Guide Readings in Her Story: Women in Christian Tradition

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You will be expected to report on your findings to the rest of the class. Groups in charge of the discussion and critiques for that week will be exempt from these assignments. Because of this format, your attendance is mandatory. If, for any reason, you miss more than two classes, your grade will be lowered by a full grade point. You will receive periodic assessments on your class participation, fact-finding assignments, and written work after each group discussion.

Barbara Newman, Sister of Wisdom: St. Cheryl Sanders, ed. Maryanne Stevens, ed. Schedule of Topics and Assignments:.

Friday, August 26 : Intro to the course: A survey about Christian origins and timeline. Link: Forum Romanum. August 29, 31 and Sept. Readings in Her Story , Fact-finding assignment Friday: find a Christian symbol which is feminine. Create groups and lay out assignments starting Week 3 Sept. Week 2: Sept. Fact-Finding Assignment for Friday: Find out something about a male saint from the period of - Week 3: Sept.

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For Friday, Sept. Group 3: Fact-finding Assignment: Find out something about one of these venerated male saint from the same time period, - Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Francis of Assisi, or this man who was excommunicated as a heretic: Peter Waldo or Valdez. Week 4: Sept. Group 1: Fact-Finding Assignment: Find out something about heresy and gender. Group 1: Reasoned critique and discussion Group 2: Fact-finding assignment : Find out the origins of one of these early Protestant reform movements that would become important in colonial America: Lutherans, Quakers, Puritans, Congregationalists, Baptists.

Week 6: Oct. A prime early example is that of Anglo-Saxon England, where literary treatments of Judith around the year derived new urgency from the Viking raids of the time. Cooper, Chap. The first recorded example of Judith imagery is a no longer extant fresco of ca. Their patron was the same Paulinus to whom Jerome wrote his famous letter summarizing the books of the Bible, in which he emphasized the linkages between the Jewish and Christian texts. The nature of these depictions is not known, except that they had identifying inscriptions. We are better informed about the didactic intent of Paulinus, whose own description of his paintings at the site survives: to inspire pilgrims to prayer, to the renunciation of carnal pleasures, and to the spiritual emulation of his painted exemplars.

It cannot be overstressed that his Judith is not a solo character or an independent entity. Rather, her significance resides in her selection for participation in a larger theological scheme, typological and moral. The pattern thus established would hold in Roman Catholic church decoration and discourse for well over a thousand years. The biblical illuminations of the Book of Judith were dominated by a single vignette of the beheading of Holofernes, which often opens the text, set within the conveniently tent-shaped A for Artaxerxes, the first word.

Further scenes were rarely added until the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries when richly illuminated vernacular Bibles became more common cf. The subsequent emergence of Judith in Gothic sculpture and glass — with the dense cluster of symbolic associations already noted — is therefore not surprising. Two prime examples from thirteenth-century France are to be found at Chartres and in the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. In the portal of the north transept of Chartres Cathedral, Judith stands opposite the Queen of Sheba in an arrangement of Old Testament figures supporting the church.

In the Sainte-Chapelle, the Judith cycle is part of an extensive program of Bible windows. But a full cycle like this, with episodes from the military history of the first chapters, is rather the exception to the rule of her imageryin the Middle Ages, which generally concentrated on the crucial moment of beheading, variously interpreted and configured. Innovations abound, instigated by humanism and transformations in political, social and cultural arenas. It is well known that by the late fifteenth century, two of the traits with which she defeated Holofernes, her beauty and her deceit, began to assume new carnality and sensuality.

Wherever typological programs continued to flourish, the holy widow of Bethulia could be found among the Old Testament company, both in major Marian shrines such as Siena Cathedral mosaic pavement panel, s and more modest sites like Santa Maria della Pace in Rome fresco by Peruzzi, The new points of view about depicting Judith were thus added to the already complex base of earlier Christian thinking.

The medieval preference for the scene in the tent prevailed and was given even more prominence, among both Protestants and Catholics, while the potential for psychological resonance was expanded by an everenlarging repertory of narrative possibilities, from Donatello on. It was, of course, Caravaggio who famously jolted the convention into terrifying new life by portraying the beheading in progress, with Holofernes awakening from his inebriation into screaming consciousness.

