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Religion, Ethics, and History in the French Long Seventeenth Century - La Religion, la morale, et l’histoire à l’âge classique


Edited By William Brooks and Rainer Zaiser

In June 2006 delegates from eight countries representing six French, US, and British-based learned societies met at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, for a conference on the French long seventeenth century entitled ‘Modernités/Modernities’. Twenty of the best papers on religion, ethics and history were selected for this volume, and they present new perspectives on topics as diverse as devotion and pornography, artifice and the pursuit of truth, Bruscambille and Pascal, historiography from the sixteenth century to Voltaire, and, of course, the Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes.
En juin 2006 un colloque sur le thème de la modernité pendant l’âge classique a réuni à St Catherine’s College, Oxford des spécialistes venus de huit pays pour représenter six sociétés savantes dont quatre françaises, une américaine, et une britannique. Vingt communications choisies parmi les meilleures sont recueillies dans le présent volume, sur des sujets aussi divers que la dévotion et la pornographie, l’artifice et la recherche de la vérité, Bruscambille et Pascal, l’historiographie tant du seizième siècle que de Voltaire et, bien entendu, la Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes.


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Elements of Modernity in Fénelon’s Account of the Christian Life 235


PAMELA PARK Elements of Modernity in Fénelon’s Account of the Christian Life The modernity of Fénelon’s piety lies in the central role Fénelon gave to the interior life of the Christian who seeks holiness. The Reforma- tion had given currency to the ideal that all manner of men and women in their particular walks of life were called to lives of holiness. The prime importance Protestants accorded the direct relationship between the individual and God was the factor encouraging religious thinkers to advance that a saintly life was accessible to all in all con- ditions. This relationship with God, an interior connection, is possible to develop and integrate in daily life. In Catholic milieux, spiritual leaders came to see that a holy life was practicable outside of the con- secrated religious life. St François de Sales’s best-selling Introduction à la vie dévote grounded and disseminated the features of lay holiness for Catholics. Fénelon too worked out of the conviction that all can aspire to deep piety. This opinion is evident in his spiritual letters and works written for his readers and advisees especially in the secular world, guiding them about how to lead lives of holiness in the con- texts of their daily lives. Fénelon’s epic, Les aventures de Télémaque,1 one of the purposes of which was to educate the future dauphin Louis, duc de Bourgogne, about how to be a king, presumes that being a good ruler is inseparable from...

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