NEITHER DECEIVED, NOR DECEIVER: TERESA OF AVILA AND THE RHETORIC OF DECEPTION IN EARLY MODERN SPAIN

2019-11-20T16:05:26Z (GMT) by Ana Maria Carvajal Jaramillo

As a woman who claimed to experienced supernatural phenomena, such as spiritual visions and raptures, Teresa of Ávila had to face accusations of deception while confronting her own doubts of being self-deceived. Both religious authorities and visionary women in sixteenth-century Spain used the idea of deception to either dictate or challenge the dominant religious discourse. Ultimately, Teresa succeed at convincing ecclesial powers of the legitimacy of her experiences, a mandatory step for her canonization. Other visionaries were not as successful, and I analyze whether Teresa’s rhetorical strategies played a role in ensuring her effective defense of the authenticity of her visions.

This analysis of Teresa of Ávila as a visionary woman who felt the need to confront the problem of deception questions the usefulness of the traditional interpretation of visionary women as either deceivers or deceived. I argue that deception has traditionally functioned as a tool of sociopolitical marginalization, and that rulers of public discourse have ignored or dismissed the voices of visionary women. This work indicates the urgency of including their stories in the larger discussion on the credibility of women’s accounts of their own life experiences.