Teresa of Avila

Elizabeth T. Howe

in Renaissance and Reformation

ISBN: 9780195399301
Published online July 2016 | | DOI:
Teresa of Avila

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy


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Teresa of Avila (b. 1515–d. 1582), also known as Santa Teresa de Jesús, is arguably the foremost woman writer of 16th-century Spain. She also represented in her family background and her life’s work the currents roiling the Spain of her time and place. The child of a converso (converted Jewish) father and an “old Christian” mother, her very family name had been adjusted to obscure the paternal background. In her forties she began the reform of the Carmelite order for both men and women as part of what came to be known as the Counter-Reformation. Her written works ranged from the autobiographical Vida (Life), ostensibly penned at the request of her confessor, as well as the mystical Castillo interior o las moradas (Interior castle or the mansions); a treatise on prayer composed for her nuns called Camino de perfección (Way of perfection); an account of the convents she established, Fundaciones (Foundations); and numerous Cartas (Letters). As a mystic her writings influenced generations of other authors, both Catholic and non-Catholic through the centuries, even as it invited the scrutiny of the Inquisition. Although not published during her lifetime, her major works saw print not long after her death and were translated into most of the European languages shortly thereafter. Canonized in 1622, she was also the first woman to be declared a Doctor of the Church, in 1972. In the more than four hundred years since her death, works about her number in the thousands. They consider her life and works—both written and foundational—from a variety of perspectives. The present bibliography is by no means complete, but it offers a starting point for further research.

Article.  10267 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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