Words on fire

Gemma Galgani and the power of authorial voice

Authors

  • Ailie Posillico Villanova University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/bar.17839

Keywords:

Embodiment, Gender and Sexuality, Christian History, Medieval Mysticism, Hagiography, Authorship, Contemporary Catholicism

Abstract

With a focus on the archives of Gemma Galgani (1878–1903), lay Italian Catholic mystic, stigmatic, and first saint of the twentieth century, the current article highlights the ways in which Gemma cultivated relationships with the hierarchy, specifically through writing, which challenged the ‘traditional,’ clerically approved models of late nineteenth-century Catholic sanctity. With attention to Gemma’s writing, a saint who has otherwise been portrayed by her hagiographer as fitting neatly into the strictures of Italian Catholicism of her time, we see rhetoric that contests the assumption that submission is a necessary component of ‘piety.’ Attending to Gemma’s letters sent to her spiritual advisor, the current study underscores the ways in which we may understand Gemma as more than the quiet, humble, and wounded body for which she has been canonized. Gemma as author, as writing body, as I will show, weaves for herself an alternative system of agency that co-exists with – while at the same time reimagines – the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

Author Biography

Ailie Posillico, Villanova University

Ailie Posillico is a PhD candidate at Villanova University specializing in history and spirituality. She studies medieval Western European Christian mysticism, narrative, and the relationship between bodies of texts and bodies of people. Ailie holds a Bachelor of Science from Fordham University and a Master of Theological Study from Harvard Divinity School.

References

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Published

2021-08-23

How to Cite

Posillico, A. . (2021). Words on fire: Gemma Galgani and the power of authorial voice. Body and Religion, 4(1), 65–81. https://doi.org/10.1558/bar.17839

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