9th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music


Misogyny and the Musiciens of Seventeenth-Century France

Lisa Perella

The air sérieux was a genre considered "feminine" even in the seventeenth century. This is not surprising since its themes were products of salon culture and reflected the doctrine of honnêteté. The vogue for these songs irritated many writers and composers, however, and they voiced their displeasure in chansons pour boire intended for a male audience.

In contrast to the verses of the airs sérieux which depict submissive men, these drinking songs provide a conception of masculinity opposed to the one cultivated in the salons of Paris. Their texts reveal nostalgia for ideologies of the recent past (before the rise of the précieuses) as well as anti-court sentiment. Many also display a caustic misogyny. While contempt for women is not unexpected in chansons of a more "popular" origin or coming from the libertine tradition, it is surprising to find similar expressions of hostility in songs and writings about music intended for gentlemen. What unites works by Annibal Gantez, André de Rosiers, and François de Chancy, among others, is a common complaint: the salon woman's ideal man, the honnête homme, is an unwelcome, even oppressive, model. Her civilizing force is to be disparaged, as is her "feminized" music. This paper reconstructs the misogynistic culture of the cabarets of seventeenth-century France from the songs created by the composers and writers who frequented them; for while musiciens earned their reputation for excessive drinking in these masculine enclaves, they also imagined that they were creating music away from the influence of women.

Conference Timetable
List of Participants
Last updated on 13 April 2000 by Yo Tomita