Amid the religious tumult of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, English scholars, preachers, and dramatists examined, debated, and refashioned tales concerning Pope Joan, a ninth-century woman who, as legend has it, cross-dressed her way to the papacy only to have her imposture exposed when she gave birth during a solemn procession.
The legend concerning a popess had first taken written form in the thirteenth century and for several hundred years was more or less accepted. The Reformation, however, polarized discussions of the legend, pitting Catholics, who denied the story’s veracity, against Protestants, who suspected a cover-up and instantly cited Joan as evidence of papal depravity. In this heated environment, writers reimagined Joan variously as a sorceress, a hermaphrodite, and even a noteworthy author.
The Afterlife of Pope Joan examines sixteenth- and seventeenth-century debates concerning the popess’s existence, uncovering the disputants’ historiographic methods, rules of evidence, rhetorical devices, and assumptions concerning what is probable and possible for women and transvestites. Author Craig Rustici then investigates the cultural significance of a series of notions advanced in those debates: the claim that Queen Elizabeth I was a popess in her own right, the charge that Joan penned a book of sorcery, and the curious hypothesis that the popess was not a disguised woman at all but rather a man who experienced a sort of spontaneous sex change.
The Afterlife of Pope Joan draws upon the discourses of religion, politics, natural philosophy, and imaginative literature, demonstrating how the popess functioned as a powerful rhetorical instrument and revealing anxieties and ambivalences about gender roles that persist even today.
Craig M. Rustici is Associate Professor of English at Hofstra University.
Aquinas and Analogy
Ralph McInerny Catholic University of America Press, 1996 Library of Congress B765.T54M236 1996 | Dewey Decimal 169.092
The basic distinctions McInerny introduces, his criticism of the central piece in the literature, Cajetan's De nominum analogia, the applications he makes to problems such as that of the nature of metaphysics or of logic, his knowledge of contemporary debates on related topics, combine to make his contribution unique
In contemporary discussions of abortion, both sides argue well-worn positions, particularly concerning the question, When does human life begin? Though often invoked by the Catholic Church for support, Thomas Aquinas in fact held that human life begins after conception, not at the moment of union. But his overall thinking on questions of how humans come into being, and cease to be, is more subtle than either side in this polarized debate imagines. Fabrizio Amerini--an internationally renowned scholar of medieval philosophy--does justice to Aquinas's views on these controversial issues.
Some pro-life proponents hold that Aquinas's position is simply due to faulty biological knowledge, and if he knew what we know today about embryology, he would agree that human life begins at conception. Others argue that nothing Aquinas could learn from modern biology would have changed his mind. Amerini follows the twists and turns of Aquinas's thinking to reach a nuanced and detailed solution in the final chapters that will unsettle familiar assumptions and arguments.
Systematically examining all the pertinent texts and placing each in historical context, Amerini provides an accurate reconstruction of Aquinas's account of the beginning and end of human life and assesses its bioethical implications for today. This major contribution is available to an English-speaking audience through translation by Mark Henninger, himself a noted scholar of medieval philosophy.