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A reappraisal of the religious mystical writings of St. Teresa of Avila

Wyatt, Patricia (1983) A reappraisal of the religious mystical writings of St. Teresa of Avila. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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The primary purpose of this thesis is to establish an adequate definition of religious mystical discourse, and to devise a set of criteria based on recurring features in the works of an outstanding Spanish mystic. These criteria will then form the basis of a comparative literary study.

This thesis advances the argument that before an adequate appraisal of the value of mystical works can be made they must be examined in line with both the Christian mystical literature which preceded them and the religious and social structures within which this literature grew. By means of a discussion of areas of controversy in studies of mysticism an attempt will be made to address the problems which are most germane to a literary study. It will be shown that in St. Teresa's works we have the synthesis of the codification of a movement within Christianity which came about as part of the renewed spiritual fervour during the Catholic Counter-Reformation in Spain.

It is proposed that the question of the degree and manner of interpretation of the mystical experience is of paramount importance in any study of mystical texts. The major works of St. Teresa of Avila are therefore subjected to close scrutiny and it becomes evident that she is attempting to clarify her mystical experiences at several levels by means of an intricate system of primary and secondary images. By concentrating on the progression of the principal images throughout these works, and also by distinguishing the descriptive patterns with regard to the locutions, visions and trances, it will be shown that St. Teresa had definite readers in mind who were conditional to the didactic purpose of her works. An examination will be made of the dynamic interaction which takes place between the text and the reader in the fulfilment of the mystical text.

Essentially it is discovered in the comparative study that these writers, by way of the mystical experience, gain a more profound insight into the beliefs and dogma of their respective religions together with a deeper understanding of key phrases of the scriptures of these religious traditions.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Human Communication
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Fodsham, John and Mishra, Vijay
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