“Le plaisir inexprimable d’être aimé”

Narcissism and power in the Mémoires de l'abbé de Choisy habillé en femme





François-Timoléon de Choisy, Mémoires de l’abbé de Choisy habillé en femme, French literature, cross-dressing, performance of gender identity, mimetic desire


This paper aims to contribute to the interpretation of the Mémoires de l’abbé de Choisy habillé en femme; it contextualizes Choisy’s transgression within the power system of Louis XIV’s court in order to highlight the dialectical nature of the transvestite option with regard to society and the court. Confronted with the ubiquitous display of the monarch’s egolatry, the courtier’s marginal ego is caught between the “natural” desire to assimilate oneself to the central subject and the impossibility to establish multiple centres within the same closed system. Choisy’s transvestitism can thus be read as a founding impulse of performative identity definition: through the self-empowering performance of femininity as the foundation of alternative social networks based on admiration and desire, Choisy’s queerness functions as an antidote to marginalization in the “straight” power structure, and can be seen as first and foremost the expression of an exquisitely political will to bring into harmony, through a performative enactement of the paradoxes of female identity, self-perception and social perspectives on the self.