Book Note: Wilkinson, Women and Modesty in Late Antiquity

Kate Wilkinson. Women and Modesty in Late Antiquity. Cambridge Press, 2015. 

Kate Wilkinson’s Women and Modesty in Late Antiquity argues that Christian ascetic modesty was challenging work. Women of aristocratic rank in the ancient Roman world lived with an array of modesty expectations—to be sexually pure, domestic, well covered, and frugal. In this respect, Christian ascetic modesty was not a new invention of ascetic theorists; rather, conventional pudicitia,[1] or modesty/chastity, was infused with new spiritual meaning. While one might think of adherence to modesty standards in late antiquity as a pre-feminist subservience to “the patriarchy,” Wilkinson interjects an alternative narrative. She shows how these ascetic modesty behaviors were valuable attributes of a woman’s identity, requiring careful attention to the mediation of internal dispositions and outward appearance. 

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Krista DaltonComment