“The Gendered Palimpsest”


(Larry Hurtado): Kim Haines-Eitzen is already known as a talented and innovative scholar in the study of early Christian manuscripts, especially through her earlier book, Guardians of Letters: Literacy, Power, and the Transmitters of Early Christian Literature (Oxford University Press,2000). (For contrasting assessments, see the reviews by David Parker and Ulrich Schmid in TC: http://rosetta.reltech.org/TC/v07/index.html.) Her new book comprises another interesting contribution to questions about literacy, reading, and gender in early Christianity (albeit more of the late Roman period): The Gendered Palimpsest: Women, Writing, and Representation in Early Christianity (OUP, 2012).

This isn’t the place for a full assessment, but my own reading of the book leads me to commend it to anyone interested in early Christianity. There are some controversial assertions (a few that raised my eyebrows too), but that’s what scholars do! Here’s a brief overview of contents.
1. Women Writers, Writing for Women: Authors, Scribes, Book-Lenders, and Patrons. (The various roles that women played in the production, dissemination and use of texts in early Christianity)
2. Reading, Not Eating: Women Readers in Late Ancient Christian Asceticism.
3. Women’s Literature? The Case of the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles. (Querying the notion that these texts were particularly directed at women readers.)
4. Sinners and Saints, Silent and Submissive? The Textual/Sexual Transformation of Female Characters in the New Testament and Beyond. (Case studies from various texts.)
5. “First among All Women”: The Story of Thecla in Textual Transmission and Iconographic Remains.
6. Contesting the Ascetic Language of Eros: Textual Fluidity in the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles. (Interesting study of how textual variants in these texts seem to reflect varying ideas about female sexuality.)

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