Clerical Masculinity in Old Regime France

This summer, I worked with Professor Mita Choudhury on research for her new book on clerical masculinity in Old Regime France. As a history major, it was exciting not only to delve into the research, but also Professor Choudhury’s process. Beyond my role as researcher, I helped to organize the material through creating a timeline and compiling a bibliography and conceptual notes on a WordPress journal.

Throughout the program, I utilized the resources of the Vassar Library as I researched. At the beginning of the summer, I worked to establish context for the Catholic Church in France throughout the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. In particular, I paid close attention to the church hierarchy, the establishment of orders and congregations, and the training and roles of priests. Over the subsequent weeks, I researched constructions of gender in early modern Europe and beyond. I worked to identify different models of masculinity, especially as defined by hierarchy in the family and the community, self-control, the body, and sexuality. By the end of the program, I returned to religious research examining deviance, like witchcraft or the convulsionnaires of Saint-Médard, and the church’s response to deviance through ecclesiastical courts. In addition, I looked at the Jesuits and the Jansenist movement.

This summer had a profound impact on me as a student, and encouraged me in the field of history as I consider pursuing a graduate degree. I gained comfort in researching and a much better understanding of how to undertake a large project, like a book. Especially as I look ahead to my senior thesis, the opportunity to work with a skilled and insightful historian like Professor Choudhury will prove invaluable to me.