“Those who make the exam programs are now ensuring that there are women. But obviously, there is still progress to be made”, summarizes Françoise Cahen, high school literature teacher in Alfortville (Val-de-Marne ), who launched a petition in 2016 “To give women their place in bac L literature programs”.
A work written by a woman, “La Princesse de Montpensier” by Mme de Lafayette, was included in the program for the Terminals du bac littéraire in 2018, a first since 1997.
Since then, “there have been positive developments”, notes Françoise Cahen. But the number of women is “still not huge” and “we tend to always revolve around the same authors”.
Since the reform of the baccalaureate in 2019, teachers must select for the examination four works among twelve proposed, one per literary genre. A total of four women have been on this list since the reform. They are three this year in general: Olympe de Gouges (“Declaration of the rights of women and citizens”) for the “literature of ideas”, and Madame de Lafayette or Marguerite Yourcenar (your choice) in the category ” novel and story.
They will be two next year: Olympe de Gouges again and Colette (“Sido” and “Les Vrilles de la vigne”).
“It’s a small progress. But the trend remains heritage literature, with still quite a few women”, notes Viviane Youx, president of the French Association for the Teaching of French (AFEF).
A presence described as “symbolic” by Pierre Mathieu, professor of letters at the Angela Davis high school in Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis), and co-author of a forum in 2020 on the “sustainable disproportion between authors and authors in our programs “.
– “A matter of men” –
For him, we remain “in an anecdotal vision in the way in which we introduce women into the study of literature”. “As soon as we put an author on the program, she must necessarily talk about the status of women”, like Olympe de Gouges who has nevertheless written other works, including a play on slavery, he laments.
For Julien Marsay, professor of letters in Gennevilliers (Hauts-de-Seine), author of a Twitter account and soon of a book on “invisibilized authors”, the women retained are “exceptions guarantees”.
“We remember a few of them, and they serve as a guarantee to say okay, there were a few who knew how to handle the pen, but it is the exceptions that confirm the rule, according to which writing is a matter of ‘men”, he analyzes.
Among the other barriers to a greater presence of women writers, teachers mention in particular the lack of knowledge of women authors. They have been little studied by future teachers during their training, their works are little represented in school and university publications, and they are rarely part of the programs of teacher competitions.
“We must have more consecrated women in what is called the literary canon, such as the aggregation program for example”, believes Françoise Cahen.
The teachers observe a tremor there too. The aggregation of modern letters, for example, regularly offers a work by a woman, whereas there was none for years. “But we are there to count them”, tempers Françoise Cahen.
For Jeanne Chiron, teacher-researcher and president of the Le Deuxieme Texte association, which aims to give more space to women writers, “there is a desire, a need not only militant but also political to hear the sound of other voices”.
“The will to evolve is there on the part of the teachers”, adds Pierre Mathieu. “It is really the collective culture as it has been constituted that must evolve”.