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The Virgin Mary has been idealized as a self-sacrificing mother throughout Christian history, but she is not the only ancient maternal figure whose story is connected to violent loss. This book examines several ancient representations of mothers and children in contexts of sociopolitical violence, demonstrating that notions of early Christian motherhood, as today, are contextual and produced for various political, social, and ethical reasons. In each chapter, the ancient maternal figure is juxtaposed with an example of contemporary maternal activism to show that maternal self-sacrifice can be understood as strategic, varied, politically charged, and rhetorically flexible.
"Elkins has produced an engaging study of motherhood and self-sacrifice through her application of feminist rhetorical analysis. It is well worth scholars' time and energy to follow Elkins' analysis of how the rhetoric of maternal pain can be engaged to diverse ends."
L. Stephanie Cobb,
Author of Divine Deliverance: Pain and Painlessness in Early Christian Martyr Texts
"What sets this book apart from other works of cultural history…is that it reads ancient texts with contemporary intertexts: Mary stands in solidarity with Latin American maternal activists, the Maccabean mother self-immolates with female Palestinian suicide bombers, and Perpetua and Felicitas perform with Pussy Riot. There is as yet no name for the novel critical genre Elkins has birthed here."
Stephen D. Moore,
Edmund S. Janes Professor of New Testament Studies Drew University Theological School