The Convent: A Place of Refuge in Les Misérables and Histoire de ma vie

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Virginia Tech

In the nineteenth century, amidst the rise of anti-Catholicism in the Western world, narratives served as a persuasive medium to influence the reading public. Anti-clerical sentiment was conveyed in various forms of text, often depicting the Catholic convent as a place of sinister confinement. This thesis offers an alternative representation of the French nineteenth-century convent. Considering the prevailing social, economic, and political environment in France, along with the conception of social space, I argue that the convent represents a place of sanctuary and opportunity for some women and girls. Further, in view of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, I examine the representation of the convent as a place for rebirth. Likewise, in analyzing George Sand's autobiography Histoire de ma vie, I explore the representation of the convent as a haven for reviving creativity. Thus, by close reading and critical examination of these literary representations, I contend that the nineteenth-century convent can provide a place of refuge.

French nineteenth-century convent, social space, refuge, Victor Hugo, George Sand, monasticism, anti-clericalism, religieuses