Marguerite de Navarre’s Heptaméron, composed in the 1540s and first published posthumously in 1558 and 1559, has long been an interpretive puzzle. De Navarre (1492-1549), sister of King Francis I of France, was a controversial figure in her lifetime. Her evangelical activities and proximity to the Crown placed her at the epicenter of her country’s internecine strife and societal unrest. Yet her short stories appear to offer few traces of the sociopolitical turbulence that surrounded her.In Marguerite de Navarre’s Shifting Gaze, however, Elizabeth Zegura argues that the Heptaméron’s innocuous appearance camouflages its serious insights into patriarchy and gender, social class, and early modern French politics, which emerge from an analysis of the text’s shifting perspectives. Zegura’s approach, which focuses on visual cues and alternative standpoints and viewing positions within the text, hinges upon foregrounding "les choses basses" (lowly things) to which the devisante (storyteller) Oisille draws our attention in nouvelle (novella) 2 of the Heptaméron, using this downward, archaeological gaze to excavate layers of the text that merit more extensive critical attention.While her conclusions cast a new light on the literature, life, and times of Marguerite de Navarre, they are nevertheless closely aligned with recent scholarship on this important historical and literary figure.
Table of Contents
List of abbreviations
Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 Between life and literature: the many faces of Marguerite de Navarre
Preliminary considerations: questions of gender, periodization, and theory
Genealogy, genes, and gender: the making of a princess
Serving god and the king: Marguerite’s religious and political development
Family matters: one body, one spirit, one faith
The gathering storm: l’affaire des placards and its aftermath
Marguerite’s many loves: weighing and balancing multiple loyalties
Tribulations and triumphs: Marguerite’s final years
Chapter 3 Gender and patriarchy: a many-sided view
Contexts and intertexts: rewriting and responding to male discourse
Female icons, exempla, and real women: alternative standpoints
Gendered violence and vice: making sense of "he said, she said"
Respectability and its double: the underside of male power and piety
The insides and outsides of patriarchy: beyond and beneath sexual difference and gender stereotypes
Re-viewing marriage and infidelity: coping with an "estate of long duration"
Chapter 4 Upstairs, downstairs: the dynamics of class and rank
A view from the top: looking down at the lower classes
Cruel masters and abuses of high rank
Excavating the underside of power and privilege: "les choses basses" as vehicles of revelation
Chapter 5 Power, politics, and modes of governance in the Heptaméron
The education of a Christian prince: positive models of governance and community
"When malice is joined with power": evil leaders, abuses of authority, and ethical dilemmas
Reading between the lines: political allegory and metonymy in the Heptaméron
Elizabeth Chesney Zegura is Associate Professor (Emerita) of French and Italian at the University of Arizona, USA.