Marian devotion has long been a central component of Catholic spirituality, in part because the image of the Virgin has been accommodated effectively within so many diverse cultural contexts. In modern Poland, Marianism gained much of its power from the way it linked seemingly contradictory models of femininity together within a national (or even nationalist) worldview. Mary, the Queen of Poland, has been offered to the faithful as a model for conceptualising the feminine within the nation, a model which is flexible enough to endure because it rests on a basic dichotomy: on the one hand, Mary is a powerful, sometimes militant, protector of Poland; on the other, she is an exemplar of feminine domesticity. She provides an image of authority and power which ultimately (perhaps paradoxically) poses little challenge to traditional norms of femininity – indeed, she is frequently called upon to fortify those norms. Marianism thus provides some of the glue that helps hold together two otherwise distinct strains of Polish national thought, one focused on maintaining conservative gender relations and the other on attaining victory in the international realm.
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