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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Dressing for the Resurrection: Modest dress as embodied theology in Tertullian of Carthage
by Daniel-Hughes, Carly Dawn, Th.D., Harvard Divinity School, 2010, 256; 3430280
Abstract (Summary)

Why in the midst of heated debates about creation and resurrection did Tertullian of Carthage write to his community about women's veiling and men's attire?

Previous scholarship separates Tertullian's theology from his exhortations on dress, seeing the former as articulating a notion of spiritual gender equality, or has read his comments particularly on women's dress as the result of male politics. This study employs a methodology that refuses to foreground theology or practice and shows that conceptions of the created order and salvation along with the gendered status of Christians in relation to these states were being manifest and contested by Tertullian and his community through dress.

This study underscores how dress functions for Tertullian to enact his theological conceptions by first examining polemical writings about human nature and the resurrection in De anima, De carne Christi, and De resurrectione mortuorum. There the fleshly body and sexual difference are said to be good as created by God. Yet he also figures this difference in terms of a hierarchy of male over female as permanent. A survey of select Roman materials indicates a discourse of modesty upon which Tertullian draws strategically in De cultu feminarum I & II, De pallio, and De virginibus velandis to produce a distinctive Christian identity by tying the palla for women and the pallium for men to his theological worldview. Yet he signifies these gendered dress practices differently. Men's dress manifests a Christian ethnic masculine identity that is non-Roman, and women's dress naturalizes his view of the permanence of women's subordination to men. To insist upon the repeated performance of his gendered worldview he also indicates that virgin women contest his worldview whenever they unveil.

Ultimately by reading Tertullivan's treatises on the resurrection and soul with his writings on dress, this study foregrounds the thoroughly gendered nature of his theological worldview. Yet this study concludes that there remains an opportunity for constructive feminist theological engagement with his positive views of embodiment and sexual difference, requiring critical and analytical tools necessary to grapple with the connections between his essentialized gender hierarchy and all other aspects of his thought.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: King, Karen L.
School: Harvard Divinity School
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 71/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religious history, Biblical studies, Gender studies
Keywords: Adornment, Christian identity, Embodied theology, Modest dress, Roman Empire, Soteriology, Tertullian, Veiling
Publication Number: 3430280
ISBN: 978-1-124-29657-9
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