April 29, 2024

“The Betrothed”: Cultural Encounters in Pope Francis’s Favorite Italian Novel

Event Series: Cultural Encounters: Books that Have Made a Difference

Pope Francis looking down and reading

The Betrothed (1827) is Alessandro Manzoni’s nineteenth-century Italian classic about star-crossed lovers and a cowardly priest. It was re-translated into English in 2022, resulting in new appreciation in the Anglosphere. Part of that interest comes because Pope Francis has repeatedly read it and cited it in multiple interviews, papal audiences, and homilies.

Why should a nineteenth-century historical novel about seventeenth-century war, famine, and plague be of interest to a twenty-first-century reader? Because it treats timeless themes of cultural encounter: rich and poor, sacred and profane, outsiders and insiders, and last but not least, saints and sinners. This talk by Rev. Joseph Simmons, S.J., will analyze themes of cultural encounter in light of Pope Francis’ own theological vision and convey why The Betrothed is worthy of a new generation of readers' attention.

This event is sponsored by the Future of the Humanities Project and the Georgetown Humanities Initiative at Georgetown University with Blackfriars Hall, Oxford. It is part of the year-long series, Cultural Encounters: Books that Have Made a Difference.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Catholic Church England and Wales


Rev. Joseph E. Simmons, S.J.

Rev. Joseph E. Simmons, S.J.

Rev. Joseph E. Simmons, S.J., is assistant professor of theology at Marquette University. His field of academic study is theology and literature, atheism, and writers “bothered by God.” Simmons received a master’s degree in theology from Boston College and completed doctoral studies at Campion Hall, Oxford. His doctoral dissertation argued that even self-described atheists like Virginia Woolf raise theological questions for believers and non-believers alike. Prior to Marquette, Simmons was a research fellow at Department of English at Georgetown University from 2022 to 2023 coordinating seminars on theology, art, literature, and the environment.

Michael Scott

Michael Scott

Michael Scott (moderator) is senior dean, fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, college advisor for postgraduate students, and a member of the Las Casas Institute. He also serves as senior advisor to the president of Georgetown University. Scott previously served as the pro-vice-chancellor at De Montfort University and founding vice-chancellor of Wrexham Glyndwr University, where he is professor emeritus.