Laura Beck Varela

The Querelle des Femmes in Early Modern Jurisprudence: a research outline

The vivid debate on the nature, the social status and the education of women known as the querelle des femmes has generated countless writings and produced an enduring impact on early modern European societies. The aim of this project is to examine the intersections and mutual influences between the querelle – its corpus of arguments, tropes, commonplaces and references – and the field of early modern jurisprudence (iurisprudentia, jurisprudence savante, Rechtsgelehrsamkeit). Has the querelle des femmes produced an effect on the practical and erudite savoirs of early modern jurists? Has it contributed to the reconsideration of old legal topics and problems, concerning the social role of women, and the limitations of their social capacities (regarding testaments, guardianship, civil contracts etc.)? Have early modern jurists engaged in the querelle, providing misogynist arguments as well as topoi pro woman side? To address these questions, I analyze representations of female intellectual and political authority in several seventeenth and eighteenth century sources (legal commentaries, treatises, dissertations, orations), as well as the polemics on “legal education” for women, which took place after the publication of Johann Kratzenstein’s Institutes du droit civil pour les dames (Helmstedt, 1751).