Louise Labé: «Nouvelle Sappho» or «créature de papier»?

In 2006, Sorbonne professor Mireille Huchon provoked a great discussion by claiming that the poet Louise Labé from Lyon (1523?–1566) was merely a courtesan, and that her poems were in fact written by a group of male poets. In this article, the recent debate surrounding Labé serves as a background for a general discussion of the relationship between an author and her texts. Moreover, I argue that Labé’s only book, Œuvres, attempts to justify female artistry by defining its author as the heiress of the Greek poet Sappho and by conceiving a female literary tradition. Thus, it is in keeping with Renaissance ideals of imitation that Labé seems to have found the creative and social support necessary to work and publish as a female writer.

Keywords: Labé, Sappho, female authors