Gendered Book and Reading Cultures
Wednesday 3 March, 7:00 pm – 8:15 pm CET.
Mika Ahuvia is the Marsha and Jay Glazer Endowed Chair in Jewish Studies at the University of Washington.
Esther Brownsmith is Postdoctoral Fellow at the Books Known Only By Title project at CAS and at MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion, and Society.
Elizabeth A. Castelli is Professor of Religion and Director of the Barnard Center for Research on Women at Barnard College in New York City.
Ismo Dunderberg is Professor of New Testament Studies at the University of Helsinki.
Marianne Bjelland Kartzow is Professor of New Testament Studies at the University of Oslo, Faculty of Theology, and co-chair of the Books Known Only By Title project at CAS (2020-2021).
What can we know about ancient book and reading cultures? How can gender theories and other critical approaches help us ask new questions of ancient texts, whether we focus on their contents, their reception history, or their scholarly discussion? This panel will employ a variety of perspectives to search for alternate ways of thinking about book cultures, with an eye for gendered power structures in portrayals of authorship, attribution, preservation, and transmission. We will critically examine how discourses of masculinity have influenced debates in modern scholarship about books, and how gender has shaped our ideas about the first millennium library. In light of recent studies on the “sociology of reading” in antiquity, we will explore what roles are ascribed to texts and interpretive communities in literary portrayals such as early Christian gospels and apologetic works.
The panel will explore the many questions that arise from these subjects. On what grounds do we know anything about who wrote, copied, read, or heard the texts we study? If books are gendered male, as is the authoritative line of textual transmission, how can we conceptualize exceptions from these structures? What are the implications of claiming female authorship of various ancient books? In what way do women as historical persons, who contributed to book production, transmission and reception, relate to the female characters constructed in texts? Female characters tend to be associated with contested, apocryphal or heretic books — often books known only by title — but this is not always the case. What can the examples tell? In order to identify gaps in the current discourse, this panel will pay attention to women but think beyond gender binaries, drawing from intersectionality, masculinity theory, queer studies, and postcolonial perspectives. These tools and beyond can help the academy critically examine what shaped the imagination of the first millennium library.