Chapter

Melancholy Nuns

Jennifer Radden

in The Nature of Melancholy

Published in print April 2002 | ISBN: 9780195151657
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849253 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195151657.003.0009
Melancholy Nuns

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This chapter presents Teresa of Avila's discussion of melancholy. A Carmelite nun who lived in Spain between 1515 and 1582, Saint Teresa (or Theresa) of Avila was one of the most remarkable women of her time. Coming from a wealthy family of Jewish “converse” origins (they had been required to adopt Christianity at the end of the previous century), she entered the Carmelite order in her teens. Teresa possessed several rarely combined talents. She was a mystic and contemplative of great spirituality; she was named Doctor of the Church for her work on prayer and contemplation, which is judged some of the very finest in the tradition of Christian mystical writing. Teresa acknowledges the standard theological explanation of melancholy in terms of demonic influence, yet she seems loath to press this explanation or to burden the suffering person with it. Throughout her discussions on melancholia, Teresa reveals her concern and her ability to distinguish melancholic from related states, and her compassionate yet practical treatment of melancholic experience.

Keywords: Teresa of Avila; melancholy; melancholia; Carmelite nun; demonic influence

Chapter.  5857 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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