by Béatrice Alonso and Éliane Viennot, 199–210. Saint-Etienne, France: Publications de l’Universite de Saint-Étienne, 2004.

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                                                    An insightful treatment of Labé’s Débat as a particularly unique point of entry for women writers of the period in a genre other than poetry. A useful bridge between her debate and the poetic works with attention to the discourse on love.

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                                                    • Clark-Evans, Christine. “The Feminine Exemplum in Writing; Humanist Instruction in Louise Labé’s Letter Preface to Clémence de Bourges.” In Louise Labé 2005. Edited by Béatrice Alonso and Éliane Viennot, 91–106. Saint-Etienne, France: Publications de l’Universite de Saint-Étienne, 2004.

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                                                      An excellent treatment of this epistle that underscores both the community of Lyonnais women to whom Labé appeals while also revealing the program for their humanistic education.

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                                                      • Cottrell, Robert D. “The Problematics of Opposition in Louise Labé’s Débat de Folie et d’Amour.” French Forum 12.1 (1987): 27–42.

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                                                        A highly respected Renaissance scholar’s study of the debate in response to Neoplatonic dialogue and debates and their topoi, so popular in the decades preceding Labé’s publication. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                        • Larsen, Anne R. “Louise Labé’s Débat de Folie et d’Amour: Feminism and the Defense of Learning.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 2.1 (1983): 43–55.

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                                                          An excellent introduction to Labé’s debate as allied with ambient texts and contexts regarding women’s participation in letters. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                          • Logan, Mary-Rose. “La portée théorique du Debat de Folie et d’Amour de Louise Labé.” In Louise Labé 2005. Edited by Béatrice Alonso and Éliane Viennot, 245–254. Saint-Etienne, France: Publications de l’Universite de Saint-Étienne, 2004.

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                                                            A theoretical reading of Labé’s debate as participating in what the author terms a poetics of “dissemblance,” wherein that which is occulted or dissembled is valorized.

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                                                            • Read, Kirk D. “Louise Labé in Search of Time Past: Prefatory Strategies and Rhetorical Transformations.” Critical Matrix: Princeton Working Papers in Women’s Studies 5 (1990): 63–88.

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                                                              Louise Labé’s preface is mined here for the poet’s gendered agenda in cultivating a sense of audience and urgency among women.

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                                                              • Rigolot, François. “Quel genre d’amour pour Louise Labé?” Poétique 55 (1983): 303–317.

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                                                                A rich, erudite, and often-cited study of the poetics and politics of love in this debate with particular attention to the unending conundrum of who is leading whom.

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                                                                Early Modern European Women Writers

                                                                Interest in Louise Labé was greatly refreshed in the surge of feminist scholarship beginning in the early 1980s. The rediscovery of her work paralleled that of a number of Early Modern women writers from France and across western Europe. The scholarship on women writers of this period has been, since its inception, remarkably interdisciplinary, embracing theories, texts, and artifacts from, among others, historians of gender, art and medicine, political theorists, and literary critics of gender, sex, and sexuality. Many of the anthologies and studies here reflect the breadth of these approaches. Berriot-Salvadore 1990, a sweeping and comprehensive work on women in the French Renaissance, is a useful and thorough-going study that describes the culture in which women’s participation in letters either thrived or languished; Ferguson, et al. 1986 is a seminal early treatment privileging gender and sexual difference in literature of this period; likewise, Jones 1990 presents cogent and intellectually capacious readings of women writers from across Europe; Larsen and Winn 1994 is an excellent earlier collection of essays by scholars who remain prominent in Labé studies; like Jones’s comparative work, Sankovitch 1988 is an excellent comparative study (this time among French women writers) that reflects the ground-breaking and ground-setting work that enabled much of the scholarship to follow; Wiesner 2008 is also a pioneer of work on European women of this period with particular attention to Germany; and Wilson 1987 is a very useful early volume with introductions and translated works of a variety of women writers from across Europe. The monograph Yandell 2000 is a superb treatment of women writers’ handling of a standard trope in Renaissance letters, beautifully reconsidered with relation to gender.

                                                                • Berriot-Salvadore, Evelyne. Les Femmes dans la Société Française de la Renaissance. Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 1990.

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                                                                  A sweeping, well-annotated, and scholarly overview of women’s lives in multiple sectors of society. Most useful to Labé is Part 4, La Femme Sçavante (pp. 343–463).

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                                                                  • Ferguson, Margaret W., Maureen Quilligan, and Nancy J. Vickers, eds. Rewriting the Renaissance: The Discourses of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.

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                                                                    An excellent collection of essays from the period of renewed academic interest in gender and Early Modern literary studies. See in particular Part 3, The Works of Women: Some Exceptions to the Rule of Patriarchy (pp. 227–316).

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                                                                    • Jones, Ann Rosalind. The Currency of Eros: Women’s Love Lyric in Europe, 1540–1620. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.

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                                                                      A superbly researched and written comparative treatment of women from across Europe by a foremost authority in gender and Renaissance studies.

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                                                                      • Larsen, Anne R., and Colette Winn, eds. Renaissance Women Writers: French Texts, American Contexts. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1994.

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                                                                        A polished and well-presented compilation of essays with contributions from a number of prominent scholars from the American academy.

