Religion, Society, and World Relations Faculty of Catholic Theology

Catholic Women Writers as Products and Producers of "Catholic Femininity"?

Jörg Seiler: The anti-modernist phase of Catholicism was characterized by normative Catholic ascriptions of femininity, which mostly obscured the pluralization dynamics of these decades. Persistence, change and (un)simultaneous emancipative ideas about a Catholic gender order should therefore be reconstructed in church history on the basis of biographical sources and literary works of Catholic women writers. As representatives of a liberal profession, they represented an unbound heterogeneous grouping, in contrast to women from associational Catholicism, who wanted to achieve a public effect with their works among the readership. They thus became actors in the field of literary Catholicism. The image that Catholic women writers painted of 'femininity' in their works, and the correlation of this image with their biographically and historically determined self-conception between adaptation, modification and overcoming of the Catholic gender order will be investigated for the first time without succumbing to a 'biographical circular reasoning' (S. Nieberle). Thus the gender-historical expansion of research on Catholicism can be fulfilled by working on a further desideratum for research.

Duration
09/2016 - 08/2019

Funding
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) :
300 000 Euro

Duration
03/2021 - 09/2023

Funding
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

Project management

Prof. Dr. Jörg Seiler
Prof. Dr. Jörg Seiler
Holder of the professorship for Church History of the Middle Ages and Modern Times (Kirchengeschichte des Mittelalters und der Neuzeit) (Faculty of Catholic Theology)

The anti-modernist phase of Catholicism (roughly between the literary controversy and Vatican II) was characterized by normative-Catholic attributions of femininity, whereby the pluralization dynamics of these decades remain mostly hidden. Persistence, change and (un)simultaneous emancipative ideas about a Catholic gender order are therefore to be reconstructed in church history on the basis of biographical sources and literary works by Catholic women writers. As representatives of a liberal profession, they represented an unbound heterogeneous grouping, in contrast to women from associational Catholicism, who wanted to achieve a public effect with their works among the readership. They thus became actors in the field of literary Catholicism. The image that Catholic women writers painted of 'femininity' in their works, and the correlation of this image with their biographically and historically determined self-conception between adaptation, modification and overcoming of the Catholic gender order will be investigated for the first time without succumbing to a 'biographical circular reasoning' (S. Nieberle). Thus the gender-historical expansion of research on Catholicism can be fulfilled by working on a further desideratum for research.

In a threefold analysis step 'Catholic femininity', indirectly also 'Catholic masculinity', is to be examined in the life and work of Catholic women writers. (1) The evaluation of the biographical key data of this collective will reveal to what extent it was itself a kind of typological 'product' of normative Catholic ascriptions of femininity. (2) The evaluation of central prose works with complex references to reality (novel, narrative, novella) reveals the extent to which the women writers reflected on 'Catholic femininity' in correspondence with or in contrast to their own life plan and 'produced' it in their fictional literary characters or in self-stylization. Autobiographical works will also be included. (3) The evaluation of ego-documents (diary, letter) reveals to what extent there were discrepancies in subjective appropriation. A relational database on female Catholic writers, developed in interdisciplinary cooperation between modern church history, Catholicism research, German studies and computer science, will be made available for subsequent use.

Religion Church History Literary History Research on Catholicism

Cooperation partner

Research focus

Religion, Society, and World Relations