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n.1.A female pope; i. e., the fictitious pope Joan.
References in periodicals archive ?
The Afterlife of Pope Joan: Deploying the Popess Legend in Early Modern England.
Popess Joan was not always depicted as a harlot fated to dangle from a gibbet in hell--Boccaccio had imagined her as basically virtuous despite her "wicked fraud" (15-17)--but anti-papal reformation discourse seized upon her as an especially powerful tool in its polemic against the Catholic Church.
Seeking to rehabilitate the image of Joan, Catholic contemporaries such as Nicholas Harpsfield (not Alan Cope, as the book states) argued that the popess was in fact a hermaphrodite--a statement that provoked a scorn that was typical of early modern ambivalence about sexual indeterminacy.
The afterlife of Pope Joan; deploying the Popess legend in early modern England.
As the title indicates, this book is not concerned with the papacy of Joan, for such popess never existed, as Ignaz von Dollinger established in 1836, but with the construction of her legend.
In the eighteenth century, when the philosophers of the Enlightenment dismissed her as a laughable object of dispute between Catholic and Protestant fanaticisms, the popess found a renewed existence in literature.