Postdoctoral Research Associate in the History of Catholicism
The Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University, in partnership with the Congregation of La Retraite, invites applications for a 36-month Fellowship in the History of Catholicism (c.1650-c.1820).
This fixed-term Fellowship has been made possible by a contribution from the Congregation of La Retraite. The Congregation of La Retraite was founded in France in the seventeenth century. Having been involved with the Jesuit retreat house for men in Vannes (founded in 1663), Catherine de Francheville looked to provide Ignatian retreats for women. Despite the retreat houses' popularity, questions were regularly raised about the provision of such spirituality for women, until the community running the retreats was recognized by Church and State in the 1670s. From this first retreat house were started others, including in Quimper in Brittany by Claude Thérèse de Kermeno. The movement's ministry continued till the anti-Catholic violence of the French Revolution, during which one of the Congregation, Victoire de St-Luc, was executed because of her devotion to the Sacred Heart. In order to survive in France, the Congregation added education to its work of spiritual accompaniment, and its houses subsequently spread throughout the nineteenth century, both inside and outside of France.
Little scholarly attention has been paid to the Congregation's story, particularly amongst English-speaking scholars. The Catherine de Francheville Fellowship will allow the holder to research the largely unexplored history of the La Retraite Congregation from revolution to Revolution, to develop how the history of the La Retraite experience in France links to the wider national and international context, and to highlight the significance of the La Retraite experience for the study of the history of post-Reformation Catholicism. The history of the Congregation in the early modern period is markedly unusual and the La Retraite Fellow would trace the first c.170 years of the Congregation's existence, from the 'revolution' of being an early modern women's movement, to the French Revolution and suppression by the State, ending with the Congregation's rebirth at the start of the nineteenth century. As well as the Congregation's own archives in France, the holder will be expected to supplement this research with trips to relevant archives elsewhere in order to provide the widest possible context. The holder will, therefore, require fluency in the French language.