Catherine of Siena

Catherine's "Letter 83: To Mona Lapa, her mother, in Siena" includes appeals to logic. "You were glad, I remember, for the sake of material gain when your sons left home to win temporal wealth" (31). As opposed to her mother's reaction to Catherine's absence, which is to call her to come home. And that is only one of the reasons that she gives her mother.

She also implores her mother to act like Mary and leave Catherine to God's work as Mary left Jesus on the cross. This analogy seems to place Catherine in the role of Jesus, though she does not explicitly state that. She, like many of these women writers, uses subtlety and delicate phrasing. How much should her words be interpreted, especially considering that it is a translation from Italian (albeit by a woman)?

The end of the letter has an ellipsis indicating a portion of it was cut out. I can't help but be curious as to what exactly the editors of this anthology thought should be cut out of the short letter that they provided. I understand that not everything can be included in a book, which by its very nature is finite, but I do wish there could have been a footnote explaining the cut out portion, my own nature including a healthy portion of curiosity.

Personally, I don't like that the examples of women rhetors from the middle ages tend to be religious. However, I know that in that time period it wasn't just women that were limited to spiritual writings. Many men also wrote theological works or those couched in theological terms in those times. It was a natural consequence of writing and education tending to be concentrated in the church.

The voice of Catherine's writing did speak to me as she sounded like an exasperated daughter writing to her clingy mother. Our reasons may be different, but we both wish our mothers to let us live our own lives. The difference is in her time it was a radical idea, and in my time it is not all that far from normal.

It is difficult to conceive of being not allowed by culture and custom to pursue an education. To be thought of as a part and parcel of my family and not as a person on my own. How difficult it is to discern what part of my personality is me, some sort of inviolate central core of identity and what part of me is the culture in which I was raised. Would I care, if I didn't know any better? Would I have been happier with fewer choices, less education, less freedom?

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