Female characters as modes of knowing in late imperial dialogues : The body, desire, and the intellectual life

Book chapter


La Valle, Dawn Teresa. (2023). Female characters as modes of knowing in late imperial dialogues : The body, desire, and the intellectual life. In In Ayres, L., Champion, M. and Crawford, M. (Ed.). The Intellectual world of late antique Christianity : Reshaping classical traditions pp. 347 - 365 Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108883559.021
AuthorsLa Valle, Dawn Teresa
EditorsAyres, L., Champion, M. and Crawford, M.
Abstract

From the Socratics to Augustine, men used women’s voices in philosophical dialogues to speak as experts on the body, especially in three aspects: birth, the physical details of death, and erotic desire. These connections were inaugurated by Plato and Xenophon. However, a changing anthropology, and especially the belief that the body persisted after death, led certain Christian authors to increase the role given to female characters. When the body was revalued and brought into the centre of philosophical focus, women’s voices moved from reported speech into direct speech. Simultaneously, late ancient Christian authors reflected on the inherent connection between erotic desire and the genre of the dialogue itself, matching their subject to their form. Using female characters in their dialogues helped male authors come to know certain things that using male voices could not do as well, by thinking through specific topics ‘like a woman’; the female, with her culturally embodied nature, became a model of an ideal life which insisted on the persistence of the body, even in the afterlife.

Keywordsphilosophical dialogue; women; female speakers ; Methodius of Olympus ; Gregory of Nyssa; Macrina; Thecla; embodiment; resurrection of the body; Platonism
Page range347 - 365
Year01 Jan 2023
Book titleThe Intellectual world of late antique Christianity : Reshaping classical traditions
PublisherCambridge University Press
Place of publicationUnited Kingdom
Edition1
ISBN9781108883559
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108883559.021
Web address (URL)https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/intellectual-world-of-late-antique-christianity/female-characters-as-modes-of-knowing-in-late-imperial-dialogues-the-body-desire-and-the-intellectual-life/ED77509C76E74A968DF6F956196E338A
Open accessPublished as non-open access
Research or scholarlyResearch
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All rights reserved
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Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online05 Oct 2023
Print2023
Publication process dates
Deposited13 Jun 2024
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