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Feminist Perspective of The Heptameron

This study will provide a character critique on the woman Oisille and the man Hircan from Marguerite de Navarre's The Heptameron, emphasizing the feminist perspective of the work. The supposed author Marguerite is seen through her characters as a Christian humanist, a woman with decidedly feminist leanings, but with that feminism thoroughly awash with much more humor than rhetoric. The tales presented are bawdy and full of acceptance of the human condition at its best and worst, but there is always the sense that the world of human beings is a part of the Christian reality. Marguerite was active throughout her life in efforts to reform and liberalize the church.

It would not be outrageous to see Oisille as something of a heroine and a personification of the author's ideal woman, as Chilton describes her in the Introduction: "It is Oisille who is the group's spiritual leader, and this within the setting of a monastery, that is, within an exclusively male community" (12). In other words, Oisille is seen as spiritually higher than a group of men who are supposed to be dedicated to spiritual achievement.

Hircan, on the other hand, is the personification of the male macho beast. The feminist slant of the writing is seen in the contrast between the spiritual Oisille and the gross Hircan, and on the second page of the Prologue, we are made aware that this is a book in which women are portrayed in a feminist light as beings capable of great achievement, equal or superior to men in most cases.

Oisille, we are informed, is an old widow with much experience in life who seeks to see a holy place, the abbey of Our Lady at Sarrance. Oisille is shown to be a Christian, but a realistic, humanistic, down-to-earth Christian who appears to be above superstition.

reached her destination, but only after struggling through rugged and hostile terrain. . . . The most tragic thing was that most of her horses and servants died on the way, so ...

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