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Shenoute and the Women of the White Monastery (Rebecca Krawiec) Hardcover Book, (Oxford University Press, 2002) 9780195129434
Shenoute and the Women of the White Monastery (Rebecca Krawiec) Hardcover Book, (Oxford University Press, 2002) 9780195129434
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Title: Shenoute and the Women of the White Monastery

Author: Krawiec, Rebecca

Publisher: Oxford University Press; Publication Date: 2002

Hardcover; ISBN: 9780195129434

Volumes: 1; Pages: 264

List Price in Cloth: $90.00 Our price: $72.99

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This book depicts the lives of female monks within a monastery located in upper Egypt in the period 385-464 C.E.. During this period, the monastery was headed by a monk name Shenoute; thirteen of his letters to the women under his care survive. These writings are fragmentary, only partially translated, little studied, and written in difficult-to-decipher Coptic. Despite these problems, Krawiec has used the letters to reconstruct a series of quarrels and events in the life of the White Monastery and to discern some of the key patterns in the participants' relationships to one another within the world as they perceived it.The book begins by describing the monks' daily routine and argues that the monastery's culture was based on uniformity, in both material goods and emotional support. The female monks' relationship with Shenoute was colored by the physical separation of the female community from the male community. Karmic examines how Shenoute constructed and exerted his authority in these conditions, and investigates the degree to which the women accepted it. Karmic then investigates the role of gender both in Shenoute's presentation of his authority and in the women's reaction to it. She argues that Shenoute believed in a universal, "genderless" monasticism, appropriate for both men and women. However, alongside this dominant model, we can see a gendered monasticism created by the women's physical separation and Shenoute's own cultural assumptions about women.Shenoute was able to have these two apparently incompatible views of the role of gender in monasticism co-exist in part because he structured the monastery as a family, idealized by its ascetic values. Karmic shows that in this way Shenoute was able to combine egalitarian rhetoric and patriarchal structures. Karmic concludes by examining how Shenoute's creation as the monastic community as a family affected female monks who had kin alongside them in the monastery.Reviews"Superior work ... one of the best discussions of monastic life and its nuances that I have seen."--David Frankfurter, University of New Hampshire, Author of Religion in Roman Egypt"Under the long tenure of its abbot Shenoute (385-465), the White Monastery grew to become one of the most important centers of monasticism in ancient Egypt, including several thousand monks, both male and female. Yet this dynamic and controversial leader and his many followers remain poorly known and misunderstood among contemporary historians. Rebecca Krawiec's outstanding book gives us intimate access to a community of vibrant ascetic women chafing under the leadership of a stern and irascible man. Making use of newly recovered and untranslated Coptic sources, Krawiec shows how conflicts and negotiations over everyday issues like food and clothing constructed monastic authority, holy space, gender, and family. This gracefully written study will appeal to readers interested in early Christianity, monasticism, late antiquity, and gender studies."--David Brakke, Department of Religious Studies, Indiana University, Author of Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism
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