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The Woman Priest

A Translation of Sylvain Maréchal’s Novella, La femme abbé

Sylvain Maréchal
Translation and Introduction by Sheila Delany

Canadian Studies, Translation, Women's Studies

Published: August 2016
ISBN: 9781772121230
Pages: 88 Size: 6x9
Illustrations: 4

My God! Pardon me if I have dared to make sacred things serve a profane love; but it is you who have put passion into our hearts; they are not crimes—I feel this in the purity of my intentions. —Agatha, writing to Zoé

In pre-revolutionary Paris, a young woman falls for a handsome young priest. To be near him, she dresses as a man, enters his seminary, and is invited to become a fully ordained Catholic priest, a career forbidden to women then as now. Sylvain Maréchal’s epistolary novella offers a biting rebuke to religious institutions and a hypocritical society; its views on love, marriage, class and virtue remain relevant today. The book ends in la Nouvelle France, which had become part of Canada during Maréchal’s lifetime. With thorough notes and introduction by Sheila Delany, this first translation of Maréchal’s novella, La femme abbé, brings a little-known but revelatory text to the attention of readers interested in French history and literature, history of the novel, women’s studies and religious studies.

Sylvain Maréchal (1750–1803) was a French essayist, poet, activist, political theorist, and editor of the journal Révolutions de Paris.

Sheila Delany is Professor Emerita at Simon Fraser University. A medievalist and lifelong political activist, Delany lives in Vancouver. Her book, Anti-Saints: The New Golden Legend of Sylvain Maréchal, was published by the University of Alberta Press.