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Marguerite Porete, annihilation and trauma: some (further) cautions

Marguerite Porete, annihilation and trauma: some (further) cautions

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Location: Walker Room, Heythrop College

Welcome to the Michaelmas Term's Staff Research Seminar series.  This session will see Jane Foulcher presenting a paper on 'Marguerite Porete, annihilation and trauma: some (further) cautions'.  The seminar will start at 4 pm with tea and coffee and the presentation will start at 4:30 pm.


In her 2012 qualitative study of Christian survivors of abuse Susan Shooter draws on the Mirror of Simple Souls, a late thirteenth century text by Marguerite Porete. This text, she suggests, offers ‘a theological mirror which reflects in a positive frame the journey the survivors have made on their way home to God.’ At the heart of Porete’s text is the notion of the ‘annihilated Soul’. Shooter uses this phrase in the title of her book, How Survivors of Abuse Relate to God: The Authentic Spirituality of the Annihilated Soul, thus making a strong identification between Porete’s theology and the spirituality of survivors. While Shooter contends that Porete’s theology offers ‘a theological mirror’ for the spiritual journey of survivors of abuse, aspects of that mirror are troubling. Shooter herself recognises that Porete’s theology of annihilation raises difficulties, specifically in relation to agency and will. In this paper I examine some further aspects of Porete’s theology in the context of trauma. I argue that while elements of Porete’s text might resonate with the experience of survivors of trauma, the interpretation of these resonances is by no means straightforward.

Rev Dr Jane Foulcher is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology, Charles Sturt University and Deputy Director of St Mark’s National Theological Centre, in Canberra, Australia. She has been a visiting research fellow at Heythrop College during Michaelmas term. Her publications include Reclaiming Humility: Four Studies in the Monastic Tradition (Cistercian Publications, 2015).

Contact Name: Johannes Hoff
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