Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Modern Foreign Languages

Major Professor

Gregory Kaplan

Committee Members

Bryant Creel, Paul Barrette, Thomas Heffernan


The purpose of this study was to examine the literary works of Contanza de Castilla, a fifteenth century Spanish nun, in comparison with those of Catherine of Siena, a fourteenth century Italian saint, and Teresa de Cartagena, another fifteenth century Spanish nun. The comparisons were made in order to determine whether similarities among the experiences and spiritualities of these three women led to similarities of gender strategies and/or participation in the feminization of Christianity.

Examination of the works of these three women was based on both the structure in which they wrote (the epistolary format), and the themes that they used to elaborate their spiritual beliefs (devotion to the humanity of Christ, methods of spiritual growth, the dangers of the world, and the authority of their voices). Examining these areas allowed certain conclusions to be drawn about these women.

Based on the comparisons made in the study, it was determined that, although all three women share an individual piety of the type that was spreading throughout Christendom in the late Middle Ages (and which is often said to presage the Reformation), only Constanza and Catherine can truly be said to be involved in the feminization of Christianity. The similarities between Constanza and Catherine are likely based on the fact that both were associated with the Dominican Order.

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