Rudolph M. Bell is professor of history at Rutgers University. He is the author or coauthor of five books, four of them published by the University of Chicago Press, including Holy Anorexia and How to Do It. Cristina Mazzoni is associate professor in the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Vermont and the author or editor of three books, including Saint Hysteria.
"A young Italian laywoman, Gemma Galgani (1878-1903) was the first person who lived in the 20th century to be canonized (1940) as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. She was a mystic in the medieval mode, complete with ecstatic visions, extreme asceticism, and stigmata. . . .The book under review includes English translations of Galgani's complete autobiography and diary as well as selected letters and ecstatic utterances. Bell introduces the historical setting, while Mazzoni applies feminist theology and theory to expand understanding of Galgani's life and work. This sympathetic yet thoroughly scholarly work is the first book-length treatment of St. Gemma in English since 1950."
"Bell and Mazzoni demonstrate how potentially subversive Gemma's physical eloquence was.... At the heart of Bell and Mazzoni's endeavour is an understanding that a phenomenon may retain spiritual value, even after its biological and psychological roots have been uncovered."
--Hilary Mantel "London Review of Books "
"Was Gemma an inspired young woman, heroic in her physical sufferings and prescient in her mystical understanding? Or was she simply mad? Her writings show her to be perhaps a combination of the two--thoroughgoing in her religious devotion, yet also emotionally manipulative and psychologically precarious. This absorbing collection of primary sources and scholarly analysis sheds light on one of the modern era's most intriguing yet understudied female saints."