The Difference She Makes: Staging Gender Identity in Graffigny’s Phaza

Heidi Bostic, Baylor University
Vol. 29, No. 2 (Fall 2010), 291-309

Françoise de Graffigny’s mid-eighteenth-century play Phaza features a main character who is unknowingly crossed dressed as male. The text provides a rich starting point for exploring questions of gender identity and performance. This article situates Phaza within the fairy-tale tradition in which women authors played a major role. Its analysis draws upon philosophies of narrative identity and theories of gender to show that identity comprises both permanence and performance. Reading Graffigny can make an important difference in our understanding of gender, authorship, and relations between the sexes in Enlightenment France. Phaza’s masquerade sheds light on the ways in which women authors of the era approached and assumed various gender identities. Eighteenth-century texts like Phaza reveal a lineage of ideas that continue to influence feminist thought today and will do so in the future.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]