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In: Mapping Gender in Ancient Religious Discourses
Author: Virginia Burrus

Taking its departure from Page duBois’ monograph Torture and Truth, this essay points toward a gap in the history conveyed by duBois, yet hinted at by the painting reproduced on the book’s cover – Nicolas Poussin’s “Martyrdom of Saint Erasmus” (1629). DuBois relates classical Greek juridical practices, in which the tortured slave body is the site of the production of truth, to the subsequent history of Western philosophy, of which Heidegger is a privileged exemplum. This essay in turn inserts a history of Christian martyrdom (both early modern and ancient) into that narrative. The tight linking of truth with torture persists in martyrdom texts (including the Gospels), and the juridical context highlighted by duBois remains decisive for their interpretation. So too does the context of Roman imperial rule, together with the public spectacles of violence through which imperial power was performed. However, whereas classical Greek practice frames the slave as the passive container of a truth that another can claim, the ideology of Christian martyrdom assigns truth to the tortured subject herself. The legacy of martyrdom may explain the ease with which some today all too easily disavow complicity with torture to the point of denying that it continues, while also all too easily laying claim to the authority of suffering truth. It may illumine, as well, the limits of torture’s power and the potential sources of its subversion and critique.


In: Biblical Interpretation
In: Vigiliae Christianae
In: Braut Christi
In: Talmudic Transgressions

How should the Song of Songs be read? As that rarest of biblical texts, one that gives voice to female desire in the context of a sexual relationship characterized by equality and mutuality rather than domination and submission? Or as yet another vehicle for male pornographic fantasy and sexual aggression? Attempting to shift the (dualistic) terms of this burgeoning debate on the Song, this article explicitly situates itself at the intersection of feminist and queer theories, focusing especially on s/m eroticism as a site where these theories forcefully collide and delicately collude, and arguing that feminist and queer politics can ill-afford to exclude each other.

In: Biblical Interpretation
Martyrdom and Imitation in Early Christian Texts and Art
This volume explores the phenomenon of Christian martyrdom and ideas of “following Christ”, in particular focusing on theological and pragmatic difficulties in the early Christian period. How can martyrs successfully follow Christ without themselves entering into a competition with him? What happens when the idea of following Christ so faithfully as to experience martyrdom becomes impossible because of the fundamentally different living situation of the faithful? How do Christian concepts of the model and of imitation compare to pagan traditions of “exempla”? Contributions from classical philology, ancient history, theology, and art history suggest some answers to these questions, drawing equally on ancient literature and material culture.

Familienformen in Europa im Spiegel der sponsa
An der Braut Christi zeigt sich die christliche Revolution: die Umwälzung der herrschenden, gewalttätigen Geschlechter-, Klassen- und Rassenverhältnisse. Wie an keiner anderen Figur lässt sich an ihr die Liebes- und Erkenntnislehre des Christentums illustrieren. Die Brandmarkung der durch sie symbolisierten Lebensform als pervers und hysterisch war Ziel aller Reformatoren von Luther bis Zola. Doch ist die Liebe in der Moderne ohne die Braut Christi nicht zu denken.
Als Figur unendlichen Begehrens zeitigt die sponsa eine mystische Liebessprache, eine Brautmystik, die sich über das Mittelalter bis zu Baudelaire und Proust fortschreibt. Die sponsa ist als genuin textuelles Phänomen lesbar, an dem sich Exegese und das Verhältnis von Buchstäblichkeit und Allegorese neu verhandeln lassen. Das Lektüreschicksal der sponsa Christi ist unter den theoretischen Voraussetzungen der neueren Geschichtsforschung zu einem bedeutenden Paradigma geworden. An diesem lassen sich die komplexen Verflechtungen von religions-, kunst- und literaturwissenschaftlichen Aspekten der konfliktbeladenen Ausprägung von Geschlechterdifferenz neu abschätzen und -lesen.