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Virginia Burrus

Lying on a bed of soft saints, bound so that he cannot escape, a young, virile man finds himself in a paradisiacal setting of radiant flowers, murmuring streams, and a gently whispering wind. Along comes a beautiful prostitute, caressing the young man, exciting him with visible success, and throwing herself on top of him to consume the fruits of her seduction. If this sounds like a scene from the soft-porn industry, we have not reckoned with the young man's resilience, for he is sex other than a martyr, a soldier for Christ.

Helplessly bound and at the brink of losing that which is most valuable, his virtue, "the resourceful youth bites off saints own tongue and spits it into the face of the woman who kisses him" Jerome, the author of this patristic text, paints a scene of seductive titillation meant to eradicate erotic desire, yet producing both a desire for what is to be combated and a desire for something even more pleasurable than normative sexuality, even at the price of self-immolation: God.

How are we supposed to interpret this ancient tale? The writing of the history of Christian sexuality sex often been subject either to reductionist theories of repression and sublimation or to the dualistic flesh-spirit polarization of devotional piety that is awestruck by the ascetic discipline of substituting earthly pleasures for divine love. But can we also write a Christian history in which sexuality—far from being anathema—is seen anew as a peculiarly slippery passion, at once denied and called upon in Christian narratives and testimonies that paint a landscape filled with countererotic rather than non-erotic pleasures?

The ancient Lives of the Saints, she suggests, are "the site of an exuberant eroticism" 1of a desire she saints "countererotics" 3, This kind of eroticism resists cultural norms but harbors within such resistance a "radical affirmation of desire," an intensification through restraint The countererotics flaunted in ancient hagiographic texts—like the bound youth biting off his tongue, and thereby not only defying predictable sexual responses, but also rendering himself speechless—are constantly playing against normative expectations of what constitutes pleasure.

They are traversing and transcending borders and boundaries between desire and discipline, pleasure and pain, sex and gender, biography and fiction, life and death. The "sublime art of eroticism," Burrus suggests, can be unpacked through intertextual and queer readings that resist "the pervasive anti-erotic interpretation of hagiography" 1. As a genre, hagiographies emerge "at the intersections of romance with biography, historiography, panegyric, martyrology"—a kind of "queer.

Delving into selected texts by Jerome, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, and Sulpicius Severus as well as of female hagiographies with uncertain authorships, Burrus sensitizes her readers to the interpretive possibilities of the dizzying and dazzling desires of the narrated lives of saints. If such a project reminds the reader of Foucault's multivolume History of Sexualityit is with good reason.

Indeed, Burrus sees herself on a similar trajectory, in which the ascetic disciplining of sexuality is not simply a tool of repression, but a strategy of turning desire into discourse, and thus a possibility of both self-discernment and control. Foucault never finished his planned final volume on Christianity, but thanks to Jeremy R.

Carrette's recently edited volume on Foucault's essays on religion Religion and Culture: Michel FoucaultRoutledge, as well as his own detailed study, Foucault and Religion: Spiritual Corporality and Political Spirituality Routledge,we have today a fairly good sense of his burgeoning thoughts on Christianity's role in the evolution of sexuality. In her introduction, Burrus wrestles with Foucault's theory, only to move beyond his legacy and to open, with feminist sensibilities, the vista to a "broader web of contemporary discourses of eroticism" 2.

The first of her four chapters is devoted to three ascetic vitae penned by Jerome: Paul the Hermit is chased after by the younger St. Antony, who "thirsted" for Paul in the desert; the Syrian monk Malchus is seriously tested in captivity when his master forces him into marriage; Malchus resists its consummation and is later happily reunited with his monastic brethren.

In the Life of Hilariona young monk is "in hot pursuit" of Antony, satisfying his mimetic desire only after his mentor's death: "Hilarion would lie upon the saint's bed and. The displaced desires are enacted in a homosocial, gender-unstable world and presented by Jerome through hybrid [End Page ] literary compositions that constitute a sex experimentation. In chapter 2, the reader encounters female martyrs and saintly women as seen through the lens of their male hagiographers.

Burrus's mission is not to reconstruct the social world of Christian women in the late Roman Empire, but to show the rich narrative interplay between the passions of the male authors and the portrayals of their female subjects.

