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The Voices of Gemma Galgani: The Life and Afterlife of a Modern Saint (review)

The Voices of Gemma Galgani: The Life and Afterlife of a Modern Saint (review) 06-reviews 12/9/03 6:49 AM Page 769 Reviews 769 Rudolph M. Bell and Cristina Mazzoni. The Voices of Gemma Galgani: The Life and Afterlife of a Modern Saint. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2003. xvi, 320 pp. ISBN 0-226-04196-4, $30.00. Writing the life of a modern saint, especially one who seems peevish and demanding, poses exceptional challenges for the biographer. Rudolph Bell and Cristina Mazzoni confront these challenges head-on in telling the life story of the young Italian girl Gemma Galgani, the first person who lived in the twentieth century to be made a saint. The authors skillfully navigate the boundaries distinguishing biography from hagiography, especially when ana- lyzing the dossier promoting Gemma’s contentious canonization after she died of tuberculosis in 1903, at the age of twenty-five. In evaluating descrip- tions of Gemma’s ecstasies recorded by sympathetic observers, the volume tackles important issues of source bias and historical veracity, which loom especially large when trying to make scholarly sense of the ineffable. The authors’ toughest challenge, however, is Gemma herself. In her last years, Gemma received special signs of spiritual grace in the form of stigma- ta and mystical visions. While these imprints of holiness formed the very stuff of http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Biography University of Hawai'I Press

The Voices of Gemma Galgani: The Life and Afterlife of a Modern Saint (review)

Biography , Volume 26 (4) – Jan 8, 2004

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Publisher
University of Hawai'I Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2003 Biographical Research Center.
ISSN
0162-4962
eISSN
1529-1456

Abstract

06-reviews 12/9/03 6:49 AM Page 769 Reviews 769 Rudolph M. Bell and Cristina Mazzoni. The Voices of Gemma Galgani: The Life and Afterlife of a Modern Saint. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2003. xvi, 320 pp. ISBN 0-226-04196-4, $30.00. Writing the life of a modern saint, especially one who seems peevish and demanding, poses exceptional challenges for the biographer. Rudolph Bell and Cristina Mazzoni confront these challenges head-on in telling the life story of the young Italian girl Gemma Galgani, the first person who lived in the twentieth century to be made a saint. The authors skillfully navigate the boundaries distinguishing biography from hagiography, especially when ana- lyzing the dossier promoting Gemma’s contentious canonization after she died of tuberculosis in 1903, at the age of twenty-five. In evaluating descrip- tions of Gemma’s ecstasies recorded by sympathetic observers, the volume tackles important issues of source bias and historical veracity, which loom especially large when trying to make scholarly sense of the ineffable. The authors’ toughest challenge, however, is Gemma herself. In her last years, Gemma received special signs of spiritual grace in the form of stigma- ta and mystical visions. While these imprints of holiness formed the very stuff of

Journal

BiographyUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Jan 8, 2004

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