2016-06-30
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Teresa has enticed countless biographers, and in the last decade she has been claimed by feminists: in 1990 Alison Weber argued that Teresa employed the familiar and non-controversial language of femininity even though she didn't believe a whit of it, because she understood that she would have more elbow room if she pretended to be docile than if she directly challenged prevailing gender norms; in 1995 Carole Slade suggested that Teresa wrote her autobiography to fool the henchmen of the Inquisition--she was, in fact, far bolder and more heterodox than her autobiography allows. Now Cathleen Medwick, a former editor for Vanity Fair and House & Garden, takes a turn. No less modern or sassy than Slade's or Weber's, Medwick's Teresa is a shrewd businesswoman; savvily building and running monasteries, she reminds the reader of an early 21st century CEO more than a stern nun rapping students with a ruler.

If "The Progress of a Soul" smacks of anachronism, it does have one virtue: the prose is as lively as any copy Medwick edited at Vanity Fair.

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