Teaching Other Voices: Women and Religion in Early Modern Europe

By Margaret L. King; Albert Rabil Jr. | Go to book overview

MARGUERITE DE NAVARRE:
RELIGIOUS REFORMIST1

Rouben Cholakian


THE ISSUE

Those who have some familiarity with the works of Marguerite de Navarre will be inclined to see in her a divided writer, creating on the one hand profoundly religious texts like Le miroir de l'âme pécheresse (Mirror of a Sinful Soul) and, on the other, secular ones, like her anthology of stories, the Heptameron.2 But scratch the surface of even as earthy a text as the latter work and, more often than not, you uncover the author's religious orientation. The following teaching guide aims to make that point by looking at these two essential texts.


CULTURAL CLIMATE

Although Marguerite de Navarre (1492–1549) has slowly and begrudgingly been allowed access to the pantheon of Renaissance writers, she is still not so well known that a brief review of her place in her cultural world would be amiss for most students.3 At the very least it is significant to point out that at a time when women's education was very limited, Marguerite's mother saw to it

1. I wish to thank Corona Machemer for her intelligent editorial reading of this text.

2. The standard bibliography is H. P. Clive, Marguerite de Navarre: An Annotated Bibliography
(London: Grant and Cutler Ltd., 1983), which can be updated by the annual Modern Language
Association bibliographical listings.

3. Marguerite de Navarre's canonization is primarily a twentieth-century phenomenon. Two
books published in the 1930s established her place in French letters: Pierre Jourda, Marguerite
d'Angoulême, duchesse d'Alençon, reine de Navarre (1492–1549): Etude biographique et littéire, 2 vols. (Paris:
Champion, 1930), which remains the biographical bible for students of Marguerite; and Emile
Telle, L'Œuvre de Marguerite d'Angoulême, reine de Navarre et la Querelle des Femmes (1937; repr., Geneva:
Slatkine, 1969). Interest in women writers has stirred great interest in her work since the 1970s.
For the most recent life story in English see Patricia F. Cholakian and Rouben C. Cholakian,
Marguerite de Navarre: Mother of the Renaissance (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006).

-98-

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