Witnessing Maria Goretti: Testimonial Practices for a Silent Martyr Open Access

Claassen-Luttner, Jessica Cayenne (2013)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/0p096733n?locale=en


This dissertation examines diverse forms of devotion to the twentieth-century Roman Catholic martyr and saint, Maria Goretti. The analysis begins by recognizing that the narrative of Goretti as a "martyr to chastity"--the narrative that was used in Goretti's canonization process and that was widely accepted through the mid-twentieth century--is ethically untenable. The dissertation argues that the case of Maria Goretti is a turning point in the history of Roman Catholic martyrdom: she is a new kind of martyr and calls for a new examination of what it means for a victim of unjust violence to be a martyr. Chapter One brings early Christian structures of martyrdom into conversation with late twentieth-century victim testimonies. Goretti is located in between, as a martyr who bears witness to the inherent insufficiency of victim testimony. Chapter Two discusses the documentation of Goretti's martyrdom, particularly in her case for canonization, and calls into question the process of transforming testimony into evidence. Chapter Three analyzes displays of Goretti's relics, in the context of Christian theologies of martyred flesh as a form of revelation. Chapter Four analyzes some of the ways devotees of Goretti have publically performed her narrative and their devotion to her. The chapter argues that these diverse performances, including films, plays, pilgrimages, and liturgies, are experiments in constructing new forms of relationship between the saint and the devotional community. The dissertation closes by reflecting on what it means for the contemporary Roman Catholic Church to inherit this saint and this troubling narrative--asking what moral responsibility incurs in that inheritance.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter One: Changing Concepts of Martyrological Witness 17

Chapter Two: Written Testimony and Witnessing as Evidence 59

Chapter Three: Speaking Corpses, Reading Martyred Flesh 89

Chapter Four: Performance and Testimonial Practices 147

Conclusion 178

Bibliography 183

Non-Printed Sources 193

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