Albineana 36: Vocations of children and family trajectories in the time of civil and religious wars 1550


Review Albineana launches a call for papers for an issue devoted to the theme of childhood,

and particularly childhood vocations read through the prism of family trajectories, in France in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The work of historians on education[1] and the family[2], have identified for the time major changes in the idea of ​​​​childhood, and how this age group (more or less determined) required special attention and protection from civil and religious authorities, not to mention investments (reform and development of colleges and Latin regencies, legal debates on the family, filiation, education, etc.). This evolution finds a wide echo in the literature of the time, from Rabelais to Montaigne.[3]. Théodore-Agrippa d’Aubigné, for his part, expressly “problematized” his own childhood as the key to explaining his destiny. Major reference of the argument, the autobiographical text of His life to his children gives rise to the different readings (confessional, psychological, historical, literary) that this tale of origins and this story of education deserve. D’Aubigné also lets appear in places in his work and his correspondence a particular point of view on the education or the moral development of boys and girls. The question of the childish vocation extends to his poetic work as a motif or image with multiple meanings: evocation of conventional figures drawn largely from sacred history (massacre of the Saints-Innocents, the Maccabees) but also aesthetic tools (appeals for pity, evocation of maternal tenderness, cruelty of the state of nature, animal comparisons) or rhetoric, when he prefaces in verse his main collections[4] presented metaphorically as his children. Finally, the historian of the Wars of Religion reports, exploits and/or dramatizes in particular in his stories and his analyzes the massacre of children and that of foster mothers[5]. If the evocation of childhood time can be commonplace in a work of remembrance, beyond the strict motive of heroization, it also opens the field to introspection and incursions of the intimate into the parade of the self. Doesn’t D’Aubigné still offer a shining example with “his mother who died in childbirth”, the Amboise oath to his father, the curse of the legitimate son and the love of the natural son…? The establishment of a vocation in childhood then becomes the sign of an assumed family position.

The opportunity here would be to approach, starting from the case of Aubigné, the superpositions of trajectories and formations (moral, religious, social, school, university) – bushel which could be brought together by the poet under the unifying idea of ​​vocation. .

Recent studies on children have in fact developed in two directions which are of interest to our subject. The work of D. Crouzet (2020) has contributed to bringing the child out of the passivity in which we used to plunge him, by highlighting his place as a historical actor in the Wars of Religion, producer of violence which is specific to him. The second direction was largely driven by medievalists who were interested in the question of kinship either in its affective and imaginary dimension, or in a more social dimension, as a mechanism of reproduction and community construction (Lett, 1997 and 2000, Klapish-Zuber, 2000, Nassiet 2000, Bouchard, 2001, Delille, 2015, Foehr-Janssens, 2019). As A. LEspagnol (1995) has shown extremely convincingly, the child depends on the social strategies implemented by the family.[6].

We would therefore like in this issue of Albineana to approach childhood by reappraising it within the framework of family trajectories which frame it and shed light on it, more particularly by focusing on the meaning of a childish vocation in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. , to the relationship between it and the family strategies implemented. If vocation – the origin of which is usually attributed to a transcendent election – seems at first glance to escape social determinism, the work of historians and sociologists has clearly established that it results from a social and institutional construction (Suaud , 1978). The fabric of vocations (and the discourse that is made of it) comes from a set of social practices by which a family, a group, a community, tries to maintain a position or to rise. On the one hand, it would be a question of questioning the childish vocation by resituating it among the dynamics and precise family trajectories (social category, confession, place in the siblings, etc.) which come to define a range of possible, specific almost every child. Vocation is then conceived as the choice, among these possibilities, considered most likely to succeed socially. It is this moment of hesitation, this slow birth of the decision which ends up being fortified in vocation, which should be recaptured, as N. Schapira did in his study on Valentin Conrart (2003). On the other hand, it would be advisable to reflect on the discourse which justifies the choice made a posteriori. It is on this point that a literary approach appears particularly fruitful. The discursive and retrospective dimension of vocation invites aesthetic and rhetorical reflection: by what type of story to relate a vocation, what terms are used to report on an election, what processes are retained to inscribe themselves in the memory of a lineage or on the contrary to claim a singularity? More generally, it would be a question of seeing how these family investments in childhood, well documented by historians, are represented by literary discourse and of capturing “the symbolic, even spiritual, potential of the most obvious realities” revealed by the literary works (Y. Foehr-Janssens, 2019, p. 50).

