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La Mère dangereuse: Reimagining Scudéry’s Carte de Tendre with Lacan’s Graph of Desire

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-183
Number of pages21
JournalFrench Studies
Issue number2
Early online date26 Dec 2020
E-pub ahead of print26 Dec 2020
Published1 Apr 2021

King's Authors


This article reads Jacques Lacan’s graph of desire as a paradigmatic reimagining of Madeleine de Scudéry’s Carte de Tendre. In so doing, it seeks to unearth Lacan’s il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel in Scudéry’s map, laying the groundwork for a discussion of Lacan’s distinction between the signifier and jouissance, which, the article argues, parallels Scudéry’s distinction between the ‘Mer dangereuse’ and the ‘Terres inconnues’. Beyond the graph and the map, further parallels are drawn between Scudéry and Lacan, including similarities in their method and critical reception, showing that these two figures are much closer than it may initially appear. Finally, I show that the Lacanian frame allows us to appreciate how Scudéry threatened to expose what seventeenth-century doxa wished to remain hidden, namely the fragility of masculine power. Scudéry’s strategy, in fact, was to use the Carte to defy male authorship and writing, threatening the sheer symbolic fabric of patriarchal relations.

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