Early Christianity appears to be dominated by strong eschatological expectations which reoriented social roles and norms against the wider background of a new temporality. Since the end of times was approaching, especially during the first two centuries of Christian era chastity was conceived as a means of purifying the body in order to gain salvation. That being the case, traditional life-rhythms were replaced by a new subversive trajectory, and women in many cases gave up the roles of wives or mothers. Early Christian ideals of female sainthood and piety are to be read against this background, as the well-known example of Thecla in the apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla demonstrates. However, eschatological expectations slowly started to decline, and at the same time new notions of secular temporalities, emphasizing linear progression within history, emerged. This restoration of a historical time led to a reassessment of social norms and women’s roles within society, with a renewed emphasis on the backbones of a traditional ancient society, such as marriage and family. The present paper attempts to discuss the image of women in two Byzantine Lives of female saints, the Life of Mary the Younger (11th century) and the Life of Thomaïs of Lesbos (10th century), against the wider theoretical background of temporality as it was perceived and construed through the texts. More specifically, I focus on how the turn from an early Christian eschatological temporality to a restored notion of historical time proved to be a key factor in shaping women saints’ agency as this is reflected more generally in the Byzantine Lives of female saints, and in the two above-mentioned Lives in particular. The Life of Mary the Younger and the Life of Thomaïs of Lesbos represent a significative case in this regard. In both texts an emphasis on marriage as a backbone of a traditional society is evident. Added to this is a tendency to stress the importance of the management of the household property. Chastity here is still a very significant Christian precept, but sanctity can be achieved also in married life. All of these details reveal the influence of a changed sense of time. By looking at time as a key factor in shaping female religious agency in these Byzantine Lives, I aim to identify a set of key features that may define the relationship between a specific notion of time – a linear progression of life stages - and the construction of female holiness as it is represented in the Life of Mary the Younger and the Life of Thomaïs of Lesbos. In this sense, the present paper sheds new light on a widely debated topic – female holiness – by looking specifically and in a new way at social and gendered constructions of temporality in hagiographical narratives. To that end, I focus on details in the description of religious agency revealing a direct influence of different notions of time on women’s life and on a consequent construction of female sanctity.

Female Holiness and “New” Temporalities in the Life of Mary the Younger and the Life of Thomaïs of Lesbos / M. Dell'Isola. ((Intervento presentato al convegno Byzantine Studies tenutosi a Online nel 2020.

Female Holiness and “New” Temporalities in the Life of Mary the Younger and the Life of Thomaïs of Lesbos

M. Dell'Isola
2020

Abstract

Early Christianity appears to be dominated by strong eschatological expectations which reoriented social roles and norms against the wider background of a new temporality. Since the end of times was approaching, especially during the first two centuries of Christian era chastity was conceived as a means of purifying the body in order to gain salvation. That being the case, traditional life-rhythms were replaced by a new subversive trajectory, and women in many cases gave up the roles of wives or mothers. Early Christian ideals of female sainthood and piety are to be read against this background, as the well-known example of Thecla in the apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla demonstrates. However, eschatological expectations slowly started to decline, and at the same time new notions of secular temporalities, emphasizing linear progression within history, emerged. This restoration of a historical time led to a reassessment of social norms and women’s roles within society, with a renewed emphasis on the backbones of a traditional ancient society, such as marriage and family. The present paper attempts to discuss the image of women in two Byzantine Lives of female saints, the Life of Mary the Younger (11th century) and the Life of Thomaïs of Lesbos (10th century), against the wider theoretical background of temporality as it was perceived and construed through the texts. More specifically, I focus on how the turn from an early Christian eschatological temporality to a restored notion of historical time proved to be a key factor in shaping women saints’ agency as this is reflected more generally in the Byzantine Lives of female saints, and in the two above-mentioned Lives in particular. The Life of Mary the Younger and the Life of Thomaïs of Lesbos represent a significative case in this regard. In both texts an emphasis on marriage as a backbone of a traditional society is evident. Added to this is a tendency to stress the importance of the management of the household property. Chastity here is still a very significant Christian precept, but sanctity can be achieved also in married life. All of these details reveal the influence of a changed sense of time. By looking at time as a key factor in shaping female religious agency in these Byzantine Lives, I aim to identify a set of key features that may define the relationship between a specific notion of time – a linear progression of life stages - and the construction of female holiness as it is represented in the Life of Mary the Younger and the Life of Thomaïs of Lesbos. In this sense, the present paper sheds new light on a widely debated topic – female holiness – by looking specifically and in a new way at social and gendered constructions of temporality in hagiographical narratives. To that end, I focus on details in the description of religious agency revealing a direct influence of different notions of time on women’s life and on a consequent construction of female sanctity.
Settore M-STO/07 - Storia del Cristianesimo e delle Chiese
Female Holiness and “New” Temporalities in the Life of Mary the Younger and the Life of Thomaïs of Lesbos / M. Dell'Isola. ((Intervento presentato al convegno Byzantine Studies tenutosi a Online nel 2020.
Conference Object
File in questo prodotto:
Non ci sono file associati a questo prodotto.
Pubblicazioni consigliate

Caricamento pubblicazioni consigliate

I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2434/944964
Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus ND
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? ND
social impact