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Title:A mother of light in the age of Enlightenment: Heterodoxy, interiority, and epistemology in eighteenth-century New Spain
Author(s):Cesarone, Bernard J.
Director of Research:Vázquez, Oscar
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Vázquez, Oscar
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Rosenthal, Lisa; O’Brien, David; Meléndez, Mariselle
Department / Program:Art & Design
Discipline:Art History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Spanish colonial art
New Spain
Marian devotion
Marian cults
eighteenth century
Madre Santísima de la Luz
Most Holy Mother of Light
divine feminine
religious discipline
enlightened Catholicism
enlightened reform
New Piety
mystical theology
José María Genovese
Abstract:Colonial Mexico was a land steeped in Marian devotion, both to invocations brought from Europe and those arising locally. Into this Marian Zodiac of New Spain, Madre Santísima de la Luz entered in the early 18th century, and her devotion swiftly proliferated. The cult and image of this Most Holy Mother serve as an excellent case study to examine certain contentions in the age of Enlightenment, because just at the beginning of the period of contention, she burst into view in a blaze of light, proclaiming an alternate vision of a divine feminine, disciplined interiority, and knowledge as experience—alternate, that is, to the vision of enlightened reform and enlightened philosophy that was in process of taking root. In this dissertation, I examine these contentions of ideas and practices between what scholars have called traditional baroque devotion and both enlightened reform religiosity and the more radical enlightened philosophy. This examination is based on a study of the history, visual imagery, and iconography of Madre de la Luz; and of many texts, including devotionaries, treatises on mystical theology, artistic treatises, archival materials, council proceedings, and other resources. The areas of contention that I study are principally three: (1) heterodoxy; (2) interiority and exteriority; and (3) epistemology. In each of these areas, the image and cult of Madre de la Luz offer serious challenges to an orthodoxy that is established or is in process of being established. With regard to heterodoxy, they provide an alternate view to particular Catholic dogmas and religious attitudes. The challenge is made through the divine feminine redemptive force, blurring dogmatic options and tolerating ambiguity, that Madre represents. With regard to interiority and exteriority, they provide an alternate view to the newly developing orthodoxy of enlightened reform, with its preference for states of interiority intended to serve external useful ends and for the new bounded self. This challenge is made through a valuation of interiority for its own sake, tolerating a fluid self. With regard to epistemology, they provide an alternate view to the newly developing orthodoxy of the enlightened epistemology of disengaged study that claims dominance over an epistemology of direct experience. This challenge is made by proclaiming the value of the epistemology of experience, while appreciating the enlightened epistemology. Through the study of these contentions, the dissertation makes a number of claims as part of the extended scholarly project that contrasts ideas from the baroque and enlightened eras. It proposes that both the enlightened reformers of the late 18th century and modern scholars have misunderstood the roles of interior and exterior practices in both baroque Catholicism and enlightened reform Catholicism; thereby suggesting that we need to free ourselves from a reliance on enlightened reformers’ judgments, and attend to the teacher-practitioners of baroque religion themselves. Its more careful study of baroque devotional texts on Madre de la Luz (than any previous study), has identified intense interiorizing practices promoted within a context of exterior practices; thereby suggesting that we need to not only re-evaluate our understanding of the two Catholicisms, but also how we conceive of interiority, exteriority, and their interrelation. The dissertation gives voice to proponents of baroque interiorizing religion, a voice that has been hitherto poorly heard in the scholarly literature; and thus offers a more nuanced view of baroque interiorizing religious practice. It elaborates connections between iconography and devotional practice. It presents a comparative metaphorology of baroque and Enlightenment visual images, expanding the work of earlier scholars’ Enlightenment metaphorologies. It contrasts baroque epistemology of experience versus enlightened epistemology of disengaged study. It expands cases of particular doctrinal heterodoxies to express challenges against wider orthodoxies. Finally, as an undercurrent, it suggests first, the value of studying other religious systems (such as the religious philosophies of India) for understanding devotional religion in Mexico, and second, the importance of taking the researcher’s experience into account when doing historical research.
Issue Date:2018-06-07
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Bernard J. Cesarone
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-09-27
Date Deposited:2018-08

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