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2010-2011

Special Issue: Early Christian Communities and Hagiography

Bodies of Suffering: Discourse and Power in the Martyrs of Hagiography

Ryan Olfert
1st Year, MA Religious Studies
University of Alberta

The intention of this essay is to explore the relationship between body discourse and power in the accounts the martyrs of early hagiography that were the precursors to and influential upon the prolific hagiographies of Medieval Europe: the mother and her seven sons of 2 Maccabees, The Scillitan Martyrs, and the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas. These narratives provide a modality of opposition to domination and subjectivization in which the body, through the performance/non-performance of public rituals, is represented as having the capacity to resist the assimilation of community and self by hegemonic discourse and power.

Jesters, Jongleurs, Clowns and other unsavoury types: A review of: Ward, Benedicta Harlots of the Desert. Cistercian Studies 106. Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Publications, 1987.

Chelsey Vargo
1st Year, PhD Religious Studies
University of Alberta

This essay will explore the role of the repentant woman in Benedicta Ward’s Harlots of the Desert. Ward’s argument asserts that both men and women in the early centuries of Christianity had to undertake the task of overcoming their gender in order to become holy men and women, in either a monastic setting or as a desert dwelling hermit. I will argue that the task of overcoming gender in order to be in closer proximity to holiness in the early centuries of the church was a more difficult task for women than for men. This is because women had to first become like men, and then genderless, whereas men had simply to overcome one gender role. This paper will explore the evidence for such a claim by examining the textual evidence of early hagiographies present in Ward’s book.

The Power and Authority of Perpetua the Proto-Martyr

Angela Brkich-Sutherland
1st Year, PhD Religious Studies
University of Alberta

As demonstrated in The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas, confessor-martyrs were granted the opportunity to achieve a position of influence within their Christian community. The “power of martyrdom” that was granted to proto-martyrs granted the prisoners the capability of interceding on behalf of Christians who had denied their faith or failed to confess. Essentially, imprisoned confessors were given the privilege of the authority to forgive deniers. This paper will examine how Perpetua’s privileges extend from the divine realm into the earthly realm. Specifically, I will examine how Perpetua’s impending martyrdom provides her with the “power of the keys” where she is granted the status of a minister




Recovering the Progressive Spirit of Islam: Ijtihad and its Tranformative Possibilities in Islamic Feminism

Erendira Cervantes-Altamirano
4th Year, BA Combined Honours Political Science and Religious Studies
University of Alberta



This paper analyses Islamic Feminism as a progressive movement that has found legitimacy through the practice of Ijthad and has allowed feminist Muslims to reinterpret the sacred texts while extracting the patriarchal interpretations behind them. Although the movement has been very criticized, Islamic Feminism has problematized the situation of women in Islam and has proposed a new way to create a connection with the scriptures.


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