UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Construction et transformation de l'imaginaire social de la religieuse au XVIIIe siècle Turgeon-Solis, Marilyse


Eighteenth century authors’ fascination with the figure of the nun is attested by its presence in the literary landscape. This presence has led us to question the social stakes behind its protean representations. Utilization of this figure is far from being insignificant as it often appears to be strategic, and above all, is highly rooted in the social and political context of the century. Although the tactical use of nuns as characters is extensive throughout the eighteenth century, it is even more prominent in the last two decades due to the wake of revolutionary events. During that time a radicalization of certain traits in the representations of nuns is especially perceivable. Exploration of a heterogeneous corpus emphasizes the implications of the social imagination of the nun in the evolution of revolutionary discourse, and in the final decision to close the convents in 1792. Antagonistic characterization of nuns in some eighteenth-century literature is symptomatic of the spirit of anticlericalism spreading in the France of the Old Regime. Various sources (novels, theater pieces, letters written by nuns, etc.) highlight the process by which fiction participates in the construction of a negative social imagination of nuns and convents. The present study is a part of the New Cultural History, and exists at the intersection of literary and historical approaches. More importantly, this research sheds a new light on a social imagination that was prevalent in the eighteenth century, and is an original contribution to the study of representation of women in literature.

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