Dairy queens: Sexuality, space, and subjectivity in pleasure dairies from Catherine de' Medici to Marie -Antoinette
This dissertation examines the architectural phenomenon of the laiterie d'agrément, or "pleasure dairy," in ancien régime France, focusing on the second half of the eighteenth century. Although pleasure dairies constituted a significant eighteenth-century building trend that was commissioned by the era's most notable figures (Madame de Pompadour; Marie-Antoinette; the duc de Chartres) and designed by its most celebrated artists and architects (François Boucher; Hubert Robert; Jean-François Chalgrin; Claude-Nicolas Ledoux), they are almost entirely absent from existing scholarship on the period. By telling the story of this little-known aspect of French history through archival research, object analysis, and theoretical inquiry, I demonstrate how these sites contribute to a new understanding of cultural life in the ancien régime.
I consider pleasure dairies in relation to Michel Foucault's definition of heterotopias: sites that "simultaneously represent, contest, and invert" their sociopolitical and cultural contexts. Pleasure dairies paradoxically combine such eighteenth-century binaries as the natural and the artificial, the physical and the moral, and the pleasurable and the productive, and thereby complicate our understanding of the relationship between gender, space, and embodiment in the period. Although pleasure dairies have been regarded as regulatory spaces where women conformed to cultural ideals of domesticity and femininity---articulated by Rousseau in his description of Julie's dairy in La Nouvelle Héloïse (1761)---my dissertation offers a richer and more nuanced portrait of this architectural phenomenon, and the way that women used it for self-fashioning purposes. Women patrons who commissioned dairies were both influenced by, and subversive of, cultural and scientific attitudes toward their biological makeup and presumed "natural" role in society. In tracing the development of the pleasure dairy, I provide a novel account of historically situated female subjectivity from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries.