Elissa Cutter: 2013 Graduate Student Research Grant Report

EDITOR’S NOTE: Elissa Cutter of Saint Louis University was one of three recipients of ACHA Graduate Student Summer Research Grants last summer. Click here for more information on ACHA grants.

Graduate Student Summer Research Grant Report

by Elissa Cutter

The financial support that I received for my research trip to Paris from the American Catholic Historical Association, in addition to funding that I received from Saint Louis University, made it possible for me to travel to Paris, France this summer for the month of July in order to complete the archival work necessary for my dissertation. I had three goals in mind for this period of research. First, I had hoped to transcribe a copy of the discourses of Angélique Arnauld, the reforming abbess of the Jansenist convent of Port-Royal. I wanted a copy of her discourses that are located at the Bibliothèque de Port-Royal, a private library under the auspices of the Société des Amis de Port-Royal, a French academic society dedicated to the study of Jansenism. Second, I hoped to look at the documents related to the history of the convent of Port-Royal, located in the manuscript collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Finally, I wanted to look at the texts in the Bibliothèque de Port-Royal and the Bibliothèque Nationale that were written against the nuns of Port-Royal. My dissertation argues that Mother Angélique should be considered a theologian based on the content of her writings. Since one of the charges leveled against the nuns was in relation to their intellectual ability and pretenses to theology, I had wanted to find some examples of this.

I was able to complete all of these proposed outcomes, with the exception of the texts written against the nuns, as will be explained below, and to also look at the volumes of the Chroniques de Port-Royal, the annual journal of the Amis de Port-Royal, that are not available at the Saint Louis University library. Additionally, in looking through the documents related to this history of Port-Royal, I was able to look at an original copy of a papal bull signed by Pope Urban VIII that accepted Angélique’s change of jurisdiction over the convent from the Cistercians to the Archbishop of Paris and original patent letters signed by King Louis XIII accepting this change in jurisdiction and giving up his right to nominate the abbess of Port-Royal in favor of elections for a three-year period. These patent letters even still had the seal of the king on them.

I had some difficulties with the texts written against the nuns of Port-Royal because many of the copies at the Bibliothèque Nationale were in poor condition and so my initial requests to see them were refused. However, I was able to make a special request to see most of them while I was still in Paris. There were only two that I had wished to see to which my requests were completely refused: one was promised to be digitized within a month and the other was unavailable because it was in the process of being digitized. These two documents are still unavailable to me. The first, Déclaration de la conduite que M. l’archevesque de Paris a tenue contre le monastère de Port-Royal by Gaston Chamillard, was digitized as promised, but is only available to view on site in Paris. The second, Eclaircissements de quelques difficulties morales by François Annat, has not yet become available. However, I can continue to work on other parts of my dissertation while I wait for these texts to become available.

Most importantly, while I was in Paris I had to the opportunity to meet with Jean Lesaulnier, a French scholar in the area of Jansenism and seventeenth-century French spirituality and editor of the Dictionnaire de Port-Royal (2004), and discuss my research. He was able to provide me with the names of several other scholars who are working on the topic of Jansenism whom I can contact in relation to my dissertation. Thus, my research travel to Paris, made possible by the research funding from the American Catholic Historical Association, has allowed me not only to complete the archival research necessary for my dissertation, but also to make scholarly connections with members of the Société des Amis de Port-Royal which will be invaluable as I continue to research this topic.

More information about Ms. Cutter’s research and academic interests is available on her website.

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