Special Topic: The Rebirth of the Author

Nightingale Discourse and “Author-ity”



This essay considers current discourses circulated by what I call the Spiritual School of Nightingale production that enlarge her authority through religious authorship. Since the 1990s, this School’s distinctive populist and academic wings have been bringing out editions of her (mostly) unpublished manuscripts on religion along with their own commentaries, which construct Nightingale as a deeply spiritual author and inspirational role model by reading her writings as proofs of the “faith [. . .] central to her life, work, and thought,” rather than as textual evidences that require nonpartisan sifting. This School, which is positioned to take over Nightingale studies, can be credited with reviving interest in her work; and religious ideas could hardly have been more important for her sense of vocation. Despite the value of these efforts, especially the recently-arrived Collected Works, taking her equivocal writing about “faith” on faith of their own is problematic because it generally forecloses probing more deeply into what else these expressions might have meant or been intended to signify. What this School’s under- and over-readings miss, I argue, is the tangled “more is less” problem with the exalted terms of Nightingale’s self-authoring and the high discourses of “author-ity” that she adopted in writing on religious subjects.

Keywords: Florence Nightingale, self-fashioning, authority, religious authorship

How to Cite: Larson, J. (2012) “Nightingale Discourse and “Author-ity””, Authorship. 1(2). doi: https://doi.org/10.21825/aj.v1i2.769