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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 11: Time, Death and Burial in the ancien diocèse of Le Mans (Philippa Woodcock)


Philippa Woodcock 11 Time, Death and Burial in the ancien diocèse of Le Mans Abstract This chapter provides a survey of the role of time in the relevant historiography of death in early modern France, focusing on some of the 900 predominantly rural parishes of the ancien diocèse of Le Mans. It explores how burial was affected by the contrasting times of normality and emergency, and of peace and war. It outlines the normal patterns and obligations of burial, depending on the circumstances of death and social class. It then contrasts this with times of upheaval, such as war and plague. Finally, it asks how ideas of ‘resting in peace’, commemoration and exhumation depended on turning the clock back to create a fictional Catholic continuity and posthumous identity. At 8 in the morning, on 4 November 1754, Jean Baptiste Vaumousse, a young worker aged twenty-five or twenty-six, who was clearing the well at the farm of Aigrefoin, in Saint-Jean-sur-Erve (Mayenne), became trapped in the well shaft when it collapsed in on him. Poirier, the parish priest, was called, and finding that Vaumousse was still alive, gave him extreme unction. Inciting the village to help, they finally freed him twelve hours later. Vaumousse was carried to the farmhouse, and all through the night warm towels were used to encourage the blood to move in his frozen, life- less body. At eleven the next morning he seemed to show signs of life, and for the next few days he was...

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