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Book Reviews

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Here’s what people have said about my previous books:

Entering Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle (Paulist Press, 2005)

“This clear, accurate and accessible analysis, based upon a profound knowledge of Teresa and her world, deserves a wide readership.”

Bernard McGinn, University of Chicago


“Ahlgren’s perceptive exploration of Teresa’s increasingly complex text employs the lens of interrelatedness between Teresa’s ever deepening experiences of God and the profound theological insights woven into the text. Ahlgren does a great service to Teresian studies by recognizing Teresa’s magnum opus as the profound and important theological treatise that it actually is… Anyone seriously desirous of understanding the depth of human potential unfolded for us by Teresa in its psychological, theological and social dimensions, will benefit from reflective reading of this important scholarly study of The Interior Castle.”

Vilma Seelaus, Horizons

The Inquisition of Francisca: (University of Chicago Press, 2005)

Awarded prize for “Best Translation of 2006” from the Society for the Research of Early Modern Women
An American Library Association-Choice Outstanding Title!
“…provides an indispensable analysis and contextualization of an astonishing text.”

Emilie Bergmann, University of California, Berkeley

“Ahlgren’s lucid and illuminating analysis of the documents recording Francisca de los Apóstoles’s efforts at social reform proves the beata’s life a fitting contribution to The University of Chicago’s book series… Scholars interested in recovering and listening to such voices, whether women mystics, early modern Spanish religious, or individuals just outside the control of Church authority, will find in this book a fascinating account of visionary expression.”

Anna Nogar, Renaissance Quarterly

“Ahlgren should be commended for providing an excellent first edition of this documentation. The English text is clear, easy to read, and accompanied by good footnotes. The book will be indispensable for English-speaking undergraduates, who often have trouble finding inquisitorial records in translation.”

I.A. O’Connor, Choice

Teresa of Avila and the Politics of Sanctity (Cornell University Press, 1996)

“…indispensable to understanding the saint’s motivations and accomplishments…. Impeccably researched and distinguished by a thorough grasp of the theological and political issues of sixteenth-century Spain, the volume is a brilliant argument for how and why Teresa of Avila authorized in writing and action her belief that ‘the discovery of God’s presence in the soul is a spiritual imperative for all people.’”

Mary E. Giles, Theological Studies

“This book is a distinguished addition to the batch of Teresian scholarship… Ahlgren has done valuable primary work on the Inquisition’s records in relation to Teresa, supplementing and in some respects correcting Llamas Martinez’s study of 1972. But she has also, and rightly, brought into focus the issue of authority and legitimacy as a crucial one in understanding what Teresa is doing in her writing, not least her autobiographical works… This is a learned and very cogent essay, written with energy and clarity.”

Rowan Williams, Ecclesiastical History

“The book’s thorough and eloquent elucidation of Teresa’s theological discourse offers reason enough to recommend it to lay readers… Ahlgren’s measured conclusion enhances her illuminating reading of one of the most complex and intriguing of Spanish mystics and adds special value to this richly rewarding study.”

Anne Cruz, American Historical Review

“Ahlgren’s study is especially convincing because of the depth of its investigation, its detailed analysis both of the rhetorical strategies in the works of Teresa already mentioned and in the mechanisms of censorship used by the Inquisition and the strategies of the canonization process. It is to be hoped that Ahlgren’s book would be an impulse to study with the same scrupulous detail the entire work of Teresa.”

Michaela Peters, Literaturas hispánicas: historia y crítica

“In this concise, insightful study Ahlgren outlines and analyzes the hard road traveled by Teresa on her way to canonization in 1622… In the case of Teresa, Ahlgren argues, we have a woman who constantly risked censure and who easily could have ended up listed in the canon of heretics rather than that of saints. What made all the difference in Teresa’s case was her prudence and, above all, her unerring abilityto see exactly how she, a woman and mystic, could constructan image of herself as obedient and subservient to her male clerical superiors. What made her task especially difficult was the fact that she emerged as a mystic and religious leader at precisely the worst time, as the Catholic authorities in Spain began to censor mystical literature and regard all females as highly susceptible to demonic influence. The evidence presented by Ahlgren in support of her thesis is quite convincing… The documentation is thick as well as solid… After reading the evidence, it is difficult not to agree with most of Ahlgren’s conclusions… This is a great book [and] deserves to be read in tandem with two other relatively recent studies that have set similarly high revisionist standards… [making for] a formidable trilogy.”

Carlos M. N. Eire (Yale University), Journal of Religion