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There has been some controversy since the death of Therese of Lisieux (Therese Martin) regarding the value of her poetry. Some critics have considered it to be somewhat charming but full of the pious sentimental images typical of her day. Sackville-West, for example, declares that "It cannot be claimed for Therese's poems that they have much merit beyond their obvious sincerity ... "(138). Kathryn Harrison, in a more recent study of Therese, is somewhat less critical. She claims that most of the saint's poems are "unremarkable as art, but useful for what insight they provide into her spiritual development" (116). Her thoughts resemble Therese's own judgment of her poetry. In a letter written in February 1897 to Maurice Belliere, Therese states: "Ces pauvres poesies vous reveleront non pasce que je suis, mais ce que je voudrais et devrais etre ... En les composant j'ai regarde plus au fond qu'a la forme ... mon but etait de traduire mes sentiments ..." (Une course de geant: Lettres 390-91; "These poor poems will reveal to you not what I am but what I would like and should be ... When composing them, I have looked more at the substance than at the form ... my purpose was to translate my sentiments ..." [General Correspondence 1059]). And so, how are we to judge Therese's poetical works? Are they as tasteless in content and style as some critics would have us believe or is there more to them? It would seem that only those able to unlock the spiritual depths hidden in the language and images of Romanticism still evident in late nineteenth-century French literature can uncover the true value of Therese's poetry. Guy Gaucher remarks that if we disregard her poetry we run the risk of missing some hidden spiritual treasures (141). James Wiseman considers her poems "a privileged resource for our understanding of Theresian spirituality" (540), while Hans Urs von Balthasar unhesitatingly states that her images "render her the equal of the two great reformers of Carmel in poetic power" (113).

Professionnel et technique
22 mars
Conference on Christianity and Literature

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