Teaching Other Voices: Women and Religion in Early Modern Europe

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

CONVENT AND DOCTRINE: TEACHING
JACQUELINE PASCAL

John J. Conley, SJ

Teaching the works of Jacqueline Pascal presents a particular challenge not only because of their religious nature, but also because they reflect a doctrinal dispute (the Counter-Reformation quarrel over grace) and a religious way of life (a cloistered Cisterican convent) that even the most devout student finds difficult to grasp. In my translation of the works of Jacqueline Pascal (1625–61),1 I presented a critical edition of the treatises, poetry, and letters of the sister of Blaise Pascal who became a nun at the PortRoyal convent in the Parisian region. All of her mature works are influenced by the radical Augustinianism championed by the Jansenist movement in Catholicism. When I first had the occasion to teach the works of Jacqueline Pascal to undergraduates, I knew that I would need to explain the rudiments of the Jansenist controversy: the biography of Cornelius Jansenius (1585– 1638), the theological tenets of the Jansenist disciples, the conflict with the Jesuits, the struggle with king and pope, the role of Port-Royal as the physical and moral center of the movement. I soon discovered, however, that to make these monastic works intelligible, I needed to provide a much broader theological background.

My first occasion to teach Jacqueline Pascal was in two sections of an honors seminar for sophomores at Fordham University. The topic of the seminar was modern philosophy and theology. This seminar was given in the same semester in which the honors students took seminars in modern English literature and modern European history. To provide thematic unity for the seminar, I focused on the religious thought of the period, specifically the

1. See Jacqueline Pascal, A Rule for Children and Other Writings, ed. and trans. John J. Conley,
SJ, The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003).
Hereafter cited as RCOW.

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