THE TERESIAN EPISTOLARY OR THE BACKSTAGE OF FOUNDINGS AND REFORMS:THE CONSTRUCTION OF POWER IN THE LETTERS OF SAINT THERESE OF AVILA

Open Access
Author:
De Jesus, Arlette M.
Graduate Program:
Spanish
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
March 05, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Mary Elizabeth Barnard, Dissertation Advisor
  • Mary Elizabeth Barnard, Committee Chair
  • Julia Cuervo Hewitt, Committee Member
  • Thomas Oliver Beebee, Committee Member
  • John Andres Ochoa, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • Saint Theresa of Avila
  • Golden Age Literature
  • Epistolary
  • Teresa de Jesús
Abstract:
Teresa de Jesús is one of the most studied authors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Spanish Golden Age. Studies devoted to her work concentrate on style, lineage, and matters of spirituality. Critical works have mainly focused on her autobiography, Libro de su vida, and Las moradas del castillo interior, but her epistolary production has recently attracted attention from several critics, among them, Joan Cammarata, Alison Weber, Pilar Cocejo, and Barbara Mujica. This study will examine the Epistles of Teresa of Jesús, in particular the letters to King Philip II, María Mendoza (a lady of the nobility who helps Teresa in founding the convent in Valladolid), María de San José (prioress of the convent of the Carmelites in Seville), and Gracián (her confessor and spiritual director). It explores ways in which Teresa, through her letters, seeks a position of power and authority, fashioning for herself a voice within a male church hierarchy. In a society where the Inquisition had the power to impose and sanction the practices of Catholic orthodoxy, Teresa manages to become a noted reformer and founder of Carmelite convents. She writes about her spiritual experiences, knowing that this could very well cost her her own life. This study is a testament to the courage of a woman who opted to use the pen as an instrument of power.