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The Impossible Art Of Dressing To Please: Jerome And The Rhetoric Of Dress

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Chapter Summary

This chapter uses the letters of Jerome as a case study for examining the rhetoric of dress in early Christian writing, and considers how far such a language of dress can be useful in creating a catalogue or chronology of female dress in Late Antiquity. It argues that discourses about dress and gender in the western empire show striking continuity over time and across the boundary between classical and Christian literature. In A.D. 414 Jerome wrote a letter to Demetrias, a young aristocratic woman who, on the eve of her wedding, decided to reject marriage and instead to dedicate her life to holy virginity. In terms of treatises on dress he had the precedents of Tertullian, Cyprian and Clement of Alexandria, authors he mentions often in his work.38 Tertullian (ca. A.D. 150?230) wrote two treatises on the dress of women.

Keywords: Christian literature; Cyprian; Demetrias; holy virginity; Jerome; Late Antiquity; Tertullian



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