Petry, Yvonne 1962–
Petry, Yvonne 1962–
Born 1962. Education: Luther College, University of Regina, B.A. (French; honors), 1982, B.A. (history; honors), 1985; University of Saskatchewan, M.A., 1991; University of Manitoba, Ph.D., 1997.
Luther College, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, history instructor.
Research fellowship, Harvard Medical School, Countway Library, 2005.
(With William Stahl, Robert A. Campbell, and Gary Diver) Webs of Reality: Social Perspectives on Science and Religion, Rutgers University Press (Piscataway, NJ), 2002.
Gender, Kabbalah, and the Reformation: The Mystical Theology of Guillaume Postel, 1510-1581, Brill (Boston, MA), 2004.
Yvonne Petry teaches college history, with a specialty in the Renaissance and Reformation. She attended Luther College at the University of Regina in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, receiving bachelor degrees in both French and history. She received her M.A. in history from the University of Saskatchewan and her Ph.D. in history from the University of Manitoba. Petry is particularly interested in the influences of religion and magic on science and medicine in early modern Europe. Her book Gender, Kabbalah, and the Reformation: The Mystical Theology of Guillaume Postel, 1510-1581 discusses these issues as they applied to the life, theories, and teachings of sixteenth-century theologian and Jesuit Guillaume Postel.
Postel was considered a crackpot, and even insane, by his contemporaries, because of the beliefs he held based on his interpretation of the Kabbalah. According to Petry, the Kabbalah played an important role in Renaissance thought. It is a set of Jewish esoteric teachings, meant for only select and serious students, said to define deep and hidden meanings in the Hebrew Bible and the teachings of the rabbis. These teachings explain the implications of Jewish religious observances, symbols, and traditions and are believed to contain great wisdom and guidance toward understanding how to live a meaningful spiritual life. Gender, Kabbalah, and the Reformation is Petry's attempt to explain Postel's beliefs, theories, and mystical teachings by examining them in light of the social, political, and theological environment of Europe during the time of the Renaissance and the Reformation.
Petry devotes the beginning of her book to discussions of earlier studies of Postel and his teachings. The remainder of the book lays out Petry's own research and conclusions. It was Postel's belief that adherents of all religions were seeking the same spiritual truth, which he identified as Jesus. In his attempt to reform the Roman Catholic Church to this vision, he was thrown out of the Jesuit order, although he did not leave the Church. It was then that he began to deepen his study of the Kabbalah and the teachings of the Jewish mystics.
Postel's studies took him to several research libraries in Europe. While in Venice, he met a woman named Joanna, a student of the Kabbalah, who greatly impressed him. He believed her to be the female messiah, and it is around his relationship with and devotion to her that Petry examines sixteenth-century attitudes toward women and their place in society and the spiritual life. Postel believed that the soul has two halves: the superior, masculine half that was saved by Christ; and the inferior, feminine that was not yet saved, but would be by Joanna. Public reaction to Postel's publication of these and similar ideas about the soul and its destiny was so intense that he expected to be martyred. The Catholic Church imprisoned him and condemned his writing, released him, then put him under house arrest for the last eighteen years of his life because of his preaching.
Critics were generally pleased with Gender, Kabbalah, and the Reformation, especially for Petry's ability to both highlight an underappreciated historic figure and to explain his philosophy so clearly. In her review for the Canadian Journal of History, Allison Coudert praised Petry's illumination of a difficult subject commenting, "Postel is generally portrayed as one of the more bizarre figures of the sixteenth century. But it is the job of scholars to make the bizarre comprehensible, and this is precisely what Petry does." Marion Leathers Kuntz, reviewing Petry's work for the Renaissance Quarterly, wrote, "This book is readable and interesting, and the author should be congratulated for pursuing this difficult study. It will also make scholars more aware of Postel's importance to Renaissance studies." Gareth Lloyd Jones, in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History, observed, "Yvonne Petry succeeds admirably," and he called the book "a significant contribution to learning and a welcome addition to Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought. It will be appreciated by historians and theologians alike."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Canadian Journal of History, March 22, 2006, Allison Coudert, review of Gender, Kabbalah, and the Reformation: The Mystical Theology of Guillaume Postel, 1510-1581, p. 114.
Journal of Ecclesiastical History, October 1, 2005, Gareth Lloyd Jones, review of Gender, Kabbalah, and the Reformation, p. 779.
Reference & Research Book News, August 1, 2004, review of Gender, Kabbalah, and the Reformation, p. 21.
Renaissance Quarterly, September 22, 2005, Marion Leathers Kuntz, review of Gender, Kabbalah, and the Reformation, p. 958.