Feminist thought has wrestled with the question of whether religion has been principally responsible for the oppression of women or instead has provided access to culture, public life, and--sometimes--power. This study of Italian women and Catholicism from the fourth through the twentieth century reflects this conflict and the tension between the masculine character of divinity in the Catholic Church and the potential for equality in the gospels and early writings ("neither male nor female, but one in Jesus").
The various chapters in this book consider the institutions within which religious women lived, many of which they themselves founded or reorganized. In addition to overviews of women and the religious life throughout the periods under study, specific chapters focus on mystical marriage, religious writings by women, secular writings by nuns, women in sacred images, women in the nineteenth-century Christian family, Marian pilgrimages, and depictions of sisters and saints in film. The authors, leading American, Italian, and French scholars, have drawn on rich resources to provide a panorama of sixteen centuries of Italian history, religious history, and women's history.
These thought-provoking essays explore the rewards, ambiguities, and contradictions experienced by women in their relationship with Christian spirituality and the Catholic Church from late antiquity to the twentieth century. Virtually all the essays are excellent, some are a real tour de force. This book will have a wide audience among those interested in the history of women and the history of religion.
Originally published in Italian, this is the English translation of a series of excellent essays exploring the tenuous relationship experienced by women between their spirituality and the Catholic Church These assorted essays make significant contribution to the ongoing conversations around whether institutional religion is primarily responsible for the continued oppression of women or instead opened doors toward autonomy, empowerment, and access to culture and public life.
They are remarkably successful in offering a wealth of information and skillfully guiding the reader through historiographical controversies This collection makes an important contribution to the ongoing debate about the relation of Christianity and the status of women by showing the enormous complexity of the question, and provides much food for thought.
- 432 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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