The University of Western Australia
Sixteenth century Lyonnaise poet, Louise Labé, is primarily famous for her sonnet series, encoded with subtle feminist references and overt celebrations of female sexual and romantic desire. However, these poems are also tinged with anxieties, focused on legitimising her poetic voice and self-expression. By closely reading several of Labé’s sonnets, a series of direct engagements with her contemporary audience, critics and predecessors becomes evident, along with the poet’s articulation of potential sources of doubt. Engagement with bodily imagery, technical approaches to voice and directives given to the reader, reveal Labé’s preoccupation with identifying and countering forms of oppression. The following analysis examines five sonnets in detail, with reference to Labé’s recognition of sources of concern and application of poetic techniques and images to challenge these.