The past couple of blog posts have commented on the far from perfect scholarship of our post-modern readings. While I agree that it is unacceptable for writers like Daly, Kristeva and Warner to make generalizing assumptions about Marian devotion and get their facts blatantly wrong, I still think that each and every one of them have something very valuable to offer.
Let’s start with Warner. Her personal experience with the Virgin is her truth. She explicitly tells us about her life-long relationship with the Virgin, from making her own Marian grotto as a child to feeling shame for her ‘impurity’ as a teenager. Without the anecdote in the prologue, how would we know the context of her argument? And even though several of us in class questioned Warner’s conclusion that Mary is an impossible model, I have to say that there is truth in that claim for her. And if it is true for her, than how many other Christian women without a voice is this true for?
Kristeva starts her Tales of Love talking about how hard it is to write, but how important the process is if you love your subject:
“Words that are always too distant, too abstract for this underground swarming of seconds, folding in unimaginable spaces. Writing them down is an ordeal of discourse, like love. What is loving, for a woman, the same thing as writing” (235).
When I read Kristeva’s work the first time, I read it without reading the bolded words until the end. Poor choice on my part. Kristeva’s creative writing is chalk full of anguish, shame, and burning love to the point where really anything that I say about it would be inadequate. For Kristeva, writing this book was a soul baring experience. And even though she comes to some interesting conclusions (“The Virgin obstructs the desire for murder or devouring by means of a strong oral cathexis (the breast), valorization of pain (the sob), and incitement to replace the sexed body with the ear of understanding” 257), it would be disrespectful of us to discount all of Kristeva’s work. After all, according to the quote on page 235, this work is a work of devotion. Like many of the authors that we have read in this course, Kristeva uses her talent as a writer as a way to show her complicated love for Mary, to add just one drop to the vast sea. Without Kristeva’s personal anecdotes, how would we know that Tales of Love is also a devotional work?
Finding truth in Daly’s work is a little harder to do than Warner and Kristeva’s, because Daly’s book is full of incredibly biased language. She draws broad conclusions without providing us with evidence. Example:
“On a functional level, Protestant obliteration of the Virgin ideal has to some extent served the purpose of reducing “women’s role” exclusively to that of wife and mother…Concretely, instead of having ‘the nun’ as religious ideal, Protestant women have been offered the picture of ‘the minister’s wife’.” (85).
I had quite a bit of difficulty with this passage for a couple of reasons, mainly because Daly is NOT Protestant. She grew up in a ‘Catholic ghetto,’ so she calls it. This claim is not even based on personal experience, like Warner’s and Kristeva’s works, so how does it have any backing? Secondly, unlike Catholic women, many Protestant women can become ministers! How can Daly say that because Protestant women do not have Mary as a model in the same capacity as in Catholicism, that these women have a diminished role in the Protestant faith?
Still, does Daly have any truth for us? Perhaps the truth lies in the vehemence of her writing. She is a radical feminist for a reason. Daly must have met with some sort of sexism in the patriarchal structure of the Church in her life, and then reacted against it. Her personal experience of having Mary as an inadequate model is a truth for her, even if it does not make sense to us (well, me).
Now what about Ratzinger? As the almost-Pope, his motivations for writing his bit on Mary are pretty clear. He does a good job of reconciling ecclesiocentric and Christocentric Mariologies. It is obvious that Ratzinger spent a good deal of time thinking and learning about Mariology before writing the article. There may have been a little self-revelatory section in his work:
“If the misery of contemporary man is his increasing disintegration into mere bios and mere rationality, Marian piety could work against this ‘decomposition’ and help man to rediscover unity in the center, from the heart.” (36)
I can’t say that Ratzinger may have, as a ‘contemporary man’, fallen like many of us into the seductive ‘rationality,’ but it seems like if he had, he now realizes that Mariology allows us to find a middle ground between pure logic and pure affectivity.
Boss’s work, based on the class consensus, was what we wanted post-modern scholarship on Mariology to look like. No historical inaccuracies (that I could find, at least) and little biased language. I think that Boss provides many of us with an adequate account of Mariology, but in my opinion, that does not mean that that should be the only style of scholarship available to us. Part of the beauty of Mariology, as we have seen throughout the quarter, is that Marian devotion comes in so many forms. Poetry, art, academic writing, music, and so much more! There is truth in every act of devotion to Mary, even if it is not the truth we may be expecting.