Christine Mohrmann (1903-1988). Scholar at the intersection of gender, religion and academic culture

2020 until 2024
Project member(s)
D. van Beurden (Dana)
Project type

The classicist Christine Mohrmann was a (catholic) woman ahead of her time in certain respects, whilst in other respects she was very much a child of her time. While many people in the 1920s and 1930s still had to get used to the idea that women were going to university, Mohrmann was ready to occupy the highest academic position. However, rooted in the Catholic emancipation in the Netherlands, Mohrmann had reservations about the renewal of the Catholic Church and the democratisation and secularisation of the university in Nijmegen in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. She engaged in various discussions on these matters by virtue of her authoritative stature as a catholic scholar. However, this position of authority was not obtained without a struggle. In the context of the predominantly male academic culture Mohrmann, as a learned woman, was a remarkable phenomenon for a long time. Even after the (inter)nationally renowned classicist was appointed the first female professor at the Catholic University in Nijmegen in 1953.

So, how could a woman like Mohrmann take up a position of authority in the academic and ecclesiastical spheres of the 20th century? How did Mohrmann deal with obstacles she encountered? How did she give meaning to "authority" and legitimise her own position of authority? How was Mohrmann represented by others, men and women, in the academic and confessional cultures of her time? What role did emotions play in all of this?

These questions will be addressed in this research project, which is focused on the construction of authority and the emotions with which these gendered constructions were defined, deployed and appropriated. This concerns the interactions between the male-dominated academic and confessional cultures and the emotions created therein, on the one hand, and the scope for a 'space invader' like Mohrmann to assert herself, on the other.


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