Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



This project examines the French convent as a convergent point of evolving blood myths in the eighteenth century. According to Michel Foucault, as a society transitions from sovereign power to more liberal forms of government, the target of how power is enforced shifts as well: from the punishment of individuals who pose a threat to the crown to the regulation of perceived “deviants” who threaten the health and stability of the nation’s population. As the eighteenth century was a time of radical social change, the era encapsulates a prime moment for the study of continuities and discontinuities of these various forms of power. The longstanding tradition of patriarchal power from the highest political ranks down to the family unit remains steady and relatively uncontested. Yet while France is careening towards the Revolution in 1789, it is at the same time experiencing rampant colonialism: thus the idea of race is introduced into the regulation of deviance at the same time that the idea of social class is being violently challenged and reconstituted. However, the contrasting continuity of male dominance with the discontinuity of the social importance of class and race in the eighteenth century share one important commonality, and that is blood. In the corpus that I analyze in this project, the convent serves as an alternative fate for those deemed unfit for reproduction due to the threat that they pose to the purity of blood: familial, noble, and finally racial. I have chosen works by Claudine Guérin de Tencin, Denis Diderot, Boutet de Monvel, and Claire de Duras dating from 1735 to 1823 that trace this evolution of reproductive repression in both forms: sanguine (against the individual) and sexual (for the population).



Committee Chair

Jensen, Katharine