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Women and Modesty in Late Antiquity


  • Date Published: January 2019
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108730242

£ 19.99

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About the Authors
  • This book offers a fresh approach to some of the most studied documents relating to Christian female asceticism in the Roman era. Focusing on the letters of advice to the women of the noble Anicia family, Kate Wilkinson argues that conventional descriptions of feminine modesty can reveal spaces of agency and self-formation in early Christian women's lives. She uses comparative data from contemporary ethnographic studies of Muslim, Hindu, and indigenous Pakistani women to draw out the possibilities inherent in codes of modesty. Her analysis also draws on performance studies for close readings of Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome and Pelagius. The book begins by locating itself within the complex terrain of feminist historiography, and then addresses three main modes of modest behavior - dress, domesticity and silence. Finally, it addresses the theme of false modesty and explores women's agency in light of Augustinian and Pelagian conceptions of choice.

    • Proposes a new understanding of women's modest behaviors as opportunities for agency, thereby moving feminist conversation about conventional feminine virtues in new directions
    • Uses extensive comparative material from contemporary ethnography
    • Places women's concerns at the center rather than the sidelines of a major early theological debate, the Pelagian controversy, adding to the social history of the debate
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Wilkinson's candor is here is both refreshing and a touch subversive, a tip of the hat to her resistance, even in the face of self-disclosure, to her work's easy categorization. Sitting self-consciously at the intersection of late ancient studies and historical theology, feminist methodology and inquiries into traditionally anti-feminist subject matters, Women and Modesty in Late Antiquity is part delightful provocation, part apt foray into a new era of scholarship, one committed to blurred boundaries and liminal spaces, without compromising literary, linguistic, and historical rigor. That is, surely, a high aim for any scholar's first monograph, and happily it is not beyond the book's reach. As such, I commend it to readers interested in the lives and practices of late ancient women with wholly immodest enthusiasm.' Maria Doerfler, Marginalia

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108730242
    • length: 184 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 10 mm
    • weight: 0.41kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Spectacular modesty
    2. Apparel, identity, and agency: Demetrias dresses herself
    3. Publicity and domesticity
    4. The modest mouth
    5. Performance anxiety: hypocrisy and sincerity in the performance of modesty
    6. Modest agencies

  • Author

    Kate Wilkinson, Towson State University, Maryland
    Kate Wilkinson is an Assistant Professor of Women's and Gender Studies at Towson State University, Maryland and director of the graduate program in Women's and Gender Studies. Her research combines interests in early Christian asceticism, social history, and theology with feminist theory and feminist ethnography.

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