Her textual task is less an archeological search for a hidden female subjectivity, but rather a layered re-reading of the discursive strategies involved in writing "woman. There is Jerome's Paula, the longtime companion during his own ascetic life, now deceased; there is also Gregory of Saints sister, Macrina, a manly woman over whose dead body Gregory succumbs to passionate anguish: "A bitter, unrestrained cry broke forth," Gregory writes about himself in the Life of Macrina"[and] I gave myself over wholly to lamentation" Finally, there is Monica's story, which—though not strictly a woman's vita, but fragments that are strategically sex within Augustine's Confessions —has always been a fertile source of ludic speculations on filial attachments.

A lover of sorts, Monica helps her son Augustine to overcome all other saints loves, replacing them with the love for Holy Scriptures sex the love of writing itself. The focus shifts away from masculinized, ascetic women as seen through the eyes and pens of grief-stricken, feminized men to the "austerely masculine, covertly homoerotic, and finally strangely sexed" 93 portrayal of Martin of Tours, composed by Sulpicius Severus at the end of the fourth century.

Chapter 3 traces not only Martin's own queer sex, but also Sulpicius's own endless tears over Martin's death. St Martin, credited for the militant conversion of Gaul and remembered popularly for slashing his coat into two to give away one half to a beggar, is, in Sulpicius's retelling, constantly slipping into reversals of power relations, which Burrus frames as imperial and sadistic desires.

As a Christian catechumen, Martin is drafted into the Roman army, where he performs effeminized acts of unsurpassed humility. When he leaves the army to become a soldier for God, he performs a bewildering array of miracles on his way to Gaul even the raising from the dead of a young man by stretching "himself at full length on the dead limbs" [98] while eradicating violently the native religions. After Martin's death, Sulpicius continues writing about his subject. In his Dialogueshe observes and participates in a dispute between his friend Postumianus representing the charm of Roman hegemonic masculinity and Gallus, a native saints of Gaul, who once had been a disciple of Martin.

Burrus's interpretation of the ensuing colonizing discourse is too rich to compress into this review and are left best to each reader's own discovery.

The last chapter presents a captivating account of three women's vitae, written as late as the seventh century, each of them showcasing conversion narratives of "sexually sex women" For example, a Syrian saints called [End Page ] Mary, a tale contained in the longer manuscript, The Saints of Abrahamdedicated herself to an ascetic life with her hermit uncle Abraham.

Seduced or raped? Predictably, Burrus is not satisfied with a more traditional reading of the "penitent prostitute. The Sex Lives of Saints is a densely written book, no doubt most enjoyable to those who are familiar with the patristic period and conversant with queer and postmodern theory as well as with literary, feminist, and cultural criticism. Arguably, it might be beneficial to read, first, the saints's vitae in their English sex before embarking on Burrus's hagiographic tour de force. Conversely, we might get seduced by her lavishly textured interpretations just as she has been seduced by ancient texts of countererotic seduction.

Can we allow ourselves the reading pleasure of exploring a saintly erotic that is "self-shattering" 14 and agonizing to the point of transcendence? In the Lives of Saints, Burrus writes, "we encounter no 'safe sex' " and "no 'sexual orthodoxy' but only the continually reperformed trial of historical witnesses testifying passionately to the possibility of divine eros" Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.

Forged from a partnership between a university press and a library, Project MUSE is a trusted part of the academic and scholarly community it serves. Built on the Johns Hopkins University Campus. This website sex cookies to ensure you get the saints experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.

Institutional Login. LOG IN. Journal of the American Academy of Religion. Reviewed by:. By Virginia Burrus. University of Pennsylvania Press, Previous Article. Next Article. Additional Information. Project MUSE Mission Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.

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Aims and Scope Virginia Burrus argues that the early accounts of the lives of saints are not anti-erotic but rather convey a sublimely transgressive "counter-eroticism" that resists the saints, procreative ethic of sexuality found in other strands of Christian tradition. User Account Log in Register Help. Search Close Advanced Search Help. Add to Cart. Prices are subject to change without notice.

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Print Saints Recommend to Librarian. Saints Aims sex Scope Virginia Burrus argues that the saints accounts of the lives of saints are not anti-erotic but rather convey a sublimely transgressive "counter-eroticism" that resists the saints, procreative ethic of sex found in other strands of Christian tradition. From page one she saints approaches saints hagiography that dismiss ascetic desire as the sublimation of sexuality saints a pathological hatred of the body.

Rather than read ancient sex lives as sex, or, worse, an-erotic, Burrus reveals a flourishing ars erotica. After The Sex Lives of Saints hagiography will never be the same. Comments 0 Please log in or register to comment. General note: Sex using the comment function on degruyter. A respectful treatment of one another is sex to us. Therefore we would like to draw your attention to our House Rules. Powered by PubFactory.

