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Managing Time

Literature and Devotion in Early Modern France


Edited By Richard Maber and Joanna Barker

This volume offers a multidimensional exploration of the theme of time in early modern France: of time past, time present and time future, in literature and in life.

In poetry, the importance of past and future perspectives was studied by Maynard and La Fontaine. The dynamics of tragic drama were haunted by the past, driven by the urgency of the present and pervasively aware of the alternative futures that could be created, while in imaginative fiction there was a perennial fascination with possible future societies, Utopian or otherwise.

The awareness of transience and mortality gave urgency to the right ordering of life. The Church offered guidance to the pious for their days to be passed in disciplined devotion, while the moralists urged their worldly readers to redeem their misspent time and look to things eternal. At the end, the right ordering of death was both a social and a religious preoccupation.

The essays gathered here aim to stimulate an imaginative engagement with this important theme and open up avenues for future research.


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Chapter 3: Time Materialized: Mme de Maintenon’s Petits Livres Secrets as Instruments of Devotion (Lars Cyril Nørgaard)


Lars Cyril Nørgaard 3 Time Materialized: Mme de Maintenon’s Petits Livres Secrets as Instruments of Devotion Abstract Les Petits Livres de Mme de Maintenon have long been known to researchers and editors alike. Nevertheless, in-depth analysis of material details sheds new light not only on their content, but also on what we might call Mme de Maintenon’s everyday religious life. Preserved in the carnets we thus find not Maintenon’s own words, but rather the words of her spiritual director, Paul de Godet des Marais. In these letters time plays an important role, but also the act of copying and compiling them speaks to a certain temporality. In this chap- ter, I show how different timeframes intersect in Maintenon’s copies of letters of spiritual direction. On 14 December 1709, Françoise d’Aubigné (1635–1719), the marquise de Maintenon and second wife to Louis XIV, signed a new codicil to her will. She bequeathed the Petits Livres Secrets to Catherine Travers du Pérou (1666–1748), one of thirty-six ‘religieuses’ who occupied La Maison Royale de Saint Louis at Saint-Cyr.1 Prior to this legacy, the books had 1 Situated just 3 miles southwest of Versailles, this religious house was founded in 1686 by the royal couple: the thirty-six ladies of Saint Louis educated some 250 demoiselles, who all hailed from the lesser nobility. In the following, I use the short ‘St Cyr’ for what was La Maison Royale de Saint Louis, located in the estate of Saint-Cyr. Catherine Travers du P...

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