Heroic Hearts


Heroic Hearts

Sentiment, Saints, and Authority in Modern France

Jennifer J. Popiel

366 pages
22 illustrations, index


June 2021


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

June 2021


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

June 2021


$65.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Heroic Hearts examines how young women in nineteenth-century France, authorized by a widespread cultural discourse that privileged individual authority over domesticity and marriage, sought to change the world. Jennifer J. Popiel offers a recuperative reading of sentimental authority, especially in its relationship to religious vocabulary. Heroic Hearts uncovers the ways sentimental appeals authorized women to trust themselves as modern actors for a project of cultural restoration. With their emphasis on sacrifice and heroism, these cultural currents offered liberatory potential.

Heroic Hearts examines not only general cultural currents but their adoption by particular women, each of whom was privileged with access to money and social influence. The words of three extraordinary women, Philippine Duchesne, Pauline Jaricot, and Zélie Martin, offer powerful testimony to their agency. These women’s rejection of “traditional” domesticity, believed to be a formative influence for their class, demonstrates how women understood the imperative to change the world outside of their natural families. Their writings, which demonstrate the appeal of sentimental virtue, show us how women’s public lives could exist not in opposition to prevailing religious and social ideals but because of them.

Author Bio

Jennifer J. Popiel is an associate professor of history at Saint Louis University. She is the author of Rousseau’s Daughters: Domesticity, Education, and Autonomy in Modern France and a coauthor of Rousseau, Burke, and Revolution in France, 1791: Reacting to the Past, 2nd ed.


"In this richly documented and lucidly written work, Popiel . . . shows how in the course of the nineteenth century, three strongly independent women changed the Catholic Church in France in ways that were important in their time and beyond."—S. Bailey, Choice

“Jennifer Popiel’s book offers a fresh and illuminating perspective on the often maligned Catholic culture of the nineteenth century. Through a close analysis of devotional literature, fiction, images, and personal correspondence, Popiel moves beyond conventional assessments that emphasize patriarchal authority and female submission. Popiel shows us instead how Catholic women could find in intensely sentimental language and iconography centered on devotions such as the Sacred Heart models of heroic behavior and independence.”—Thomas Kselman, coeditor of Christian Democracy: Historical Legacies and Comparative Perspectives

“Jennifer Popiel has rehabilitated language and imagery that both contemporaries and historians have interpreted as demonstrating women’s inherent emotionality and passivity. Heroic Hearts breaks ground in its consideration of nineteenth-century women’s spirituality and its serious discussions of sentimental literature and imagery.”—Sarah Curtis, author of Civilizing Habits: Women Missionaries and the Revival of French Empire

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Pastel Saints and Powerful Women
1. Shaping the Sentimental Order: Martyrdom, Marriage, and Catholic Heroism
2. Contesting Oppression: Love, Suffering, and Sentimental Literature
3. Seeing the Path to Heaven: Sentimental Virtue and Visual Culture
4. Preferring Jesus Christ to Any Man: Chastity, Sacrifice, and the Religious of the Sacred Heart
5. Changing the World: Pauline Jaricot, Social Reform, and the Power of the Heart
6. Becoming a Saint: Zélie Martin, Suffering, and Heroism in a Consumer Society
Conclusion: Roses, Elevators, and Modern Heroism

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