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Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)


Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures


Sévigné, Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, marquise de, 1626-1696--Correspondence||French wit and humor


The purpose of this study is to isolate the humor in Madame de Sévigné's Correspondence to her daughter, Madame de Grignan, and to examine how it functions in the epistolary exchange, in order to suggest that it allowed then to improve their relationship, and achieve intimacy. Madame de Sévigné's humor is not didactic in nature, but rather gratuitous; therefore, its main function is to create laughter for the sake of laughter. In Chapter 1, I examine five letters which exemplify the type of humor found in the Correspondence, and show how Madame de Sévigné created conic anecdotes, by exploiting the incongruous. A cause and effect analysis of humor is also undertaken, to suggest that humor had some bearing in sustaining the epistolary exchange, as well as in improving the mother/ daughter relationship. Chapter 2 is centered around the linguistic humor in the Letters to demonstrate how, by means of metaphors, parodies, neologisms, ellipses, hyperboles, accumulations, repetitions, asyndetons, anaphoras, puns, guessing games, literary borrowings, etc. , Madame de Sévigné created conic anecdotes to entertain her daughter. While examining the various rhetorical devices used to create conic effects, I also attempt to show their ramifications at the affective level. Chapter 3 focuses on Madane de Sévigné's verbal caricatures. I examine the techniques used to create then, i.e., distortion, substitution, and metamorphosis, obtained by means of hyperboles, metaphors, and comparisons. Even though these verbal caricatures were meant primarily to amuse Madame de Grignan, they nonetheless show philosophical insight on the human comedy. In humor, Madame de Sévigné and her daughter are accomplices and, together, they laugh at life’s incongruities. And since laughter is always accompanied by a feeling of detente, the two women find in humor a mutual ground of entente. Thus, I suggest that humor is one of the threads in their achievement of intimacy.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [74]-77).


77 pages




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