Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Joan of Arc: The Early Debate

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Joan of Arc: The Early Debate

Article excerpt

Joan of Arc: The Early Debate. By Deborah A. Fraioli. (Rochester, NewYork: The Boydell Press. 2000. Pp. x, 235. $75.00.)

So many layers, labels, and legends have been placed on the shoulders of Joan of Arc that it is easy to forget her first steps because of where they led her. Deborah A. Fraioli takes us back to the beginning of Joan's story to ask a basic question: How did Joan persuade the dauphin, his courtiers, and, especially, his theologians that she was indeed sent by God? Fraioli reminds us that the answer to this question is absolutely crucial: if the dauphin had not been convinced of Joan's authenticity, he surely would not have given her an army. To pursue this question, the author pays particular attention to the contemporary practice of discretio spirituum, especially via Jean Gerson's De distinctione verarum visionum a falsis and De probatione spirituum, which influenced the dauphin's investigators.

Fraioli largely confines herself to the documents that followed Joan on the first few months of her journey as her legitimacy was continually tested. As she correctly reminds us, "The medieval fear that Joan was a malignant force in league with the devil is sometimes unconsciously minimized by modern observers, many of whom overemphasize political motives at the expense of religious or quasi-religious ones" (p. 21). She first treats the initial correspondence between royal officials at Chinon and the theologian Jacques Gelu, and then moves on to De quadam puella, which provides the first evidence of Joan's claim to have been sent directly by God without intermediaries-that is, as a prophet, which leads this anonymous author to evaluate her using scriptural evidence concerning prophecy. …

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