Articles

Jennifer Barry, “So Easy to Forget: Augustine’s Treatment of the Sexually Violated in the City of God” [link to advanced copy]

Abstract:

Sexual violence in times of war is infinitely complex, particularly when religion informs the historical narrative. A famous example of invasion and destruction that lives on in the Christian memory is the sack of Rome in 410 C.E., famously recounted in Augustine’s City of God.  In this article, I explore the various ways the specific experiences of sexual violence against women addressed in Book I are easily forgotten. Augustine carefully crafts a troubling argument: all claims to female chastity are suspect and thus easily dismissed. He accomplishes this through three rhetorical moves. First, Augustine sets up his discussion on sexual violation as a specifically Christian concern that calls for words of consolation rather than of defense. The virtue of those violated during times of conflict is judged not by outsiders but by God. Next, he narrows the scope of who merits such consolation by removing those who take their own lives to avoid sexual violation: women who might have been memorialized as martyrs are instead denounced as murderers. Finally, Augustine shifts the blame of human suffering, epitomized by the rapturous violation of the female body, back onto the victim by drawing on his larger theme of the human condition scarred by pride. Ultimately, by calling into question the motives of the violated—or would be violated—women, Augustine makes it easy to dismiss them from the collective Christian memory.

Jennifer Barry, “Damning Nicomedia: The Spatial Consequences of Exile,” in Studies in Late Antiquity Vo. 3 Number 3 (2019) 413-435.

Abstract:

All Christian flights were not created equal. With the aid of pro-Nicene authors, Athanasius of Alexandria’s multiple flights quickly became the standard for an orthodox exile. The charge of cowardice, or worse, heresy, was not so easily dismissed, however. While the famed Athanasius would explain away such charges in his own writings, as did many of his later defenders, not all fleeing bishops could escape a damning verdict. In this article, I explore how the enemies of Nicaea, re-read as the enemies of Athanasius, also found themselves in exile. Their episcopal flights were no testament to their virtue but within pro-Nicene Christian memory of fifth-century ecclesiastical historians, the exiles of anti-Nicene bishops, such as Eusebius of Nicomedia, were remembered as evidence of guilt. To show how this memory-making exercise took place we will turn to the imperial landscape and assess how the space someone was exiled from greatly shaped how exile was deemed either orthodox or heretical.

Jennifer Barry, “Receptions of Exile: Athanasius of Alexandria’s legacy,” in Clerical Exile in Late Antiquity edited by Julia Hillner, Joerg Ulrich, and Jakob Engberg (Peter Lang Publishing, 2016)

Abstract:

This chapter examines how the stories of Athanasius of Alexandria’s many exiles became a popular literary schema that circulated within pro-Nicene Christian literature during the late fourth and early fifth centuries. I argue that Athanasius’s identity as a triumphant exile quickly became the standard by which subsequent episcopal exiles were measured. Indeed, by the time the Johanite controversy of the 5th century takes shape in and around Constantinople, Athanasius the exile is invoked to bolster support for John Chrysostom’s tarnished reputation as a failed exile. John’s earliest biographers, Ps.-Martyrius and Palladius of Helenopolis, insist that those who question their hero’s orthodoxy are no better than those heretical enemies of the great Athanasius.

Jennifer Barry, “Diagnosing Heresy: Ps.-Martyrius’s Funerary Speech for John Chrysostom” Journal of Early Christian Studies 24.3 (Fall 2016): 395-418.

Abstract:

John Chrysostom died ignominiously as an exiled and condemned heretic. Yet, early biographers worked to reverse his reputation and transformed Johninto a symbol of Christian orthodoxy. In this essay, I examine how one such biographer, Ps.-Martyrius, managed this task through the language of proper diagnosis. In his Funerary Speech for John Chrysostom, Ps.-Martyrius differentiates the symptoms of the disease of heresy from the symptoms of righteous suffering. To make his case, Ps.-Martyrius compares John’s symptoms, through reference to the lesioned bodies of the Constantinopolitan leper community, to the fecund and cursed body of the Empress Eudoxia. Ps.-Martyrius’s diagnosis concludes that John’s suffering through conspicuous exile conveyed honorand orthodoxy, while Eudoxia’s embedded and hidden maladies reflected her culpability as the bearer of lies.

Jennifer Barry, “Heroic Bishops: Hilary of Poitiers’s exilic discourse” Vigiliae Christianae 70.2 (2016): 155-174.

Abstract:

In this article, I examine the progressive development of Hilary of Poitiers’s exilic discourse in two key texts: To Constantius and Against Constantius. Hilary’s exilic identity is intimately tied to the emperor and spaces of imperial power. In the first text, To Constantius, Constantius II plays a sympathetic role in Hilary’s explanation of his exile. Hilary imagines himself in the presence of the emperor as he guides him to the truth. In Against Constantius, we find quite a different role relationship: the emperor is the chief antagonist and Hilary the champion of truth. In this second text, Hilary’s exile again confirms his orthodoxy and his overt condemnation of the emperor affirms his episcopal authority. As Hilary imagines it, his posture as an exile is enough to dethrone an emperor.