The church and its history

An interesting example of the latter, unaccountably ignored in the Judith literature, is the early seventeenth-century painting cycle at the chateau of Ancy-le-Franc in Burgundy, by Nicolas de Hoey. They are found in virtually all media, products of every national tradition, not only in painting, sculpture, and prints, but also domestic artifacts, such as needlework, ceramics, and other tableware.

There are many other manifestations. Their contexts and expressive contents range across categories: sacred and profane, private and public, erotic and patriotic. Judith with her sword naturally figured Justice, but her symbolic applications extended far beyond this one virtue. Garbed in clothing and ornaments suffused with references to Athena and the Amazons rather than in the nondescript cloaks of medieval personifications, the Judiths of Italian artists from Donatello to Artemisia Gentileschi are literally enveloped in the authoritative mantle of classical female heroism cf.

3. Judith in the Christian Tradition

Apostolos-Cappadona, Chap. The medieval tradition of pairing Judith conceptually with powerful classical women, such as Queen Tomyris, was thus visually updated by early modern artists in both explicit and allusive ways. It established precedents for the encompassing of allegorical abstraction in psychologically nuanced characterization and with it the elaboration of the potential for political appropriation. His sculpture has been much studied in both categories, with the civic dimensions generally paramount, thanks to its original ownership by the Medici, upon whose exile it was co-opted by the Florentine Republic in Blake McHam, Chap.

Cummings, Chap. In each case, the assassin, whether Protestant or Catholic, was hailed by his proponents as a new Judith. Crum, Chap. While Judith, together with David, was a potent public figure, the majority of her imagery in Renaissance Florence consisted of sculptures, paintings, and furniture, such as cassoni marriage chests made for private settings the interiors of patrician palaces.

This adaptability to circumstances and to even conflicting purposes is one ramification of the inherent moral ambivalence of the figure of Judith, who could be and was shaped into whatever persona was required. The patristic tradition of celebrating Judith for her temperance, fasting, prudence, prayer, and, above all, chastity continued to be promoted in behavior manuals and sermons, especially in the sections addressed to widows. In this category it was her return to a reclusive life of ascetic piety and her spurning of suitors that were held up for approbation.

Judith thus reinforced gender-based conventions, rooted in the presumed moral deficiencies of the female sex in general, to which she offered a corrective. We see this when she was paired, in literature and the visual arts, with Eve and Delilah. Holofernes thus joined Adam and Samson, male victims of female cunning.

The development of this trope in German literature can be traced in the ways that erotic metaphorical language was used already in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to include Judith among the cunning women — one result being the emergence in Reformation drama of a new comic side to the story with a lovesick Holofernes and a camp of boisterous mercenaries cf.

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Mecky Zaragoza, Chap. Ciletti, Chap.

Such works testify to the enduring relevance of the patristic framework to ecclesiastical sponsors of the visual arts to a degree that had not been understood heretofore. Marsh, Chap. One must also note the stained glass windows of Northern European churches, such as those of Upper Normandy and the Netherlands, where the polemical context of the wars of religion applied.

The consideration of this material is not antithetical to a psychologically inflected approach, as it helps us situate the varied concerns of both artists and patrons, offering in the process insights into the fertility of the persistent intersection of textual and visual interpretation. From Jerome on, the latent sexuality of the chaste widow who calculatedly enticed and exploited the lust of her adversary was suppressed by the Church and recast into its submerged opposite.

There is a wide range of such indications, especially in Italy and France. One is the rise of historiated portraits and even self-portraits, i. Llewellyn, Chap. Another is the commissioning of literary, musical, and visual representations of Judith by women patrons, particularly widows, who aspired to association with her cf.

Harness, Chap. It should be obvious that it is not in her beheading action per se that Judith offered a behavioral example for women, but in the strength of character which that action symbolized. A fascinating case of her deployment to support and challenge conventional female social roles simultaneously is that of Angela Merici, who founded the Ursuline nuns as a self-governing and independent community, living together on their own, not enclosed in convents.

Bartholomew, Chap.

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It would seem that the very malleability of Judith was available for women to appropriate, perhaps aided by the dictum of Lodovico Dolce in that Judith, the model widow, was a personification of the vita attiva and the vita contemplativa both. We have here the convergence and the opposition of differing and hotly contested conceptions of women and their duties. The prominence of ruling queens, female princes, overturned conventional definitions of the female sphere and ideals of feminine agency. Judith provided ammunition for both sides of this debate, on whatever terrain it played out.

The Quaker women who used her to defend their right to preach, for instance, battled those who took exactly the opposite position.