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French Women Authors The Significance of the Spiritual, 1400–2000
978-1-61149-428-0 • Hardback
October 2012 • $70.00 • (£44.95)
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978-1-61149-523-2 • Paperback
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978-1-61149-429-7 • eBook
October 2012 • $69.99 • (£44.95)

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Pages: 222
Size: 6 1/4 x 9 3/8
By Kelsey Haskett and Holly Faith Nelson
 
Literary Criticism | European / French
University Press Copublishing Division | University of Delaware
French Women Authors examines the importance afforded the spiritual in the lives and works of French women authors over the centuries, thereby highlighting both the significance of spiritually informed writings in French literature in general, as well as the specific contribution made by women writers. Eleven different authors have been selected for this collection, representing major literary periods from the medieval to the (post)modern. Each author is examined in the light of a Christian worldview, creating an approach which both validates and interrogates the spiritual dimension of the works under consideration. At the same time, the book as a whole presents a broad perspective on French women writers, showing how they reflect or stand in opposition to their times. The chronological order of the chapters reveals an evolution in the modes of spirituality expressed by these authors and in the role of spiritual belief or religion in French society over time. From the overwhelmingly Christian culture of the Middle Ages and pre-Enlightenment France to the wide diversity prevalent in (post)modern times, including the rise of Islam within French borders, a radical shift has permeated French society, a shift that is reflected in the writers chosen for this book. Moreover, the sensitivity of women writers to the individual side of spiritual life, in contrast with the practices of organized religion, also emerges as a major trend in this book, with women often being seen as a voice for social and religious change, or for a more meaningful, personal faith. Lastly, despite a blatant rejection of God and religion, spiritual threads still run through the works of one of France’s most celebrated contemporary writers (Marguerite Duras), whose cry for an absolute in the midst of a spiritual vacuum only reiterates the quest for transcendence or for some form of spiritual expression, as voiced in the works of her female predecessors and contemporaries in France, and as demonstrated in this book.
Kelsey L. Haskett is associate professor of French and chair of the Modern Language Department at Trinity Western University.

Holly Faith Nelson is professor and chair of English and Co-Director of the Gender Studies Institute at Trinity Western University.

Contents

Acknowledgements
List of Figures
Note on Translation
The Spiritual Quest of French Women Authors: An Introduction

Kelsey L. Haskett and Holly Faith Nelson

“Spiritum nolite extinguere”: Reading Religion in the Works of Christine de Pizan
Holly Faith Nelson and Katharine Bubel

Rhetorical and Editorial Strategies of Spreading l’Évangile in Marguerite de Navarre’s

Le Miroir
Sinda Vanderpool
Stars, Stones, Ships, and Suckling Children: Guyon’s Metaphorical Journeys toward
Union with God
Deborah Sullivan-Trainor
Neither Prude nor Coquette: The Heroine’s Spiritual Journey in Lafayette’s
La Princesse de Clèves
Hadley Wood
Tempered Witness to the Power of the Soul in Enlightenment France: Four Novels by
Charrière, Cottin, and Guérin de Tencin
Joanne M. McKeown
Spirituality and Social Justice in the Novels of George Sand
Kelsey L. Haskett
Simone Weil: Ambivalence in Search of God
Anne M. François
Duras and the Desire for Spiritual Transformation
Kelsey L. Haskett
Spiritual Desire and Domestic Life in Malika Mokeddem’s La Nuit de la lézarde Susan Udry

Bibliography

Notes on Contributors
Index
Taken together, the essays in this volume, written by an array of junior and senior scholars teaching in American and Canadian universities, trace the waning social influence in France of Christianity and the institutional church (though not necessarily of God), even as they highlight the frequency with which individual Francophone women turn to the spiritual as a means of personal expression and literary resistance. Aside from a common language, the authors examined in this collectionwhich is organized in chronological order from the works of Christine de Pisan to the 21st-century Franco-Algerian author Malika Mokeddem's La Nuit de la Lézardeall share an impetus to strike out on their own, to defy gender-based cultural confinement, and to challenge the organized church in one way or another. Trading religious orthodoxy for spiritual fulfillment, Marguerite de Navarre, Madame de Lafayette, George Sand, Simone Weil, and Marguerite Duras (and other less canonical writers) are presented here as pioneers forging unconventional paths toward God. Inspired by the work of the North American Christian Foreign Language Association, this collection gains momentum and purpose as it addresses more contemporary writers; the later essays are among the strongest. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates; graduate students.
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