POPE JOAN

By DonnaWoolfolk Cross
BroadwayJune 2009
www.crownpublishing.com

Trade Paperback432 pages, $16.00, ISBN: 9780307452368
Subject: Women’s Issues/Women’s Lives/Women’s Studies/History/Personal Challenges/Personal Triumphs/Identity/ Cultural and World Issues

  1. Did Joan make the right choice at that moment when she decided to dis­guise herself as her dead brother? What would her life have been like had she chosen differently?
  2. What happens to Joan when she tries to improve the lives of women and the poor? Why do you think Church and civic leaders were resistant to such improvements? Have there been similar instances in modern society?
  3. Discuss the inner conflicts Joan faces. How do these conflicts affect the decisions she makes? Are they ever truly resolved?
  4. Do you think Joan's secret would ever have been discovered had she not miscarried during the Papal procession or had she not become pregnant?
  5. If the Viking raid had not intervened to keep them apart, do you think Joan and Gerold could have had a happy life together?
  6. Why do you think medieval society considered it unnatural and a sin for women to educate themselves or be educated? It was also believed that education hampered a woman's ability to bear children. What purpose might that belief have served?
  7. Although the position of women in society has changed dramatically since the middle ages, do you feel there are similarities between the way women live in various societies today and the way they lived in society then?
  8. According to one reviewer, "Joan has the kind of vices—stubbornness and outspokenness, for example—that turn out to be virtues." Do you agree? If so, why? If not, why not?
  9. How important is it that Pope Joan actually existed? Are there lessons to be learned from this story whether it's true or not? What do you think those lessons are?

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