Zayde: a Spanish Romance: the Masterpiece Overshadowed by the Princess of Cleves?

Project Details


Zayde: A Spanish Romance is a novel of Madame de Lafayette. This 17th-century French literarywork is set in the medieval Spain, within the background of political and religious conflicts. Thenovel recounts the sentimental relationship between Spanish noble Consalve and Muslim Greekprincess Zayde, a romance that was cross-cultural and cross-linguistic. With the intercalated narrationand layered structure, the novel was uniquely different from the popular Baroque literature at thattime, and had thus gained recognition from other writers. In the 18th century, Zayde was in fact morewell-known than The Princess of Clèves, another novel of Madame de Lafayette. However, thesituation changed in the following century. Zayde lost its shine gradually as The Princess of Clèvescame into the limelight as a classic novel masterpiece, or even as the only maturely-developed novelof the 17th century. Today most critics still believe that Zayde was no more than an experiment ofMadame de Lafayette in her early writing career. The novel was even criticized as pedantic for itslengthy paragraphs and the old-fashioned concepts. Through our study on Zayde: A Spanish Romance,we aimed to discuss the definition of literature classic and the selection mechanism in the history ofliterature. What is a literary masterpiece? Are there any criteria based on which we can tell amasterpiece from a non-masterpiece? While trying to understand how people back thencomprehended Zayde, we also examined the information and thoughts conveyed by Madame deLafayette through her writings. Finally, based on recent publications on defending literature (Todorov,Dantzig, Marx…), we rediscovered the literary values and position of Zayde by analyzing how thenovel has reached out to its readers beyond time and space.
Effective start/end date1/08/1731/10/18


  • Madame de Lafayette
  • Zayde: A Spanish Romance
  • literary masterpiece
  • narrativestrategy
  • literary history


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