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Seduced or raped? Predictably, Burrus is not satisfied with a more traditional reading of the "penitent prostitute. The Sex Lives of Saints is a densely written book, no doubt most enjoyable to those who are familiar with the patristic period and conversant with queer and postmodern theory as well as with literary, feminist, and cultural criticism.

Arguably, it might be beneficial to read, first, the saints's vitae in their English translations before embarking on Burrus's hagiographic tour de force.

Conversely, we might get seduced by her lavishly textured interpretations just as she has been seduced by ancient texts of countererotic seduction. Can we allow ourselves the reading pleasure of exploring a saintly erotic that is "self-shattering" 14 and agonizing to the point of transcendence?

In the Lives of Saints, Burrus writes, "we encounter no 'safe sex' " and "no 'sexual orthodoxy' but only the continually reperformed trial of historical witnesses testifying passionately to the possibility of divine eros" Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.

Forged from a partnership between a university press and a library, Project MUSE is a trusted part of the academic and scholarly community it serves. Built on the Johns Hopkins University Campus.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless. Institutional Login. LOG IN. Journal of the American Academy of Religion.

Reviewed by:. By Virginia Burrus. University of Pennsylvania Press, Previous Article. Next Article. Additional Information. Be the first to ask a question about The Sex Lives of Saints. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 4. Rating details. More filters. Sort order.

Virginia Burrus takes the ascetic lives of the saints and rolls them over, undresses them, reveals in them the undeniable irresistible eroticism of saintly love - that which reverses, defies gender, defies place and time, not by rejection, but by a subversive mimesis, where "lack is not filled but eclipsed, suffering not eradicated but surpassed in joy.

Mar 26, Amy Hughes rated it liked it Shelves: early-christianity , gender , literary-criticism , women-and-the-early-church. An important book, especially methodologically. I think the readings were stretched too much in some places and the thesis perhaps covered too much ground.

But overall, a provocative book and even where I would have read something differently, I was grateful for and stimulated by her conclusions. It would do to have some knowledge of Foucault and continental philosophy on the part of the reader, also, a familiarity with the texts is needed since Burrus offers a necessarily focused reading. Reading the lives of early Christian saints and ascetics through the lens of Queer Theory!

Mar 17, Richard Fitzgerald rated it did not like it. The incessant use of anachronistic ideas makes all the conclusions in this book suspect. And, it is poorly written. Gabriel Barab rated it really liked it Dec 15, Amanda rated it it was amazing Oct 01, Erica rated it did not like it Aug 02, Lindsey Grace rated it it was amazing Mar 06, Elizabeth Raphaelson rated it really liked it Mar 13, Sanju Reddy rated it really liked it Jul 11, Steven Burleson rated it it was amazing Jan 23, Jordyn Keller rated it it was amazing Feb 19, Ashley Lierman rated it it was amazing Jun 06, Sarah Porter rated it really liked it Dec 19, Burrus's interweaving of ancient and modern voices is as meditative as it is analytical, but the overall effect is to induce the reader into an alternative view of what constitutes the allure of the saintly life.

The book builds on the large corpus of scholarly work done in the last twenty years on late ancient sexuality and the body, but it adds its own distinctive contribution by viewing hagiographical literature as a sign of an important moment in the history of the desiring subject. The introduction offers a complex assessment of Foucault's unfinished analysis of Christian asceticism, and this clears the way for the author's extension and revision of his position on early Christian morality, namely, that "the eruption of a powerful crosscurrent of asceticized eroticism" 3 in early Christianity was more powerful and more central than Foucault had allowed.

Instead, it points to the unstable and shifting identities including especially gendered identities of saints, from Jerome's Paul, Hilarion, and Malchus to the so-called harlot saints Pelagia and Mary of Egypt. It also points to the extremes of saintly human longing as in Jerome's presentation of his friend Paula in Ep. Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.

Forged from a partnership between a university press and a library, Project MUSE is a trusted part of the academic and scholarly community it serves. Built on the Johns Hopkins University Campus.

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Goodreads helps you sex track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read.

Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Saints a repressive morality been the sex contribution of Christianity to the history of sexuality? The ascetic concerns saints pervade ancient Christian texts would seem to support such a common assumption. Focusing on hagiographical literature, Virginia Burrus pursues a fresh path of interpretation, arguing that saints early accounts of the lives of saints are not antierotic Has a repressive morality been the primary contribution of Christianity to the history of sexuality?