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                                                                        • Sankovitch, Tilde A. French Women Writers and the Book: Myths of Access and Desire. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1988.

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                                                                          A compelling study that treats several of Labé’s ancestors and inheritors with particular attention to women’s rhetorical and literary strategies based on gender.

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                                                                          • Wiesner, Merry E. Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe. 3d ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

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                                                                            A pan-European treatment of women of the Early Modern period with useful bibliographies in each section; see in particular Part 2: The Mind, which includes the chapters “Literacy and Learning” (pp. 141–173) and “Women and the Creation of Culture” (pp. 174–206).

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                                                                            • Wilson, Katharina M., ed. Women Writers of the Renaissance and Reformation. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1987.

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                                                                              A useful anthology of European women writers from across Europe with helpful introductions and translations of representative portions of their work. Excellent for comparative purposes.

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                                                                              • Yandell, Cathy. Carpe Corpus: Time and Gender in Early Modern France. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2000.

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                                                                                A beautifully conceived study of a number of women writers from throughout the Renaissance with particular attention to the ways in which temporal concerns mark the female experience and creation of literary works.

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                                                                                Petrarchism and Women’s Lyric

                                                                                Much of the groundbreaking scholarship in Early Modern women’s writing has focused heavily on how women interpreted the Petrarchan models and codes so in vogue at the time. Francesco Petrarca (b. 1304–d. 1374) and his Canzoniere (a poetic cycle devoted to his beloved Laura) were widely valued and imitated in both Italy and across Europe in the 16th century. Lesko Baker 1996, whose author is long established in Labé studies and editor of the definitive translated works (see Labé 2006, cited under General Critical and Biographical Overviews), presents a thorough and compelling study of the workings of the Petrarchan model for Louise Labé; Freccero 2000 lays out the terrain of Labé, her milieu and the conventions to which she responds in lucid prose; Jones 1986 reminds readers of the importance of Italian contemporaries that engaged in many of Labé’s literary tropes; and Sommers 1994 is an important contribution to studying Petrarchan preoccupations in Labé’s entire oeuvre.

                                                                                • Freccero, Carla. “Louise Labé’s Feminist Poetics.” In Distant Voices Still Heard: Contemporary Readings of French Renaissance Literature. Edited by John O’Brien and Malcolm Quainton, 107–122. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2000.

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                                                                                  A clear, contextualized presentation of Louise Labé as a woman writer of Renaissance France with particular attention to her Petrarchan and Neoplatonic strategies as evidenced in the elegies. Excellent analysis of Labé’s gendered difference in the male-defined universe of Renaissance poetic traditions burgeoning in Lyon.

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                                                                                  • Jones, Ann Rosalind. “City Women and Their Audiences: Louise Labé and Veronica Franco.” In Rewriting the Renaissance: The Discourses of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe. Edited by Margaret W. Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan, and Nancy J. Vickers, 299–316. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.

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                                                                                    An excellent comparative treatment of these two exceptional published women writers. The connections between Labé and her Italian counterpart’s permutations of the Neoplatonic and Petrarchan conventions are particularly illuminating with regard to audience and reception.

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                                                                                    • Lesko Baker, Deborah. The Subject of Desire: Petrarchan Poetics and the Female Voice in Louise Labé. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1996.

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                                                                                      A solid, sensitive study of Labé by one of the most widely respected Labé scholars in the American academy. Also see Translated Editions (Complete and Selected Works).

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                                                                                      • Sommers, Paula. “Louise Labé: The Mysterious Case of the Body in the Text.” In Renaissance Women Writers: French Texts, American Contexts. Edited by Anne R. Larsen and Colette H. Winn, 85–98. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1994.

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                                                                                        An excellent and illuminating study that follows the concerns of Labé’s liminal texts as played out in her poetry. Sommer states, “The conventions are such that what appears in these verses is not so much a recognizable body as parts of a Petrarchan corpus or discourse” (p. 89).

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                                                                                        The “Creature De Papier” Controversy

                                                                                        In 2006, Sorbonne scholar Mireille Huchon published a highly controversial study, Louise Labé: Une créature de papier (Huchon 2006), wherein she proposed that the writer Louise Labé was a creation of a côterie of male poets of Lyon who undertook the project of concocting the Œuvres as a sort of literary game, perhaps in the atelier of the publisher Jean de Tournes. Huchon never puts into doubt the existence of Labé as a person but claims that the written work attributed to her can be better seen as an amalgamation of a number of authors whose fingerprints, according to her sleuthing, can be clearly detected. Huchon 2006 received instant attention in both academic and popular press, supported most famously by well-known scholar Marc Fumaroli and roundly criticized by a chorus of detractors. The controversy was all the more timely and, some might say premeditated, as a response to Louise Labé’s first-ever appearance on the university exam roster (concours de l’Agrégation) in 2005. Berriot-Salvadore 2004 serves as a counter example, explaining some of the lacunae that trouble Huchon in another way; Martin 2006 presents the most thorough and convincing eleven-point rebuttal to Huchon’s work in such erudite fashion as to be a wonderful introduction to the Lyonnais literary scene in and of itself despite the controversy to which the author is responding. The SIEFAR (Sociéte Internationale pour l’Etude des Femmes de l’Ancien Régime) Louise Labé website provides a helpful, although not exhaustive list of published responses (many directly linked) that pertain to Huchon’s work.

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