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Gender trouble in paradise: The problem of the liturgical virgo

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Chapter Summary

All of the venerated female heroines of Christian history are ghettoized into a single category and designated by a single label placed at the end of the list of holy names: virgines (singular, virgo). The ninth-century litanies which did not adhere to the systematically gendered ganization described in this chapter could presumably tell us much about sites and modes of resistance to segregationist gender ideologies that were being propagated through Carolingian ecclesiastical officialdom. The only category provided for the celebration of the memory of holy women was the liturgical virgo, that is, the female martyr by another, obfuscatory name. The invention and above all the reception of the liturgical virgo around 800 and after must be connected with certain aspects of the Carolingian ecclesiastical reform movement. The liturgical virgo was certainly a powerful ideological tool, and came to dominate liturgical thinking about female sanctity.

Keywords: carolingian ecclesiastical reform movement; female sanctity; gender trouble; ideological tool; liturgical virgo; ninth-century litanies



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