Donna Woolfolk Cross graduated cum laude from the University of
Pennsylvania with a B.A. in English. She moved to London, England, and worked as an editorial assistant for W.H. Allen and Company. Upon her return to the United States, Cross worked at Young and Rubicam, a Madison Avenue advertising firm, before going on to graduate school at UCLA for Literature and Writing.
Cross then moved to Syracuse, New York, with her husband and began teaching in the English department at an upstate New York college. She is the author of two books on language, Word Abuse and Mediaspeak, and coauthor of Speaking of Words and Daddy's Little Girl. Her novel, Pope Joan, was adapted to film in 2009.
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Donna Woolfolk Cross's website
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A Conversation with Donna Woolfolk Cross
Q: Most people have never heard of Pope Joan. How did you first learn of her existence?
A: I learned about Joan quite by accident. I was reading a book in French and came across a reference to a pope named "Jeanne." At first I thought this was simply an amusing typographical error--"Jeanne" (Joan) for "Jean" (John). But the reference piqued my curiosity, and the next day I went to the library and checked the Catholic Encyclopedia. Sure enough, there was an entry on Joan--the woman who lived disguised as a man and rose to become Pope of the Church in the ninth century.
Q: Does the Catholic Church officially recognize Joan's papacy?
A: Far from it. The Church position is that Joan's papacy is nothing more than unsubstantiated legend. But there are more than five hundred ancient manuscripts containing accounts of Joan's papacy, including those of such acclaimed authors as Platina, Petrarch, and Boccaccio.
Q: So you're convinced that Joan really existed?
A: Given the obscurity and confusion of the times, it is impossible to determine with certainty whether Joan existed or not. The truth of what happened in a.d. 855 may never be fully known. That ...
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