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Constructing Social Identity Through Discourse: A Socio-Rhetorical Approach For The Study Of Valentinian Paraenesis

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Chapter Summary

The art of historical inquiry, or historiography, is one of relating isolated discourses with events, to draw upon the remnants of the past in order to articulate an admittedly inadequate approximation of that past. For those of us who study early Christianity, including Valentinian Christianity, such sources inevitably are the textual sources that have somehow survived in one form or another through centuries of "historic events" bearing upon these sources. Although there have been many attempts within early Christian studies at relating the socio-historical to the literary, this chapter argues that a focus on relating the literary to the social function of a text may be a more helpful line of investigation. By using positioning theory to elucidate the ontological and public narratives within our sources, it is hoped that the social rhetoric of the paraenetic discourse within our texts will emerge more fully than it has in previous scholarship.

Keywords: historic narrativity; J. Louis Martyn; literary texts; positioning theory; social identity; socio-rhetorical approach; valentinian christianity; Vernon Robbins



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