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Eschatological time as women’s time? Gendered temporality and female holiness in Early Christianity and Byzantium
Funder: European CommissionProject code: 844724 Call for proposal: H2020-MSCA-IF-2018
Funded under: H2020 | MSCA-IF-EF-CAR Overall Budget: 207,312 EURFunder Contribution: 207,312 EUR
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This proposal investigates the nexus between time and the construction of the feminine in Late Antique and Byzantine hagiographical discourses. By looking both at ways time is experienced through the body and construed by society and religion, GenTime engages with a highly debated problem in Byzantine studies: why did female saints progressively disappear over the Byzantine millennium? GenTime argues that this trajectory has to be understood against the eschatological expectations shaping early Christian ideals of female holiness. In the 2nd and 3rd century the impending end of times subsumed any other temporality and led to the subversion of traditionally construed “women’s time”. Once the Roman Empire became Christian, the eschatological horizon was reinforced in Byzantium by the widespread circulation of apocalyptic motives, adopted by the Imperial power for political and moral purposes. Eschatologically-motivated narrative patterns about women saints became entrenched and their ongoing success made it hard to accommodate new experiences of holiness when other models of lay temporality eventually emerged during the Middle Byzantine era. GenTime looks at stories about women saints produced between the 2nd and the 13th century CE by adopting a longue durée perspective and using narratology to analyze how patterns of temporalities are inscribed in the text. It builds on feminist phenomenology to highlight the persistence of strategies used to control women’s time within patriarchal social orders. GenTime works with medieval sources and it reflects on the dialectics between integration/assimilation, minority/majority cultures, gender/societal values, all of them of major concern in modern societies. In doing so, it raises awareness about the ways gendered discourses of time have historically been used to promote lifestyles that, ultimately, have less to do with women’s empowerment and more with power struggles between competing social groups.

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