St Joan of Arc
St Joan of Arc goes non-binary
- A “queer” character who refers to herself with “they/them” pronouns
New London play provokes Catholic backlash
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London is re-inventing the story of St. Joan of Arc in an upcoming production called “I, Joan,” in which the French Catholic heroine will be portrayed as a non-binary “queer” character who refers to herself with “they/them” pronouns.
The news has prompted a backlash in Catholic circles. Several have also taken to Twitter to voice their dismay. They say the interpretation detracts from Joan of Arc’s heroic life and erases the dignity of womanhood.
- Said Fr Matthew P. Schneider, LC at Belmont Abbey, “This type of people insist that everyone use the pronouns that person prefers, they go take historical &/or spiritual figures, & ignore their clearly preferred pronouns.”
- Said a leading British feminist, Helen Saxby, “Joan of Arc threw the first brick at Stonewall.”
- Said famous American author and broadcaster, Dr Taylor Marshall, “A medieval peasant girl, Saint Joan of Arc, using pronouns they/them…Shakespeare would curse this.”
The Globe announced its decision in a tweet: “Our new play I, Joan shows Joan as a legendary leader who uses the pronouns ‘they/them’. We are not the first to present Joan in this way, and we will not be the last. We can't wait to share this production with everyone and discover this cultural icon.”
In a statement, the play’s artistic director Michelle Terry said, “History has provided countless and wonderful examples of Joan portrayed as a woman. This production is simply offering the possibility of another point of view.”
Terry argued that play adaptations make “anything possible” because “theatres do not deal with ‘historical reality.’”
The play, which is described by the theater as “queer and full of hope,” will feature actress Isobel Thom in the leading role. Thom identifies as non-binary.
The play will follow Joan’s role in the Hundred Years’ War between France and England, although it is unclear what historical events will be included.
To Catholics, St. Joan of Arc is a symbol of chastity and courageous femininity as the woman who sacrificed her life for the pursuit of truth — leading some to speak out against how far the production takes artistic liberties.
“Please stop saying amazing women aren’t really women,” Abigail Favale, a Catholic professor and expert on gender studies and feminist literary criticism, wrote. Favale is the author of “The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory” (Ignatius Press, 2022), which approaches gender from a perspective informed by Church teaching.
The theater claims that Shakespeare himself “did not write historically accurate plays” and “play[ed] with identity, power, with the idea of pleasure, and with all sides of an argument.”
The Globe Theatre’s move to re-write Joan of Arc’s history is part of a push to promote LGBTQ themes in the performing arts. In New York City, Roundabout Theatre on Broadway has announced that the beloved Broadway musical “1776” will take the stage on an international tour solely depicting the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution by “actors who identify as female, transgender, and non-binary.”
Philosophy professor, Helen De Cruz, went into more detail.
“I know that discussion on this is just predictable culture war stuff, but I do find the idea of gender queerness in past historical people really fascinating (and Joan of Arc is not an implausible candidate?)--to what extent can we make such interpretations in hindsight?
“Now there were in fact past trans, intersex etc people, such as the awesome Chevalier d'Eon. I also find it worth thinking that our current distinction of sex and gender isn't some new fad but is ancient (hence clothing norms etc for men and women)
“For example, Xunzi (warring states period Chinese philosopher) argues here that animals have sexual dimorphism but no gender "[birds and beasts] have the male sex and the female sex but no differentiation between Male and female"
“Xunzi believed that gender is part of "artifice" (in his terminology, wei, note: he thought artifice very positive, the thing that makes us human), whereas sex is part of nature. So, it is due to wei that we have gender roles, clothing, behaviors
“Also: we *always* see past people through our current lenses and concerns. Always. So Joan of Arc has been seen (variously) as a dangerous person with mental illness, a feminist icon, a nationalist icon for France... It's literally impossible to see Joan through 15th C eyes.
“The same with other historical figures. Was Cleopatra a clever politician, a harlot, etc? Now, historical figures did exist so we might wonder whether current interpretations are true to them; this is a substantive question (raising question of whether the dead are owed this).”
Who was Joan of Arc and what did she do?
When and where did she live?
Joan of Arc was a young French peasant, born in 1412, 90 years into the Hundred Years’ War, in the small village of Domremy in eastern France. Destined to save the French from English incursion, she was burnt at the stake in 1431 at the age of 19 after a corrupt Church trial found her guilty of heresy. The trial would later be nullified by the Church and 500 years later, in 1920, Joan of Arc was declared a saint by Pope Benedict XV.
Did Joan of Arc hear voices?
