Friday, October 2, 2009

Dorothy Sayers: Woman, Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, Patron Saint

Scot McNight tips us off to a new book by Chris Armstrong that tells "the stories within that Story of the Church."  One of those stories is that of Dorothy Sayers.  Her story joins the stories of other women and men who must, late in human history, struggle to recover women's God-given equality with men.

Here's a 2-paragraph clip from pages 188-89 (where Armstrong is quoting some from Barbara Reynolds's Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul):

     Meanwhile, in 1918, Sayers published her second book of poems with Blackwell, Catholic Tales and Christian Songs.  This book ... includes a short satirical play, The Mocking of Christ, which foreshadowed many of her later critiques of the poor state of the church in England.  In this play, "Christ is mocked daily by ecclesiastical wrangling, by insistence on certain details of ritual, by arguments about the choice of church music, by religiosity, trivialities, respectability, muscular Christianity, self-righteousness, war, sentimentality and the facile identification of Christianity with pagan faiths and Greek philosophy."
     This book sold little better than the first, and Sayers began considering doing a very different kind of writing.  The market for even badly written mysteries was growing.  And in detective fiction she could do what she loved at last, write.  And she could get paid enough so that she could stop receiving the modest allowance her father had been patiently sending her during her post-Oxford years.  It would be several years, however, before Sayers launched her career as a mystery writer.  In 1918 she spent time teaching in France.  Then in 1919 she heard that a bill had passed in Parliament that now allowed women to receive university degrees, with all the titles and privileges that had until then been reserved for male scholars.  "When she heard the good news, Dorothy shouted for joy.  Now she could become a real Bachelor of Arts and in fact, at the same time, a Master of Arts, or in the Latin, Domina."  This she did, at a grand ceremony in Oxford's Sheldonian Theater the following year, at which for the first time in university history, a group of women received the garb, regalia and titles associated with the B.A. and M.A. degrees.

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