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Title: The representation of women in early Christian literature : Armenian texts of the fifth century
Author: Zakarian, David
ISNI:       0000 0004 6060 3647
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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In recent decades there has been a growing scholarly interest in the representation of women in early Christian texts, with the works of Greek and Latin authors being the primary focus. This dissertation makes an important contribution to the existing scholarship by examining the representation of Armenian women in the fifth-century Christian narratives, which have been instrumental in forging the Christian identity and worldview of the Armenian people. The texts that are discussed here were written exclusively by clerics whose way of thinking was considerably influenced by the religious teachings of the Greek and Syriac Church Fathers. However, as far as the representation of women is concerned, the Greek Fathers' largely misogynistic discourse did not have discernible effect on the Armenian authors. On the contrary, the approach developed in early Christian Armenian literature was congruous with the more liberal way of thinking of the Syriac clerics, with a marked tendency towards empowering women ideologically and providing them with prominent roles in the male-centred society. I argue that such a representation of women was primarily prompted by the ideology of the pre-Christian religion of the Armenians. This research discusses the main historical and cultural factors that prompted a positive depiction of women, and highlights the rhetorical and moralising strategies that the authors deployed to construct an "ideal woman". It further explores the representation of women's agency, experience, discourse, and identity. In particular, women's pivotal role in Armenia's conversion to Christianity and female asceticism in fourth-fifth century Armenia are extensively investigated. It is also argued that women's status in the extended family determined the social spaces they could enter and the extent of power they could exercise. It appears that Iranian matrimonial practice, including polygyny and consanguineous marriages, was common among the Armenian elite, whereas the lower classes mainly practised marriage by bride purchase or abduction. Special attention is devoted to the institution of queenship in Arsacid Armenia and the position of the queen within the framework of power relationships. Finally, this study examines the instances of violence towards women during wars and how the female body was exploited to achieve desirable political goals.
Supervisor: van Lint, Theo M. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Church history--Primitive and early church ; ca. 30-600 ; Women in Christianity--History--Early church ; ca. 30-600 ; Fathers of the church--Armenia ; Fathers of the church ; Syriac ; Manuscripts ; Armenian ; Armenia--Church history