At the age of 13, Joan of Arc had locutions — an interior, mystical phenomenon that involves hearing a divine voice — and reportedly heard the voices of St. Michael the Archangel, St. Margaret of Antioch, and St. Catherine of Alexandria. These three informed her of a special mission given her by God to crown the rightful king of France and thereby end the dynastic dispute that undergirded the Hundred Years’ War.
Along the way, she convinced lords, soldiers, and the French heir to the throne, Charles VII, of her mission. After a lengthy interrogation, she was given charge of the army and successfully lifted the siege of Orléans — on which the fate of the entire war hung — and then freed several towns along the route to crowning Charles VII in the cathedral of Rheims.
Is the story of Joan of Arc a true story?
The story of Joan of Arc is true and historically documented. For this reason, she is among the most famous heroines of history. The task given her by God was so exceptional that it would lead atheist Mark Twain, who wrote a book on her life, to earnestly but exaggeratedly call her “by far the most extraordinary person the human race has ever produced.”
Was Joan of Arc a knight?
Joan of Arc was neither a knight nor a trained soldier, but when she mounted a horse for the first time she was so natural on it that the Duke of Lorraine gifted it to her.
Who were Joan of Arc's parents?
Joan of Arc’s parents were simple peasants, Jacque d’Arc and Isabel Romée. They were farmers and owned sheep, which Joan of Arc tended in her youth.
Did Joan of Arc have any siblings? Does she have any living descendants?
Joan of Arc had three brothers named Jacquemin, Pierre, and Jean, and one sister, Catherine. Both Pierre and Jean accompanied Joan in her quest and fought alongside her.
While Joan of Arc did not have descendants, her entire family was elevated to nobility after Charles VII was crowned, and her village dispensed from paying taxes for three hundred years by the crown.
What was Joan of Arc's nickname?
Joan of Arc’s nickname was “La Pucelle” or the Maid, in reference to an old French prophecy that held that a virgin from Lorraine would save the people of France after an immoral woman, later held to be Isabella of Bavaria, jeopardized the crown.
Could Joan of Arc read and write?
Joan of Arc could neither read nor write, and she did not know how to wield a sword before she began her mission. This makes her military success, where hardened commanders failed, even more extraordinary — an act of God as the people saw it.
How did Joan of Arc die?
Joan of Arc was executed by the Catholic Church after a sham trial condemned her of relapsed heresy. The trial was conducted by Church authorities sympathetic to the English, who hoped to see her claims of heavenly assistance to end the war with a French king on the throne discredited. Convicted of heresy, she was taken to the stake to be burned, at which point, under penalty of death, she signed a paper renouncing her visions and agreeing never to wear men’s clothing. Four days later, Joan of Arc confessed to being afraid of her death, said that the visions were true, and donned men’s clothing once again, all of which constituted her supposed relapse to heresy. She was burned at the stake, clutching a crucifix to her body and proclaiming the name “Jesus” as she died, prompting an onlooker to say, “We have burned a saint.”
Where was Joan of Arc buried?
She wasn’t. Her body was incinerated at the stake, but her heart remained intact after her execution. The soldiers threw the heart in the Seine River so that no one would be able to venerate her remains.
What did Joan of Arc look like?
Joan of Arc scholar Regine Pernoud noted that Joan of Arc was barely over five feet tall, based upon a robe ordered for Joan during her imprisonment by the Duke of Orléans.
How did Joan of Arc change the world and become a saint?
Joan of Arc was not canonized for her ability to free the French from English domination, but for her heroic dedication to the will of God and personal holiness. While Joan commanded the army of France, she drove prostitutes from camp, refused to allow soldiers to rape and pillage the towns that gave them entrance, encouraged confession before battle, and sharply reduced the cussing and oath-swearing of the men under her charge.
She remained committed to a life of contemplation and prayer amid the battles she oversaw, never once lifting her sword against anyone save to chase out a prostitute. Her faith and insights became evident at her trial, forming the foundation of several summaries of theology in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and her confidence in Jesus and the Catholic Church remained unshaken, even after being wrongly condemned to death by the Church.
What is Joan of Arc the patron saint of?
Joan of Arc is the patron saint of France, soldiers, prisoners, those in need of courage, those ridiculed for their faith, and youth, among other things.
When is Joan of Arc's feast day?
Joan of Arc’s feast day is May 30.
And the final word goes to a tweet from WhiteRosePrincess@TKWilsonAuthor1.
“Let's get one thing clear. Joan of Arc was a woman. She never claimed to be a man. She never wanted to BE a man. She dressed like a man for *safety*. Not because she wanted to be a man.”