Power of a Single Word: "Honneur" in the Heptaméron, The
presentationposted on 12.09.2014, 00:00 by Heidi Lichtfuss
The Heptaméron is a French text written during the 16th century by Marguerite, the Queen of Navarre. In the Heptaméron, Marguerite uses ten different characters to tell over seventy stories about gender, love, sex, government, and religion. In the process, she creates a complex commentary on her society. In particular, the Heptaméron demonstrates an interest in gender roles. The purpose of my study of Marguerite's work is to understand her heavy usage of the word honneur (honor) rather than the more common chasteté (chastity) when she refers to women. For women, honneur was limited to physical chastity, while men could engage their society's multiple powerful connotations of honneur, including dignities, rewards, and compliments. Marguerite, clearly aware of honneur's massive scope, manipulates this term in ways that give women power. She does this by using honneur to blur the lines between the public (male) and private (female) worlds, ultimately elevating the interior female world, home of the conscience, as the greatest source of power.