The Cultural Turn in Late Ancient Studies

Gender, Asceticism, and Historiography

The Cultural Turn in Late Ancient Studies

Book Pages: 376 Illustrations: Published: April 2005

Gender and Sexuality, Pre-Modern Studies > Classical Studies, Religious Studies

The essays in this provocative collection exemplify the innovations that have characterized the relatively new field of late ancient studies. Focused on civilizations clustered mainly around the Mediterranean and covering the period between roughly 100 and 700 CE, scholars in this field have brought history and cultural studies to bear on theology and religious studies. They have adopted the methods of the social sciences and humanities—particularly those of sociology, cultural anthropology, and literary criticism. By emphasizing cultural and social history and considerations of gender and sexuality, scholars of late antiquity have revealed the late ancient world as far more varied than had previously been imagined.

The contributors investigate three key concerns of late ancient studies: gender, asceticism, and historiography. They consider Macrina’s scar, Mary’s voice, and the harlot’s body as well as Augustine, Jovinian, Gregory of Nazianzus, Julian, and Ephrem the Syrian. Whether examining how animal bodies figured as a means for understanding human passion and sexuality in the monastic communities of Egypt and Palestine or meditating on the almost modern epistemological crisis faced by Theodoret in attempting to overcome the barriers between the self and the wider world, these essays highlight emerging theoretical and critical developments in the field.

Contributors. Daniel Boyarin, David Brakke, Virginia Burrus, Averil Cameron, Susanna Elm, James E. Goehring, Susan Ashbrook Harvey, David G. Hunter, Blake Leyerle, Dale B. Martin, Patricia Cox Miller, Philip Rousseau, Teresa M. Shaw, Maureen A. Tilley, Dennis E. Trout, Mark Vessey


“[A]n excellent collection of essays on Late Antique Christianity. . . . [T]his book is a must read for serious scholars of Late Antiquity, especially because the essays both explain and apply the method of cultural studies.” — Matthew Kraus, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

“[S]hed[s] further light on the processes by which Christianity constructed itself throughout the later Roman empire, and, perhaps most importantly, counsel against viewing any text, image, or even role within the Church as a fixed or static concept.” — Aideen M. Hartney, Journal of Theolgical Studies

“Sixteen sharp and compelling cultural historical studies. . . . Each of these essays is excellent, well-written, and impeccably annotated, and together they comprise a dazzling foray into the thriving field of late ancient cultural studies.” — Andrew S. Jacobs, Journal of the American Academy of Religion

“[T]here is much to admire in The Cultural Turn, from its balance of literary and historical readings of the past to its disciplinary range and theoretical creativity.” — Lynda L. Coon, Catholic Historical Review

“The volume gives a good picture of some of the best of scholarship that is indebted to the ‘cultural turn in late ancient studies’.” — Andrew Louth, Theology and Sexuality

“This collection of sixteen articles … represents cutting edge scholarship by some of the most prominent researchers in the study of antiquity.” — David M. Reis, Religious Studies Review

“This learned and sophisticated collection of essays takes a self-consciously theoretical approach.” — Loveday Alexander, Journal for the Study of the New Testament

“This thought-provoking collection contains a valuable bibliography and suits a wide audience.” — Dilys N. Patterson, Studies in Religion

“The essays in The Cultural Turn in Late Ancient Studies are all significant in their own rights, and collectively they provide an excellent portrait of the ‘state of the art.’ This book both charts the history of a generation of scholarship and points forward toward the next steps in the critical, theoretically inflected engagement with the cultural world of late antiquity.” — Elizabeth Castelli, Associate Professor of Religion at Barnard College and author of Martyrdom and Memory: Early Christian Culture Making

“This collection’s foci—gender, asceticism, and historiography—outline the very engines of the cultural turn in the discipline and show early Christian studies at its most engaged with current trends throughout the humanities.” — Derek Krueger, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro and author of Writing and Holiness: The Practice of Authorship in the Early Christian East


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Dale B. Martin is Professor and Chair of Religious Studies at Yale University. Among his books are Inventing Superstition: From the Hippocratics to the Christians and The Corinthian Body.

Patricia Cox Miller is W. Earl Ledden Professor of Religion at Syracuse University. Among her books are The Poetry of Thought in Late Antiquity: Essays in Imagination and Religion and Dreams in Late Antiquity: Studies in the Imagination of a Culture.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction / Dale B. Martin 1


The Lady Appears: Materializations of "Woman" in Early Monastic Literature / David Brakke 25

No Friendly Letters: Augustine's Correspondence with Women / Maureen A. Tilley 40

On Mary's Voice: Gendered Words in Syriac Marian Tradition / Susan Ashbrook Harvey 63

Is There a Harlot in This Text?: Hagiography and the Grotesque / Patricia Cox Miller 87

Macrina's Tattoo / Virginia Burrus 103


Rereading the Jovinianist Controversy: Aestheticism and Clerical Authority in Late Ancient Christianity / David G. Hunter 119

The Dark Side of Landscape: Ideology and Power in the Christian Myth of the Desert / James E. Goehring 136

Monks and Other Animals / Blake Leyerle 150


Archives in the Fiction: Rabbinic Historiography and Church History / Daniel Boyarin 175

How to Read Heresiology / Averil Cameron 193

Ascetic Practice and the Genealogy of Heresy: Problems in Modern Scholarship and Ancient Textual Representation / Teresa M. Shaw 213

History, Fiction, and Figuralism in Book 8 of Augustine's Confessions / Mark Vessey 237

Hellenism and Historiography: Gregory of Nazianzus and Julian in Dialogue / Susanna Elm 258

Knowing Theodoret: Text and Self / Philip Rousseau 278

Damasus and the Invention of Early Christian Rome / Dennis E. Trout 298

Bibliography 317

Contributors 355

Index of Modern Authors 357

Index of Citations to Ancient Authors and Scriptures 360
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3422-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3411-8
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