This unique study of the cult of the Virgin Mary offers a way of thinking about the interrelations of Catholicism and ideas of ideal femininity over the longue duree. An ambitious history of the changing symbolism of the Mother of God, Alone of All Her Sex holds up to the light different emphases occurring at different times, and highlights that the apparent archetype of a magna mater is constantly in play with social and historical conditions and values. Marina Warner's interesting perspective was forged in the aftermath of significant postwar developments in history, anthropology, and feminism and the book inspired fierce debates when it was first published in 1976. Alone of All Her Sex is also an emotive, personal statement, arising from Warner's own upbringing as a Catholic. It picks up on classic accounts such as Mary MacCarthy's Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood and Antonia White's Frost in May, as well as the author's own experiences at a Catholic boarding school. Highly controversial in conservative quarters, the book's arguments were welcomed and recognised by many readers who shared Warner's experiences.
In this new edition, Marina Warner has written a new preface which reviews the book in the light of the current debate about secularism, faith, nations, and social identities. She takes issue with her original mistaken conclusion that the modern age would see the cult of Mary fade away and revises it in the light of recent popes' enthusiasm for the Mother of God, a fresh wave of visions and revelations, a new generation of female saints, and the reorientation of theological approaches to the woman question.
Marina Warner's award-winning studies of mythology and fairy tales include Monuments & Maidens: The Allegory of the Female Form (1985) and No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling and Making Mock (1998). Her Clarendon Lectures Fantastic Metamorphoses; Other Worlds were published in 2002; her essays on literature and culture were collected in Signs & Wonders (2000), and Phantasmagoria, a study of spirits and technology, appeared in 2006. Marina Warner was created a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French in 2002, and a Commendatore by the Italians in 2005. She was awarded the Warburg Prize in Germany in 2004, and is an Honorary Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. She is Professor of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex and President of the British Comparative Literature Association. In 2005 she was elected a Fellow of the British Academy. Oxford gave her an Honorary Doctorate in 2005.
PART ONE: VIRGIN; PART TWO: QUEEN; PART THREE: BRIDE; PART FOUR: MOTHER; PART FIVE: INTERCESSOR