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    To console, to nurse, to prepare for eternity: the Catholic sickroom in late nineteenth-century England

    Mangion, Carmen M. (2012) To console, to nurse, to prepare for eternity: the Catholic sickroom in late nineteenth-century England. Women's History Review 21 (4), pp. 657-678. ISSN 0961-2025.

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    This essay examines, using Foucault's concept of heterotopias and the Foucauldian notion of surveillance, the Catholic sickroom as a sacred space, created and managed by women religious, where women could be mediators of the sacred. It considers how women religious shaped the meanings of the sickroom using a salvific spiritual message found in the directives, actions and bodies of the sister-nurse. By examining the Catholic sickroom as a crisis heterotopia, the multiplicity of meanings which were present in this ‘real place’ emerges. Catholic women religious in England provided alternate sites of medical treatment for Catholics where the medical and the sacred could co-exist. They entered into social relationships through a cultural discourse that structured their work as ‘caring’, yet they also took the opportunity to mould the religious practices and behaviour of patients within these spaces. The heterotopian place of the Catholic sickroom exposed the ‘real space’ where women ministered in all but sacramental ways to the spiritual needs of patients. This study positions women religious as key protagonists in the development of the sacredness of the sickroom as a social space thereby expanding the spheres of influence of women. The Catholic sickroom, both in the institution and in the home, provided an alternate social space where the politics of religion, theology, and gender added to the complex meanings of the sickroom.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Depositing User: Carmen Mangion
    Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2012 11:34
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:01


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