Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Brooke Nelson - Fire and Water: Contextualizing Conflicting Images of the Virgin Mary in the Patristic Era


Despite the vast research on the iconography of the Virgin Mary, few comparative studies have been undertaken that attempt to contextualize conflicting images of the Virgin Mary between the apocryphal and canonized texts of the Patristic Era. The image of the Virgin Mary that consistently emerges from the literature is sympathetic: She is tractable, understanding, and intercessory. Often, she appears in instances associated with water, such as in the Marriage at Cana, where water serves as a symbolic representation of forgiveness, purity, and femininity. This study contextualizes the canonized iconography of the Virgin Mary within the larger scope of the Patristic Era, an era that was also responsible for the production of the much more fiery, literally and figuratively, Virgin Mary of the apocryphal texts. A comparative analysis of these two conflicting representations complicates the historiography of the Virgin Mary by viewing the creation of the canonized perspective as the result of intentional, political and socially responsive editorial control. This study is part of a growing body of research that looks at the production and perpetuation of orthodoxy through textual manipulation. In using a largely untapped source of contemporary social and political mores — the apocryphal representations of the Virgin Mary — this project will contribute to future research on similar topics.  

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