Monday, May 30, 2011

The uses of the saints

US Memorial Day, May 30 this year, is also the feast of St. Joan of Arc. On a Catholic blog (boldings mine), this:
Today – which in the U.S. this year happens to be Memorial Day – is also the anniversary of the death of St. Joan of Arc, who was burnt at the stake on May 30th in 1431.  Probably not even twenty years old when she died, she continues to live in the popular imagination as a warrior, dressed in military armor, riding into battle.  Joan thus seems to embody something quite different from what traditional images of femininity suggest.  She was listening to higher, “inner voices,” as she herself described them.  And in that she displayed, powerfully, how God’s calling can function as a profound challenge to established gender identities and their cultural codes.  Holy lives, in other words, also embody their own profound challenges to the living of gendered identity.  Thank you, Saint Joan of Arc, for the witness of your own, short life, on this, your memorial day.
The author of this blurb is
Professor of Liturgical Studies at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Yale Divinity School. She has written extensively on liturgy and women’s lives; and her 2005 book "Fragments of Real Presence: Liturgical Traditions in Women's Hands" has just been translated into Japanese. In 2008, Teresa Berger produced (with MysticWaters Media) an interactive CD-ROM called Ocean Psalms, featuring meditations, prayers, songs, and blessings, all focused on the sea. Her newest book, "Gender Differences and the Making of Liturgical History" is being released by Ashgate (summer 2011).
My comment:
Certainly one of the very strangest of the saints. If she can be seen nowadays as some kind of patron(ess) for challenging gender roles, she might just as well also be seen as a heavenly advocate for using violent intraChristian military means to consolidate emerging nation-states and their ethnic identities.

Patroness of European Wars?

Discerning what Providence had in mind by using her to solidify the throne of Charles VII is certainly beyond my pay grade.


Anonymous said...

Amazing that she wasn't canonized until 1920. Does this reflect the ideology of nationalism? Because I suppose it is rather anachronistic to consider territorty battles in the 1400s between a Frankish king based in Londres and a Frankish king who would be based in Paris weren't really for the rule of "France."

Anonymous said...

As for gender, isn't the example of Joan of Arc helpful to your cause, and in this way?

When women are said to be nurturing, one enquires after the meaning of manliness or masculinity, and the reply is that men are nurturing too.

Along this line, since military prowess is validated as feminine or womanly, we may ask after the meaning of the masculine or manly; and the reply must be men are military fighters too!

Anonymous said...

I've always interpreted the gendery-bendery qualities of Jeanne d'Arc as being a sign / symptom that she was supposed to be quite under the influence of non-earthly / divine potency. She seems queer because it's /supposed/ to be queer. It only underscores what ordinary, (non-saintly) gents and ladies are supposed to be like by peculiar contrast.

...not what Pea-Sea ever makes of such a thing of course. Anything "queer" is supposed to be an example of how everybody and everything else is supposed to change, which would have the effect of making the queer non-queer.

The same confusion presently abounds in portrayals and usage of aboriginal transgender shamanism. Read the original research, and you find that the actual idea was that the magical fella must be involved with powerful forces indeed, if it can make a fella do something as freaky as wearing women's clothing. Sometimes the idea was exactly that the shaman's god had made the man his bitch, so it must be a tough god that you shouldn't mess with.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...