Maternal Abjection: Motherhood, Sacrifice, and the Lives of the Saints

Mercredi 3 février 2021, à 12h00

In the lives of holy mothers, from Perpetua to Paula to Ivetta of Huy to Birgitta of Sweden, the renunciation of children plays a key role in the construction of female sanctity. While in some cases the hagiographer gives but passing reference to the holy woman’s decision to relinquish her children in favor of religious life, in other cases the renunciation of children carries significant narrative weight as evidence of the heroic virtue required of the saints. In this paper, I draw on The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity, Jerome’s letter of Eustochium, Guibert of Nogent’s Monodies, and the lives of St. Margaret of Cortona and St. Birgitta of Sweden, as well as the latter’s own Revelations, to argue that in the writings about and by holy mothers, the renunciation of children submits to the hagiographic mandate of imitatio Christi—variously modulated according to historical context, but always modeled on the paradigmatic heroism Christ’s own sacrifice. Whether illustrative of the holy woman’s laudable virility, unconditional love for God, admirable faith, or commitment to the ideal of evangelical poverty, the renunciation of children within the context of hagiographic narrative operates as a proxy for the painful renunciation of self in the image of the crucified Christ.

Cette conférence sera donnée en anglais.

Prof. Mary Dunn, Saint Louis University (Missouri)

Mary Dunn est historienne du catholicisme et professeure associées à St. Louis University. Elle a publié de nombreuses contribution sur le catholicisme aux 17ème et 18ème siècles au Canada français. Ses ouvrages comprennent les titres suivants : From Mother to Son: the Selected Letters of Marie de l’Incarnation to Claude Martin (2014); The Cruelest of All Mothers: Marie de l’Incarnation, Motherhood, and Christian Tradition (2016); Intimacies: Intersubjectivity and the Formation of the Religious Subject in the Modern Christian West (coédité avec Brenna Moore, à paraître à Indiana University Press); ainsi que Where Paralytics Walk and the Blind See: Narratives of Sickness and Disability in Early Modern French Canada (en cours).

sainteCrédit photo: Uskale Go, sur Pexels, CC