This essay in both literary criticism and negative theology treats three widely diverse cases of women who “had the nerve to enter a zone of absolute spiritual daring.” The three cases are of the poet Sappho (in seventh-century Greek antiquity), the mystic Margarite Porete (in fourteenth-century France), and the philosopher Simone Weil (in twentieth-century France). Each of them underwent “an experience of decreation, or so she tells us.” Decreation, which is Simone Weil’s coinage, is here defined as “an undoing of the creature in us—that creature enclosed in self and defined by self. But to undo self one must move through self to the very inside of its definition.” The audacious, unconventional spirituality of these women led society to “pass judgments on the authenticity” of their “ways of being.” Weil has been termed “neurotic, anorectic, pathological, sexually repressed or fake” by many readers of both her work and the biographies written about her. Marguerite Porete was condemned at trial for being not only a heretic but also a pseudo-mulier—a “fake woman”—while “Sappho’s ancient biographers tried to discredit her seriousness by assuring us she lived a life of unrestrained and incoherent sexual indulgence.” These women, however, “know what love is,” namely “the touchstone of a true or a false spirituality,” and each of them finds a means of “telling God.”
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April 1, 2019
Jeffrey M. Perl
Research Article| April 01 2019
Decreation: How Women Like Sappho, Marguerite Porete, and Simone Weil Tell God
Common Knowledge (2019) 25 (1-3): 204–219.
Anne Carson; Decreation: How Women Like Sappho, Marguerite Porete, and Simone Weil Tell God. Common Knowledge 1 April 2019; 25 (1-3): 204–219. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-7299306
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