Entre theorie et pratique: Madame de Maintenon et lacite des Demoiselles de Saint-Cyr (1685-1719)
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractFor many critics, the demise of Saint-Cyr stemmed from the transformation of the institution into a convent six years after its opening. This seemingly conservative shift has been used as "proof" that Maintenon abandoned a progressive and feminist pedagogy. A study of Maintenon's writings intended for Saint-Cyr suggests that, though she wavered between theory and practice, she never gave up her utopian and feminist impulses. This dissertation argues that, in the end, despite numerous social constraints, Maintenon found ways to maintain her principles by adopting practices suitable to the context. Chapter I is a study of Saint-Cyr's genesis and Maintenon's goal in creating this institution. Chapters II and III analyze the educational system at Saint-Cyr, its curriculum and methodology. Chapter IV is a study of the theater as practiced at Saint-Cyr, with particular attention to the girls' performances of Racine's Esther, the ensuing scandal and the changes implemented by Maintenon. Chapter V analyzes Maintenon's letters, Conversations, Instructions and Proverbes with respect to the question of the condition of women, arguing that Maintenon possessed a deep desire to free the girls and to give them a better life. Chapter VI analyzes Maintenon's image in modern fiction, specifically, Yves Dangerfield's La Maison d'Esther (1991) and Patricia Mazuy's film Saint-Cyr (2000). In this chapter, I consider to what extent such an image is based on Maintenon's writings, to what extent it is constructed and, finally, how her character is still important for today's public.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
French and Italian