Perpetua's Gender: A Latinist Reads the Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


One of the most memorable moments in the Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis comes in Perpetua’s narration of her fourth and last dream-vision: in the course of preparations for her fight with the Egyptians, she writes, ‘I was stripped down and became a man’. This chapter presents a reading of Passion with attention to the ways in which Roman discourses of gender are activated in its representation of Perpetua. It focuses less on what any single writer might have consciously been thinking of, or what might have been going on in her unconscious, than it is on the systems of signs informing this text: sets of words, expressions, and images signifying masculinity and femininity which circulated in the Latin-speaking world of the first centuries AD. In short, it reads the Passion not as a historian of Christianity, medievalist, or psychoanalyst, but as a classicist accustomed to interpreting Latin texts with an eye to the linguistic and conceptual workings of gender shaping them.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPerpetua's Passions
Subtitle of host publicationMultidisciplinary Approaches to the Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis
EditorsJan N Bremmer, Marco Formisano
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)9780199561889
StatePublished - 2012


  • Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis
  • femininity
  • masculinity
  • Christians
  • dream-vision
  • gender
  • Roman discourse


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