Teresa of Ávila
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Saint Teresa of Ávila (March 28, 1515 – October 4, 1582) was a Spanish mystic and writer. French intellectuals such as Georges Bataille, Jacques Lacan, Marie Bonaparte and Pierre Klossowski were the first to note that the religious ecstasy of St. Theresa of Avila is indistinguishable visually, and in the written word from that of an orgasm.
- "I would see beside me, on my left hand, an angel in bodily form ... He was not tall, but short, and very beautiful, his face so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest types of angel who seem to be all afire ... In his hands I saw a long golden spear and at the end of the iron tip I seemed to see a point of fire. With this he seemed to pierce my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he drew it out, I thought he was drawing them out with it and he left me completely afire with a great love for God. The pain was so sharp that it made me utter several moans; and so excessive was the sweetness caused me by the intense pain that one can never wish to lose it, nor will one's soul be content with anything less than God." --tr. Edgar Allison Peers
Teresa's writings, produced for didactic purposes, stand among the most remarkable in the mystical literature of the Catholic Church:
- The "Autobiography," written before 1567, under the direction of her confessor, Fr Pedro Ibáñez;
- " El Camino de Perfección," written also before 1567, at the direction of her confessor;
- "Meditations on Song of Songs," 1567, written nominally for her daughters at the convent of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
- "El Castillo Interior," written in 1577;
- "Relaciones," an extension of the autobiography giving her inner and outer experiences in epistolary form.
- Two smaller works are the "Conceptos del Amor" ("Concepts of Love") and "Exclamaciones." In addition, there are "Las Cartas" (Saragossa, 1671), or her correspondence, of which there are 342 extant letters and 87 fragments of others. St Teresa's prose is marked by an unaffected grace, an ornate neatness, and charming power of expression, together placing her in the front rank of Spanish prose writers; and her rare poems ("Todas las poesías," Munster, 1854) are distinguished for tenderness of feeling and rhythm of thought.
- A painting of a young Teresa is "St.Theresa", painted in 1819-20 by François Gérard, a French neoclassical painter.
- Saint Teresa was the inspiration for one of Bernini's most famous works, The Ecstasy of St. Theresa in Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome.
- Saint Teresa features prominently in Joan Osborne's song with the same name.
- She is also a principal character of the opera Four Saints in Three Acts by composer Virgil Thomson and librettist Gertrude Stein.
- Saint Teresa is also mentioned greatly within Kathryn Harrison's "Poison". The main character Francisca De Luarca is fascinated by her life.
- Author R. A. Lafferty was strongly inspired by El Castillo Interior when he wrote his novel Fourth Mansions. Quotes from St. Theresa's work are frequently used as chapter headings.
- Author Pierre Klossowski prominently features Saint Teresa of Ávila in his metaphysical novel "Baphomet."
- Victorian novelist George Eliot compared Dorothea Brooke to St. Theresa in Middlemarch (1871-1872) and wrote briefly about the life and works of St. Theresa in the Prelude to the novel.
- Contemporary Poet Jorie Graham features Saint Teresa in her poem "Breakdancing" of her volume "The End of Beauty."
- Paz Vega stars as Teresa in Teresa, el cuerpo de Cristo, a 2007 Spanish biopic directed by Ray Loriga