Early Christian Dress: Gender, Virtue, and Authority

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2011-06-14
  • Publisher: Routledge
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This study is the first full-length monograph on the subject of dress in early Christianity. It pays attention to the ways in which dress expressed and formed Christian identity, the role dress played in Christians' rivalries with pagan neighbors, and especially to the ways in which notions of gender were culled and revised in the process. Although the construction of gender has consumed scholars of late antiquity in recent years, very few scholars have paid attention to the ways in which dress and physical appearance confirmed or contended with discursive constructions of femininity and masculinity. This study addresses that gap and helps us to better understand how gender was formulated by pagans in the early Imperial period and by Christians in late antiquity.Several vigorous debates arose over the ways in which female ascetics were to dress. This study analyzes those debates in order to discern how Christian leaders, councils, and ascetics variously negotiated instances in which it seemed impossible for female ascetics to properly convey virtue and piety in their garb without disrupting a coherent performance of their femininity. Most Christian leaders hoped to maintain two distinct registers of gender so that Christian women's progress on one level might not dissolve gender categories and difference altogether; the female ascetic might be considered manly in terms of her piety and spiritual maturity, while her bodily form was made to uphold the ultimate stability of her femininity.

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