Journal Article

SAINTS AND STEREOTYPES: THE CASE OF THÉRÈSE OF LISIEUX

Mary Bryden

in Literature and Theology

Volume 13, issue 1, pages 1-16
Published in print March 1999 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online March 1999 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/13.1.1
SAINTS AND STEREOTYPES: THE CASE OF THÉRÈSE OF LISIEUX

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The year 1997 saw the centenary of the death of St Thérese of Lisieux, and the events associated with this centenary are worthy of analysis on several counts. Not only did a new and scholarly centenary edition of her complete works appear, but she was also proclaimed a Doctor of the Church. The centenary volumes contain, in addition to the work for which she is best known—Histoire d'une ânte (‘Story of a Soul’)—her poems, plays, and correspondence. This article considers the discrepancies which may arise between the ‘authorised version’ of a saint's life, and his or her ‘meaning’ as perceived by other responding constituencies. It examines the official Vatican summary of Thérèse's life (in the 1997 Apostolic Letter Divini Amoris Scientia), in terms both of what it includes and of what it omits. It argues that the Theresian profile is in fact more complex and more potentially subversive than her curriculum vitae as cited by the magisterium might suggest. These alternative conceptions of Thérèse are explored in the second section of this article, where the Vatican representation of Thérèse is counterpointed by assessments of three contemporary ‘literary’ treatments of her life—two plays and a film—which appeared in the decade leading up to the centenary

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Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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