Thursday, 2 April 2015

Annette Bourland Huizenga: Clement's Use of Female Role Models as a Pedagogical Strategy

In order to support his claim that women as well as men could attain philosophical perfection in Stromateis 4.19, Clement of Alexandria enthusiastically recommends nearly forty exemplary women renowned for their wisdom and virtue. This paper understands that chapter as an example of ancient paraenesis, defined as an exhortatory speech or text containing reminders of things already known by the audience; such reminders are written as assertions that no respectable person would refute. From that starting point, I analyze the women's names and descriptions within their literary and rhetorical framework, seeking not simply to identify the women Clement has chosen to highlight, but also to explain how his treatment of the various characteristics, anecdotes, and legends about the women build a socially conventional ideal of feminine virtue. Furthermore, I examine the text as a sort of curricular resource for Christian women (and men), considering how these female sketches function as textual role models for the audience. In particular, I show how the chapter shares many didactic elements in common with other paraenetic literature from the Roman Imperial period, such as the Pastoral letters and writings ascribed to female Pythagorean philosophers, that also give gender-specific instructions for women.

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