Various avenues relating to the subject can be considered in a large corpus of texts, both fictional and factual, Albinean or other:
– How do family trajectories build vocations in children, whether denominational or professional? We will be, in this perspective, sensitive to the way in which the subsequent transmission to the children makes it possible to ratify these choices and to build them in family logic, whether it concerns denominational vocations or more simply professional (think here of the families of printers -booksellers).
– The vocation in a situation of civil war in militant literature. The Wars of Religion may have appeared as a moment in which individuals were able to think of their action as responding to a transcendent vocation. To what extent do these military-confessional vocations break with a social heritage, or are they merely the continuation of it by other means?
– The use of the scenario of the childish vocation as a polemical instrument and justifying document: the vocation and the response to the family call can appear as a means of legitimizing an action in the troubles.
– The making of vocation: according to which models did early modernity understand this idea of ​​a childish vocation? Do literary and religious vocations respond to the same model? What are the words to say it?
– A reflection according to the genres. As Van Elslande clearly shows (p. 128), memoirs are a privileged place for reflection on the “election scenario” projected onto the child whose adult memoirist points out either the congruence or the discrepancy with that which ‘it was. The childhood story appears sometimes as a way of singling out, sometimes of claiming a filiation. More specifically, we can be attentive to the tones that accompany these relationships with childhood (is the discrepancy always underlined by the comic and destiny by the epic?). In novels, name changes, reasons for cross-dressing during childhood, can be questioned

[1] After the pioneering work of E. Garin (1957), let us cite the now canonical studies of R. Chartier, MM. Compère and D. Julia (1976) or F. Waquet (1998).
[2] Following the seminal book by Ph. Ariès (1973), think of the important work of G. Duby and J. Le Goff (1977), A. Burguiere, Chr. Klapisch-Zuber, M. Segalen, F. Zonabend (1986) and E. Becchi and D.Julia (1998).
[3] Rabelais, Pantagruel, 1532, c. IV-VIII; Gargantua, 1535, c. XI-XXIV; Montaigne, Trials, 1588, I, 26.
[4] The Tragic, ed. review Jean-Raymond Fanlo, Classiques Garnier, 2022; Spring, Stances and Odes, Droz, 1972; The Hecatomb at Diana, ed. Julien Goeury, PU St-Etienne, 2007.
[5] universal history, ed. André Thierry, Droz, 1981-2000, 11 vol.
[6] See also R. Chartier, MM. Compere and D. Julia, 1976, p. 175-206.

Expected contributions: French and European literature (16th-17th century); social history; history of education and teaching; the history of art…


Thibault CATEL
Isabelle MOREAU

Article proposals (approximately 300 words)are expected for March 1, 2023 at the latest to the following addresses:,,

The articles will appear, after proofreading, in number 36 of Albineana, review of the Friends of Agrippa d’Aubigné (


ARIES, Philippe, The Child and Family Life under the Old RegimeParis, Threshold, 1973.
BECCHI, Egle and JULIA, Dominique (eds.), western childhood storyParis, Threshold, 1998.
BOUCHARD, Constance Brittain, Those of My Blood: Constructing Noble Families in Medieval FrancePhiladelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001.
BURGUIÈRE, André, KLAPISCH-ZUBER, Christiane, SEGALEN, Martine, Zonabend, Françoise (eds.), Family history. 2. The clash of modernitiesParis Armand Colin, 1986.
CHARTIER, Roger, COMPÈRE, Marie-Madeleine, JULIA, Dominique (ed.), Education in France from the 16th to the 18th century, Paris, Society of Ed. of higher education, 1976.
CROUZET, Denis, Child executioners during the wars of religionParis, Albin Michel, 2020.
DUBY, Georges and LE GOFF, Jacques (eds.), Family and Kinship in the Medieval WestRome, French School of Rome, 1977.
DELILLE, Gérard, “The deep France. Kinship relations and matrimonial alliances (16th-18th centuries)”, AHSS finals, 70/4, 2015, p. 881-930.
FOEHR-JANSSENS (Yasmina), “Lineage and reproduction. Social aspects of kinship and parenthood in some songs of gesture”, in L. Evdokimova and A. Marchandisse (dir.), The medieval text in the process of communication, Garnier Classics, 2019, p. 49-65.
KLAPISCH-ZUBER, Christiane, The Shadow of the Ancestors. Essay on the medieval imaginary of kinshipParis, Fayard, 2000.
LESPAGNOL, André “Educational models and family strategies in the Saint-Malo merchant milieu in the 17th and 18th centuries: the ambiguities of a mutation”, in F. Angiolini and D. Roche (dir.), Negotiating Cultures and Formations in Modern EuropeParis, Ed. of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, 1995.
LETT, Didier, Family and kinship in the medieval West (5th-15th century)), Paris, Upper Hachette, 2000.
LETT, Didier, (ed.), Êto be a father at the end of the Middle Ages, CRMH, 1997 (including an article “The “expression of the paternal face”. The resemblance between the father and the son at the end of the Middle Ages: a mode of symbolic appropriation”).
NASSIET, Michel, Kinship, nobility and dynastic estates: 15th-16th centuries, Paris, Ed. from the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences, 2000.
SCHAPIRA, Nicolas, Un literary professional in the 17th century: Valentin Conrart, a social historySeyssel, Champ Vallon, 2003.
SUAUD, Charles, The vocation ; conversion and reconversion of rural priestsParis, Midnight, 1978.
VAN ELSLANDE, Jean-Pierre, The age of the children (XVI-XVII centuries)Geneva, Droz, 2019.
WAQUET, Francoise, Latin or The empire of a sign: 16th-20th centuryParis, A. Michel, 1998.

Albineana 36: Vocations of children and family trajectories in the time of civil and religious wars 1550-1630