The Origins of la vie neutre: Nicolas Caussin's Influence on the Writings of Gabrielle Suchon

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Abstract / Description of output

This article examines the influence of Nicolas Caussin's writing on secular celibacy (vie neutre) — and especially of his Vie de Sainte Isabelle (1643) — on Gabrielle Suchon's Traité de la morale et de la politique (1693) and Du célibat volontaire, ou la vie sans engagement (1700). I argue that this overlooked source played a considerable part in shaping Suchon's theories regarding the subordination of women and the usefulness of a celibate life in the secular world. In order to establish this source's importance, Caussin's influence is considered in relation to Suchon's other known sources as well as in the context of the Querelle des femmes. The similarities between the two authors' works are considered in terms of vocabulary, rhetorical issues and theological positions in order to prove that Suchon uses a number of ideas originally found in Caussin as a springboard for a far more extensive and complex argument. Unlike him, she does not take the notion of secular celibacy for granted but examines the obstacles put in the way of those who would choose it (especially women), analyses dominant discourse on the place of women in society and offers counterarguments and practical advice for potential neutralistes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-160
Number of pages13
JournalFrench Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2009

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Suchon, Caussin, Women's education, philosophy


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