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The rhetoric of the maternal body in the passion of Perpetua

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Chapter Summary

This chapter discusses the Passion of Perpetua, along with the Christian discourse providing its context, offered an opening that, if it had been pursued, would have gone far to assuage the violence that many maintain is the real "universal", the recurring traumatic kernel, at the center of every historical society. Through its representation of martyrs two of them women: Perpetua, a lactating mother, and Felicitas, pregnant and giving birth in prison the Passion of Perpetua offers an opposing universal. With its physical and redundant portrayal of the merit and honor of these two maternal martyrs, the Passion reflects issues central to the contemporary debates around Christ's real flesh and his real birth. This correlation raises suspicions that the representation of one or both of the women has been constructed in order to valorize the maternal body featured in these debates.

Keywords: Felicitas; Maternal Body; maternal body rhetoric; maternal martyrs; Passion; Perpetua; perpetua passion



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