Site de Benoît Melançon / Thèses canadiennes en littérature française du XVIIIe siècle

Fiore, Francesca, «L’évolution des voix/voies de femmes dans leurs écrits sur l’Église aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles», Kingston, Queen’s University, thèse de doctorat, 2016, ix/344 p. Dir. : Agnès Conacher et Elisabeth Zawisza. URL : <>.

Feminist movements have allowed many female authors to become decisive and influential figures in literary history by studying their experiences, voices and forms of resistance. This thesis, however, focuses specifically on religious women, those seeking divine comfort outside the confines of institutional laws, or those who, out of protest, are caught in the middle. Founded on historical and feminist perspectives, this study examines the heterodox resistance of six French women living within or outside of Church boundaries during the 17th and 18th centuries: two eras that are particularly significant for women’s progress and modernity. This work strives to demonstrate how these women, doubly subjected to Church discourse and that of society, managed to live out their vocation (female and Christian) and make social, cultural and religious statements that contributed to changing the place of women in society. It aims to grasp the similarities and differences between the actions and ideas of women belonging to both the religious and secular spheres. Regardless of the century, the space and their background, women resist to masculine, patriarchal, ecclesial, political and social mediation and institutions. In locating examples of how they oppose the practices, rules and constraints that are imposed upon them, as well as of their exclusion from the socio- political space, this thesis also seeks to identify epistemological changes that mark the transition from the 17th to the 18th century.

This thesis firstly outlines the necessary feminist theory upon which the project is based before identifying the evolution of women’s positions within the socio-ideological and political framework in which they lived. The questions of confession and spiritual direction are of particular interest since they serve as prime examples of masculine mediation and its issues and consequences — most notably the control of the female body and mind. The illustration of bodily metamorphoses bear testament to ideological changes, cultural awareness and female subjectivity, just as the scriptural inscriptions of unorthodox ideas and writing. The female body, both object and subject of the quest for individual and collective liberties, attests, in this way, to the movement towards Enlightenment values of freedom and justice.

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