Fandom and Medieval Mysticism by Stephanie Sy-Quia, Guest Curator

Rome is a a series of small raptures. I made a beeline for Berninis, in particular his infamously orgasmic nuns, St Teresa and the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni. The side chapels in which they live are often dingy, and badly lit, so there are coin slots where 50 centimes will turn some weak spotlights on for five minutes. When I saw Ludovica, it was early morning and the sunlight was hitting her just right. On her bed of marbled stone, she seemed to be stretching, waking up, full of pleasure. St Teresa, meanwhile, is actually positioned at such a height that the full extent of her ecstasy is not immediately obvious to those under 6ft.

Bernini’s St Teresa features on the cover of Abigail Palmer’s Sanatorium (Penned in the Margins, 2020), a piece of fragmentary prose poetry about Palmer’s health issues and her stay in a thermal spa in Budapest. Palmer is preoccupied with St Teresa, and of the model she might offer for living with chronic illness. Similarly, Naomi Morris’s Hyperlove (Makina, 2021) shares the same concern, but this time her mystic of choice is Julian of Norwich and her shewings. Morris, like many of us, has a love of Bruce Springsteen, and Hyperlove also investigates the forms of devotion that the internet inspires.

Palmer and Morris were two people whose work immediately came to mind as a potentially firecracker match when I started to dream up events for the festival. Now, I am pleased to report that they will be in conversation with each other on themes of fandom and medieval mysticism, and how the latter might have more to teach us about our present moment than we may at first think.

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Britain and its delusions by Stephanie Sy-Quia, Guest Curator