'These Devils That Have Many Uses'
Possession and Liberation in Michel de Certeau’s Possession at Loudun
Michel de Certeau’s 1970 monograph The Possession at Loudun recounts a series of alleged demonic possessions at the Ursuline convent in Loudun, France, in the 1630s. These events led to the arrest of a local priest, Urbain Grandier, who was charged as a sorcerer and executed for his supposed crimes. Rather than seeking to verify the truth of the possessions, this paper analyses them through a feminist lens, suggesting that the state of ‘possession’ gave the afflicted nuns an agency which was otherwise unavailable to them. Under the leadership of their clever prioress Jeanne des Anges, the possessed women used their new agency to target and eliminate Grandier, who can be seen as a representative or scapegoat for the patriarchy as whole.