The Afterlife of Pope Joan
Deploying the Popess Legend in Early Modern England
Publication Year: 2006
Published by: University of Michigan Press
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In the sixteenth century, worshippers in the vast medieval cathedral in Siena who cast their gaze far above the inlaid floor, higher even than the striped black and white marble columns supporting the Romanesque arches, could view a sculpture that was stunning, if not for its artistry, then for its subject. ...
1. Debating Joan: Images, Ceremony, and the Gelded Text
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Writing in 1697 and looking back on more than a century of debate concerning the Pope Joan legend, the skeptical French Huguenot philosopher Pierre Bayle (1647–1706) observed: “I believe that some traditions, which are advantageous to the Popes, and supported by as strong reasons as those are which support ...
2. Comparing Joan: The Whore of Babylon and the Virgin Queen
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In March 1592, at the Rose Theatre, Lord Strange’s Men dramatized the career of Pope Joan. Unfortunately, no copy of the play they performed, which the impresario Philip Henslowe (ca. 1550–1616) recorded in his diary as “poope Jone,” has survived (Henslowe 22; Patrides 169; Pardoe and Pardoe 84). ...
3. Diagnosing Joan: The Hermaphrodite Hypothesis
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At the 1992 annual meeting of the Endocrine Society, Maria I. New, a physician at the New York–Cornell Medical Center, delivered the President’s Address, entitled “Pope Joan: A Recognizable Syndrome.” In her lecture, New posed a question germane to this study: “If Pope Joan was a legend”—as New insists she “undoubtedly” was ...
4. Canonizing Joan: Necromancy, Papacy, and the Reformation of the Book
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In 1548 Pope Joan became an English author and a magician. That year, at least, the English Protestant polemicist and antiquarian John Bale credited Joan with writing a book on necromancy and therefore included her story among the brief literary biographies presented in his Illustrivm maioris Britanniae scriptorum . . . summarium, ...
5. Playing Joan: Popish Plots in the Theatre Royal
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On the evening of November 17, 1679, as many as two hundred thousand Londoners witnessed a spectacle that reportedly cost its Whig sponsors twenty-five hundred pounds. The torches carried by 150 hired porters illuminated a float bearing a pope in effigy, embraced and counseled by the devil ...
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In 1972, seven hundred years after Jean de Mailly first committed it to writing, the popess legend entered a new medium with the release of a film entitled Pope Joan (or alternatively The Devil’s Imposter). As originally conceived and shot, this film portrayed a troubled, twentieth-century woman’s attempt to appropriate the popess legend ...
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Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 10 illustrations
Publication Year: 2006