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Circumstances Alter Cases: Women, Casuistry, and the Novel

  • Josephine Donovan

Abstract

Casuistry is a form of legal and moral reasoning that mediates between general rules or maxims and specific circumstances by means of the case history, a short anecdote or story—a “hypothetical”—that points up the contradictions between the circumstances and the law in order to effect accommodation or change. Etymologically, casuistry derives from the Latin casus [chance, happening, accident], which itself stems from cadere [to happen].

Keywords

Early Modern Period Woman Writer Nature Picture Frame Character Feminist Point 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Lowell Gallagher, Medusa’s Gaze: Casuistry and Conscience in the Renaissance (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991), p. 4. Further references follow in the text. Albert R. Jonsen and Stephen Toulmin in The Abuse of Casuistry: A Google Scholar
  2. 2.
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    See Moshé Lazar, Amour courtois et “fin’ amors” dans la littérature du Xlle siècle (Paris: C. Klincksieck, 1964), pp. 52, 55, 57, 73–77;R. Howard Bloch, Medieval French Literature and Law (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), pp. 172–73.Google Scholar
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    The other two are IV. l and IV. 5. While these have a general feminist point, brutally illustrating male control in the family over women, neither uses casuistry extensively to make the point, although Ghismonda in IV. 1 does argue other points casuistically. The story of Bernabo’s wife was a much-told tale, a source in fact for Shakespeare’s Cymbeline (see A. C. Lee, The Decameron: Its Sources and Analogues [New York: Haskell House, 1971], pp. 42–57), but none of the other versions seems to highlight the woman’s “case” in feminist terms as Boccaccio and Christine de Pizan do.Google Scholar
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    Pierre Jourda, Marguerite d’Angoulême (Paris: Champion, 1930), 22, 26–27. My translations throughout. Further references follow in the text.Google Scholar
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    Marc Shell, Elizabeth’s Glass (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993), p. 46, suggests as an influence on Marguerite de Navarre’s Miroir Marguerite Porete’s antinomian Miroir des simples âmes (ca. 1285–95). Porete, a Beguine, was burned as a heretic in 1310 after the work was condemned. Navarre also had within her household for a time an antinomian heretic by the name of Quintin, who was burned for heresy in 1547.Google Scholar
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    Karl Stanglmaier, Mrs. Jane Barker: Ein Beitrag zur Englischen Literaturgeschichte (Berlin: E. Eberling, 1906), pp. 48–50.Google Scholar
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© Josephine Donovan 1999

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  • Josephine Donovan

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