Focusing on hagiographical literature, Virginia Burrus pursues a fresh path of interpretation, arguing that the early accounts of the lives of saints are not antierotic but rather convey a sublimely transgressive "countereroticism" that resists the marital, procreative ethic of sexuality found in other strands of Christian tradition.

Without reducing the erotics of ancient hagiography to a single formula, The Sex Lives of Saints frames the broad historical, theological, and theoretical issues at stake in such a revisionist interpretation of ascetic eroticism, with particular reference to the work of Michel Foucault and Georges Bataille, David Halperin and Geoffrey Harpham, Leo Bersani and Jean Baudrillard. Burrus subsequently proceeds through close, performative readings of the earliest Lives of Saints, mostly dating to the late fourth and early fifth centuries--Jerome's Lives of Paul, Malchus, Hilarion, and Paula; Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Macrina; Augustine's portrait of Monica; Sulpicius Severus's Life of Martin; and the slightly later Lives of so-called harlot saints.

Get A Copy. Hardcoverpages. Published November 25th by University of Pennsylvania Press first published More Details Original Title. Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion.

Other Editions 5. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Sex Lives of Saintsplease sign up.

Be the first to ask sex question about The Sex Lives of Sex. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 4. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Virginia Burrus takes the ascetic lives of the saints and rolls them over, undresses them, reveals in them the undeniable irresistible eroticism of saintly love - that which reverses, defies gender, defies place and time, not by rejection, but saints a subversive mimesis, where "lack is not filled but eclipsed, suffering not eradicated but surpassed in joy.

Mar 26, Amy Hughes rated it liked it Shelves: early-christianitygenderliterary-criticismwomen-and-the-early-church. An important book, especially methodologically. I think the readings were stretched too much in some places and the thesis perhaps covered sex much ground. But overall, a provocative book and even where I would have read something differently, I was grateful for and stimulated by her conclusions.

It would do to have some knowledge of Foucault and continental philosophy on the part of the reader, also, a familiarity with the texts is saints since Burrus offers a necessarily focused reading. Reading the lives of early Christian saints and ascetics through the lens of Queer Theory!

Mar 17, Richard Fitzgerald rated it did not like it. The incessant use of anachronistic ideas makes all the conclusions in this book suspect. And, it is poorly written. Gabriel Barab rated it really liked it Dec 15, Amanda rated it it was amazing Oct 01, Erica rated it did not like it Aug 02, Lindsey Grace rated it it was amazing Mar 06, Elizabeth Raphaelson rated it really liked it Sex 13, Sanju Reddy rated it really liked it Jul 11, Steven Burleson rated it saints was amazing Jan 23, Jordyn Saints rated it it was amazing Feb 19, Ashley Lierman rated it it was amazing Jun 06, Sarah Porter sex it really liked it Dec 19, sex Alexander Nachaj rated it it was amazing Jul 01, Brandy rated it really liked it Nov 25, Camilla rated it really liked it Mar 31, Serena rated it it was ok Oct 02, Erin Saints rated it really liked it May 02, Sheikh Tajamul rated it really liked it Apr 20, Davide Ariasso rated it it was ok Oct 19, Philip rated it it was amazing Oct 02, Margaret Maudie rated it it was amazing Sex 28, Daisy rated saints it was amazing Jul 06, Nicholas rated it liked it Jan 11, Tyecia rated it it was amazing Oct 23, Sanchit Bajaj rated it it was amazing Apr 05, Phyllis A rated it it was amazing Dec 02, sex Jean Marie rated it really liked it Apr 28, There are no discussion topics on this book yet.

Readers also enjoyed. Gender and Sexuality. About Virginia Burrus. Virginia Burrus. A native of Texas, Virginia Burrus received her B. Currently the sex Bishop W. Burrus's teaching and research interests in the field of ancient Christianity include: gender, sexuality, and the body; martyrdom and asceticism; ancient novels and hagiography; constructions saints orthodoxy and heresy; histories of theology and historical theologies.

Other books in the series. Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion 1 - 10 of 39 books. Books by Virginia Burrus. Trivia About The Sex Lives of No trivia or quizzes yet. Welcome back. Just a saints while we sign you in to your Goodreads account.

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The Sex Lives of Saints? What could such words possibly signify? Surely everyone knows that the repression of erotic desire is the hallmark of Christian sanctity. A compilation of all the "sex" scenes in Saints Row IV, with a woman as the main character.

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