Mystical or hysterical?

Is she mad, or is she right? ask the authors of the mystical revelations of St. Gemma Galgani, the first woman canonized in the 20th century. Although they leave this question unanswered, the historically detailed and very personal material they provide by and about Galgani affords an intriguingly mixed conclusion. Rudolph Bell, a historian at Rutgers, and Christina Mazzoni, a professor of romance languages at the University of Vermont, have ­produced an interesting combination of historical analysis, feminist hermeneutics and primary source translation of Galgani's autobiography, diary entries and ecstatic utterances transcribed by her family. These seemingly divergent lenses refract pieces of Galgani which, when combined by the reader, construct a picture of a young woman whose intense physical ravages were either psychosomatic creations or sufferings given by God as channels of mutual communication and erotic relationality.


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