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Makt, Moderskap, Maskulinitet: En narrativ läsarorienterad analys av Perpetuas och Felicitas martyrium
University College Stockholm, Stockholm School of Theology, Department of Religious Studies and Theology.
2021 (Swedish)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesisAlternative title
Power, Motherhood, Masculinity : A Narrative Reader-Oriented Analysis of the Martyrdom of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas (English)
Abstract [en]

The objective of this study is to investigate what the narrative of The Martyrdom of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas (Passio Sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis), read in english translation by Herbert Musurillo, seeks to persuade its reader about, and how. The study takes a theoretical starting point in professor Ross S. Kraemer’s critical perspective on ancient narratives about women as sources not necessarily communicating historical truths and actualities of real women in the ancient world, but are more likely to be narratives consciously constructed by male authors using female characters as rhetorical tools to discuss or explore differing subjects such as gender and identity. Through the method of narrative criticism and reader-response criticism this study answers the following research questions: how are women being described in the narrative of The Martyrdom of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas, and what function(s) do these descriptions of women have in the narrative of The Martyrdom of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas? 

The study shows that women are described as either weak feminine mothers or, according to Greco-Roman antique conceptions of gender and sexuality, a masculine male, transformed from a former state of femininity and motherhood. The descriptions are closely tied to the bodies of the women and there is a clear hierarchy where the masculine martyr is ascribed a higher status with a point of view closely related to that of God’s. The descriptions of women have both ideological and theological functions as a way to discuss questions regarding power, motherhood and masculinity. The hierarchy between the characters functions as a rhetorical tool to exemplify what can stand in the way for christians to seek martyrdom, which in the perspective of the narrative is the way someone, through her body and masculine behaviour in the face of torture and sexual humiliation, can communicate the truth about God’s power to the assembled crowds of onlookers. Contrary to previous studies, this study shows that the text communicates ascetic tendencies towards its readers concerning motherhood and are not to be interpreted as a celebration of women or femininity.

The descriptions of women functions as a way to demonise the empire - but not the empire's perspective on gender. This is also a contrast to previous feminist studies of the text. The masculine male transformed from a former phase of femininity and motherhood is the exception that proves the rule about the perception of female weakness and lower status in power. The text appropriates the gender power order and the Greco-Roman ancient construction of gender and sexuality to ascribe the martyrs and God the true power. The rhetoric of female weakness being transformed in to masculine strength, self-restraint and body control through the works of God, functions to convince readers about the narratives ideological perspective and message about the martyrs being the true rulers. The motive is that the antagonist, the empire, the main masculine power in the world, is defeated and proven to be false through submissive feminisation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2021. , p. 40
Keywords [en]
Reader-response criticism, Martyrdom, Power, Motherhood, Masculinity
Keywords [sv]
Martyr, Perpetua, Felicitas, Makt, Moderskap, Maskulinitet, Imperiekritik, Rom, Genus, Narrativ analys, Ross S. Kraemer
National Category
Religious Studies History of Religions
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ths:diva-1344OAI: oai:DiVA.org:ths-1344DiVA, id: diva2:1562272
Subject / course
Biblical Studies, New testament
Educational program
Theological Program, Minister in The Church of Sweden
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2021-06-15 Created: 2021-06-08 Last updated: 2023-10-11Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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