Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Comparative Literature


Clare Carroll

Committee Members

Monica Calabritto

Steven Kruger

Subject Categories

Comparative Literature | Digital Humanities | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Italian Literature | Literature in English, British Isles | Medieval Studies | Religion


Catherine of Siena, Digital Humanities, Italian Literature, Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Data Visualization, Network Analysis


Lyrical Mysticism: The Writing and Reception of Catherine of Siena (https://caterina.io) affirms the 14th-century mystic Catherine of Siena as a writer through contextualizing her texts among the corpus of contemporary Italian literature, and studying her reception in the Renaissance period of Italy and England. Joining an increasing body of recent meaningful scholarship that has been making significant progress to recover many overlooked and peripheral female voices of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, this work serves to fully assert Catherine as a writer of work that is literarily significant and worthy of textual analysis alongside contemporary male Italian authors, many of whom also wrote on religious matters and spirituality. The current project firmly casts Catherine of Siena as a literary figure through utilizing a gender theory framework and exploring her body of work alongside contemporary poetry, through network analysis of her community-driven writing and spiritual activism, and via the reception of her texts in England.

Theoretically situating Catherine the mystic as a liminal figure, Chapter I argues that the space Catherine inhabits is queer in multiple ways: between male and female, virgin and sexual, human and godlike, earthly and divine. Chapter II investigates the literary exchange that took place between poetic and mystical writing, concluding that the influence is not merely one-directional, but that the two genres serve to influence each other. Leveraging data visualization and network analysis, Chapter III discusses the textual state and history of Catherine’s letters, investigating the contemporary literary network that Catherine formed around herself through the transmission of her writing. Chapter IV analyzes the metaphors and images of Catherine’s letters, examining the pragmatic financial language she utilized in writing to secular and religious interlocutors, and the powerful corporeal language she used in letters written to fellow mantellate. Chapter V explores the history of the book in terms of the transposition and reception of Catherinian texts, especially the Dialogo, which was written in Italian for a lay audience, translated into Latin for a professional religious audience, then translated into English for a communal female religious audience. This dissertation views Catherine’s authorship as that which is embedded within a community-based network and political and public life, presenting her as a truly singular instance of a 14th-century figure who was active in both deed and word, and whose literary voice resonated across European vernacular languages and through the medieval and early modern periods. This work firmly asserts Catherine of Siena, in her own right, as among the early innovators of the Italian literary tradition, providing opportunities for future humanistic inquiry into Catherine’s texts.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

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