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Title: Damaged bodies : women's agency in trecento Florentine soteriological discourses
Author: Langsdale, Samantha
ISNI:       0000 0004 5348 0327
Awarding Body: SOAS, University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis examines the formation of identity in religious discourse as necessarily gendered and embodied. I will establish that while theories of corporeality, bodies and embodiment have explored diverse processes of bodily identity formation, the production of bodies within religious discourses has not been adequately addressed. I develop a critical feminist analysis that demonstrates how and why religious discourses are formative of embodied, gendered identities. Specifically, I argue that historically Christian soteriology has been productive of embodied, gendered identities in multiple ways: (1) soteriological discourses produce normative ideals of embodiment; (2) these normative ideals result in the materialisation of human desires for their own bodies to approximate those ideals; (3) the disparity between normative ideals of religious embodiment and actual bodies produces material effects that are damaging for those bodies which are farthest from the religious, and thus normative ideal. I assert that this final layer of production becomes apparent through reading religious discourses as performative; that is, bodily identities do not materialise in a 'singular or deliberate "act", but, rather, as the reiterative and citational practice by which discourse produces the effects that it names' (J. Butler 1993: 2). I test my hypothesis via a historical case study of those fourteenth-century Florentine soteriological discourses and doctrines which necessitated the materialisation of female bodies as 'damaged' alongside the articulation of women's desires for their bodies to approximate the normative ideal (specifically the resurrected male body of Christ). My reading of these discourses indicates how the normative ideal, because of its necessary iteration, was elastic, enabling gendered, embodied subjects to negotiate their discursive positions and I argue that this negotiation enables identification of female agency in the historical record. However, I depart from some feminist scholarship by disputing that this agency must necessarily be read in terms either of collusion or subversion. Instead, I argue that in contexts where Christian soteriological discourses produce not only normative ideals, but also desires within embodied subjects to approximate those normative ideals, it is contradictory to suggest that agential action must be only either subversive of or collusive with discourse. Female agency in trecento Florence was far more complex.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral