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Contesting Sex and Gender, Making Early Christianity

Location: MIT

Wednesdays 5:00PM-8:00PM

September 7, 2016 - December 7, 2016

Religion has been and remains a critical site both for constructing and for contesting sex/gender identities, roles, and sexualities. Women’s relationship with religion has been particularly fraught. We will examine early Christian and contemporaneous texts through different lenses, drawing upon: feminist biblical interpretation and hermeneutics, literary and legal theory, anthropology, historical-critical studies, theology, lesbian-feminist theory, transgender studies, rabbinic, and classics. We will give special attention to critical theories of religion in gender/feminist studies, emphasizing the plural possibilities, contestations, and instability of religious texts. We will introduce various resources for critically engaging constructions of sex/gender/sexuality of both “orthodox” and “heretical” materials in conversation with Greek, Roman, and Jewish materials. The aims are to promote analytic reading strategies that engage the constructed, contested, and multi-perspectival character of varied religious materials and to discuss both the limits and the possibilities that this material offers for imagining a more expansive sphere for human flourishing today.



Bernadette J. Brooten, Kraft-Hiatt Professor of Christian Studies and Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and of Classical Studies, and Chair of Religious Studies at Brandeis University, is founder and director of the Brandeis Feminist Sexual Ethics Project. She has written Women Leaders in The Ancient Synagogue: Inscriptional Evidence and Background Issues (1982) and Love Between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism (1996), for which she received three awards; and has edited Beyond Slavery: Overcoming Its Religious and Sexual Legacies (2010).


Karen L. King is the Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard University in The Divinity School. Her publications include The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle; What is Gnosticism?; The Secret Revelation of John; Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism (ed.); and Women and Goddess Traditions in Antiquity and Today (ed.).