In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

204 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 novel La religieuse, first published in 1783, and Peter Mullen=s film The Magdalene Sisters reveal some of the lesbian undercurrents imagined by men to flourish in the relationships both within the hierarchy of the monastery and also among the girls being taught there. Rapley gives no consideration to such topics. She has more to say about the way in which some widows made arrangements to live in convents. There is an excellent discussion of social inequality inside communities in the chapter dealing with the servants of the brides of Christ. The ideal lay sister was a strong, healthy countrywoman in her twenties who accepted celibacy. Rapley rightly observes that the converses, or lay sisters, have often been overlooked in monastic history despite their importance to the cooking and housekeeping for the teaching nuns. The book offers a great deal for the history of Old Regime French women and for a social history of religion that is gendered. In particular Rapley provides evidence of changing patterns of vocations over time and of the way in which the social hierarchies of the outside world were sometimes replicated within the walls of the convents. (DAVID HIGGS) Lynda Lange, editor. Feminist Interpretations of Jean-Jacques Rousseau Pennsylvania State University Press. xii, 410. US $85.00, $36.50 Lynda Lange has collected in a single volume fifteen scholarly essays illustrating that feminist theory can offer a wide range of interpretations of Rousseau=s thought. Some of these essays have been published previously, one as long ago as 1979; some have been presented as conference papers; some are entirely new. Thus, the volume serves the double purpose of providing both a history of feminist approaches to Rousseau=s work over the past quarter-century and a snapshot of the current state of feminist research on Rousseau. Not surprisingly, the majority of these essays focus mainly on those of Rousseau=s works in which he writes explicitly about women and the family, that is, Emile and La nouvelle Héloïse. The Confessions are also a source of material concerning his thoughts on women, as well as his personal relationships with them. Several essayists also draw on the Contrat social, in which, as they point out, women and domestic life are conspicuous by their absence, and one contributor offers a probing analysis of Le Lévite d=Ephraïm in the context of the question of consent. Most of the debate centres on the questions of the differentation between the sexes, the relation between the family and civil society and the distinction between public and private spheres, the relationship between male and female power, the ideological shift to consent as, ideally, the necessary characteristic of all relations B social, political, and sexual B in modernity. On all of these questions, feminist analysis of Rousseau=s humanities 205 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 thought comes to a wide variety of differing conclusions, as indeed do all other avenues of approach. The one point of general agreement over Rousseau has always been his capacity to stimulate vigorous debate. What are Rousseau=s views on the differences between men and women? Are these differences biologically determined, hence natural, or are the identities of all men, women, and citizens an unstable social construction in which the difference is merely one of assigned roles and functions? Not only do opinions on this question differ, but some commentators believe that Rousseau=s views on the matter are self-contradictory, while others believe that his views are consistent, and still others believe that he presents an argument that is deliberately ambiguous. Given the diversity of views on this fundamental question, it follows inevitably that the analyses of all the subsequent issues deriving from it differ in many ways. Rousseau=s confinement of female power to the private sphere of the family, while male power operates in the public sphere of civic life, is variously interpreted as the mere repetition of ancient phallocratic discourses associated with male hysteria, or as a balancing of roles that allows masculine and feminine powers, operating in...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 204-205
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.