Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Io Caterina: Fourteenth Century Radicalism for Twenty-first Century Civility

Cheryl Forbes.

The semi-literate Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) wrote persuasive, dynamic, blunt letters to popes and kings and queens and commoners. And got away with it, for her correspondents routinely requested her advice and help. What about her radical rhetoric made her so effective a letter-writer, so successful a leader—a woman with male and female disciples—at a time when women had few choices and certainly no expectations of becoming political powerbrokers, large public figures? This presentation offers a few possible answers to this question by looking at some exemplary letters of one of only two women named doctor of the Roman Catholic Church (she was declared a saint in 1461 by Pius II, doctor of the church in 1970 by Paul VI, patron saint of Europe in 1999 by Paul John Paul II).


Cheryl Forbes  (United States)
Associate Professor and Program Chair
Writing and Rhetoric
Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Cheryl Forbes, Ph.D., is the Chair of the Writing and Rhetoric program at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York, USA. Forbes received the B.A. and M.A. from the University of Maryland and the Ph.D. from Michigan State University. She previously taught English at Grand Valley State University and at Calvin College, and has experience in book and magazine publishing. Forbes has published numerous articles, has given a number of conference presentations, and directed a three-year grant awarded to Hobart and William Smith Colleges from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE). Her most recent book, Women of Devotion through the Centuries, studies late 19th- and early 20th-century women who wrote and compiled devotional books.

  • Fourteenth century
  • Letters
  • Civility
  • Rhetoric
Person as Subject
  • St. Catherine of Siena

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)