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Title: Promiscuous Grace: Beauty, Decay and the Divine in the Legend of Saint Mary of Egypt
Authors: Velazquez, Sonia
Advisors: Brownlee, Marina S.
Surtz, Ronald E.
Contributors: Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures Department
Keywords: Gender Studies
Gitana de Menfis
Juan Pérez de Montalbán
Jusepe de Ribera
Vida de Santa María Egipicaca
Subjects: Literature
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Promiscuous Grace explores how aesthetics and theology converge in the concept of grace understood as both divine gift and a feature of beauty. It suggests that surprising forms of beauty, including the grotesque, emerge when we attend to the complex interactions of sacred and profane elements in pre-modern works. This complexity is easily lost to modern readers who, careful to avoid orthodoxy, read hagiography against the grain often focusing on the scabrous aspects of the genre at the risk of identifying it too quickly with an aversion to beauty. Three medieval and early modern Iberian instantiations of the legend of St. Mary of Egypt are at the core of this project: an important anonymous thirteenth-century poem, <italic>Vida de Santa Mariía Egipciaca</italic>; a baroque play by Juan Pér;ez Montalbán (c. 1638),<italic>La gitana de Menfis</italic> ; and paintings by Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652). These works trace Mary’s transformation from dissolute twelve-year-old to penitent hermit, a conversion effected through the intervention of an image of the Virgin Mary. In its singular triangulation of beauty, decay, and the divine, the life of this particular saint functions as an exceptional vehicle for artists and poets to reflect on the question of representation in general and particularly on the function of beauty in works that ostensibly are about penance and asceticism. I show how each version of the legend is sustained by a web of relations: between sacred and profane, beauty and deformity, tradition and innovation, doctrinal content and sensual form. This relational approach leads to a more general reconsideration of both aesthetics and religion as spaces of active cultural negotiation rather than as neutral, closed, and self-referential spheres. This dissertation thus contributes to recent theoretical work on the intersection of religion and secular culture by offering an alternative to the methodological impasse created when works from the past that explicitly engage religion are seen as simply affirming or subverting doxa.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures

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