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On the Outskirts of Babylon

Title: On the Outskirts of Babylon: Representations of Motherhood in Fourth Century Latin Christian Literature.
Name(s): Short, Harold L., author
Kelley, Nicole, 1975-, professor directing dissertation
Fulkerson, Laurel, 1972-, university representative
Goff, Matthew J., committee member
Levenson, David B., committee member
Florida State University, degree granting institution
College of Arts and Sciences, degree granting college
Department of Religion , degree granting department
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Doctoral Thesis
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2017
Publisher: Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource (322 pages)
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: Though previous scholarship has placed emphasis on the anti-familial rhetoric employed by ancient Christians, Christian discourse on motherhood was actually quite mixed. I demonstrate this point by examining specific representations of motherhood in fourth-century Latin sources. In the first and last chapters, I look at the use of motherhood in figurative language, especially as it was used to understand the nature of God and the character of women's asceticism. Though one might expect some Christians to have excluded motherhood from their frame of reference, even the most strident proponents of asceticism used motherhood to "think with," suggesting the appropriation of motherhood as a Christian means for signification. Other chapters address representations of specific mothers, including Helena, the mother of the emperor Constantine; Monica, the mother of Augustine; and Melania the Elder and Paula, two aristocratic mothers devoted to asceticism. In each instance, Christians offered qualified praise – and, sometimes, qualified criticism – of motherhood as a vocation for Christian women. The result of this study is a more nuanced understanding of Christian motherhood in the fourth century, one that shifts the focus from the repudiation of reproduction and the evils of parenthood to a greater emphasis on the ambiguity of the family. Finally, this provides important insights into the negotiation of the ascendance of asceticism and the melding of Roman and Christian values.
Identifier: FSU_2017SP_Short_fsu_0071E_13768 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Religion in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Degree Awarded: Spring Semester 2017.
Date of Defense: April 5, 2017.
Keywords: Christianity & the family, late ancient Christianity, motherhood
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory Committee: Nicole Kelley, Professor Directing Dissertation; Laurel Fulkerson, University Representative; Matthew Goff, Committee Member; David Levenson, Committee Member.
Subject(s): Religions -- History
Civilization, Greco-Roman
Persistent Link to This Record:
Owner Institution: FSU

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Short, H. L. (2017). On the Outskirts of Babylon: Representations of Motherhood in Fourth Century Latin Christian Literature. Retrieved from