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The Divine Romance: Teresa of Avila's Narrative Theology.

The Divine Romance: Teresa of Avila's Narrative Theology. By Joseph F. Chorpenning, O.S.F.S. Values and Ethics Series. Chicago: Loyola University, 1992, Pp. xiv + 176. $15.95.

In this solid and original study, Chorpenning addresses the vexed question of narrative coherence in Teresa of Avila's major works. To solve the problem of Teresa's alleged diffuseness, C. pinpoints an overlooked feature of her milieu: chivalric and hagiographical romances. C. argues that Teresa's major works are cast in this genre and are coherently structured by its archetypes. The hallmarks of Teresa's reform and teaching must therefore be located not only in the theological, social, and ecclesial crosscurrents of her time, but also in her literary and imaginative world.

Relying heavily on Northrop Frye's grammar of narrative, C. identifies in Life, Way of Perfection, Interior Castle, and Foundations the formulaic units of romance Frye describes. Each work is composed of sequences of romance archetypes that form the patterns of descent and ascent associated with heroic narrative. C. establishes a plausible basis for understanding Teresa's teachings as "narrative theology" by clearly fixing the generic features of the narrative itself.

With such emphasis on C.'s argument about narrative unity, however, the light C. might have shed upon narrative theology is dimmed by repetitious assertions that the literary-critical problem is solved. The application of Frye's insights seems at points mechanical, and the neatness of C.'s method risks overlooking significant aspects of Teresian experience (e.g. the major illnesses that mark Teresa's youth and early adulthood).

Three quibbles: In the quincentenial year, terms like "spiritual conquistadores" (1) reverberate with sad ironies C. seems not to feel. Calling Teresa's teachings "unique in the history of Christian theology" (16) is surely more an expression of C.'s affection than a considered comparison. Remarks about Teresa's "miraculous" doctrine (17) should not ignore the misogynist context associated historically with this view.

C. deserves applause for addressing multiple audiences: more academics should write accessible interdisciplinary studies. C. succeeds only partially, but sets a fine example.

J. Mary Luti

Andover Newton Theol. School
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Author:Luti, J. Mary
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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