French Women Authors

The Significance of the Spiritual, 1400–2000

by Kelsey Haskett,

French Women Authors
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.

  • University of Delaware Press; October 2012
  • ISBN 9781611494297
  • Read online
  • Title: French Women Authors
  • Author: Kelsey Haskett; Holly Faith Nelson
  • Imprint: University of Delaware Press

In The Press

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.

About The Author

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.