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The Lives of ObjectsMaterial Culture, Experience, and the Real in the History of Early Christianity$
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Maia Kotrosits

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226707440

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226707617.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 18 September 2021

Penetration and Its Discontents

Penetration and Its Discontents

Agency, Touch, and Objects of Desire

(p.124) 6 Penetration and Its Discontents
The Lives of Objects

Maia Kotrosits

University of Chicago Press

The notion that sexuality in the Greek and Roman periods was predicated on a social-sexual hierarchy that casts relationships in the binary terms of active penetrator and passive, penetrated object has been both influential and controversial over the last 30 years. Both the articulation of this hierarchy and its critique have been haunted by various gendered and identitarian investments, leading to several theoretical and historical impasses. Relatedly, contemporary theories of sexuality—including Freud and Lacan—almost universally imagine penetrative or traumatic wounding as primary models for sex and relational encounters at large. This chapter offers up the Acts of Paul and Thecla—a second century text that has also been associated with martyrdom literature—as an intervention into the continuing predominance of penetrative models as a grid for understanding erotic relations. It reads Thecla’s story (and some of the author’s own resonant personal experiences) as an archive of erotic experiences that fall just outside the grid of legible experiences.

Keywords:   Acts of Paul and Thecla, ancient novels, martyrdom, penetration, sexuality, gender, Luce Irigaray, trauma, affect, eros

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