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Women, Writing, Theology

Transforming a Tradition of Exclusion

Emily A. Holmes and Wendy Farley

Publication Year: 2011

Women's theology has traditionally been pushed to the margins; it is"spirituality"or"mysticism"rather than theology proper. Theology from women has been transmitted orally, recorded by men as sayings or in hagiographies, or passed on as"stealth theology"in poems, hymns, or practices. In the past forty years, women have claimed theology for themselves and others as womanists, feminists, mujeristas, Asian, third-world, disabled, and queer women. Yet in most academic and ecclesial theology, the contributions of women skirt the borders of the written tradition. This unique volume asks about the conditions of women writing theology. How have women historically justified their writing practices? What internal and external constraints shape their capacity to write? What counts as theology, and who qualifies as a theologian? And what does it mean for women to enter a tradition that has been based, in part, on their exclusion? These essays explore such questions through historical investigations, theoretical analyses, and contemporary constructions.

Published by: Baylor University Press

Title Page

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pp. ix-xi

The seeds of this project originated a decade ago, when many of the contributors were graduate students at Emory University. Inspired by the Italian feminist practice of entrustment (affidamento), in which women mentor and assist one another “in full recognition of the disparity that may exist between them in class or social position, age, level ...

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1. Introduction: Mending a Broken Lineage

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pp. 1-10

In this collection, twelve constructive theologians investigate the conditions under which women enter a written theological tradition. How have women historically justified their writing practices? What constraints, both internal and external, shape their capacity to write theology? While much work has been done by feminists in recovering the...

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2. Fear and Women’s Writing: Choosing the Better Part

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pp. 11-32

During childhood holiday dinners, I, like Mary of Bethany, chose the better part: I eavesdropped on two generations of pastors while they discussed theology and the women served dessert. When my father, grandfather, and uncles debated women’s ordination and the rule barring women delegates from attending the annual meetings of the Synod...

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3. A “Wretched Choice”?: Evangelical Women and the Word

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pp. 33-52

I am standing outside the gospel tabernacle, staring through the large back windows where teens are perched to watch the evening revival meeting. Rows of long wooden benches span the interior space, and a bombastic-voiced man is holding a Bible in one hand, moving at a frenetic pace back and forth quoting Scripture passages. The...

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4. “My God Became Flesh”: Angela of Foligno Writing the Incarnation

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pp. 53-69

What makes a woman think she can write theology? Where does she gain the authority to produce a book? In medieval Christendom, the idea of a woman writing theology was unthinkable. The problem was not so much that a woman might be chosen by God as a prophet or be granted special graces such as visions and raptures. Scripture provided...

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5. Speaking Funk: Womanist Insights into the Lives of Syncletica and Macrina

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pp. 71-94

Now it is told of Abba Sisoes that when he had grown old “his disciple said to him, ‘Father, you are growing old. Let us now go back nearer to inhabited country.’ The old man said to him, ‘Let us go where there are no women.’ His disciple said to him, ‘Where is there a place where there are no women except the desert?’ So the old man said, ‘Take me...

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6. “A Moor of One’s Own”: Writing and Silence in Sara Maitland’s A Book of Silence

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pp. 95-113

In her influential 1929 essay A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf argued that the creative process depends on material conditions. Likening fictional works to spiders’ webs, “attached to life at all four corners,” she insisted that, in order to write fiction, women needed financial independence and a “room of one’s own.” She posited that literary history ...

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7. With Prayer and Pen: Reading Mother E. J. Dabney’s What It Means to Pray Through

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pp. 115-138

Elizabeth Jackson Dabney (1903–1967)² was of that generation and ilk of women placed in the untenable position of mediating desire, fulfillment, and the call to a life of holiness, with what was then understood as the “proper place” of African-Americans and women. As such, she went where “free space”³ presented itself. Her ministry of prayer—the ...

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8. Writing a Life, Writing Theology: Edith Stein in the Company of the Saints

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pp. 139-157

Christian literature is full of “official” and “unofficial” hagiographies, stories of holy women and men, sometimes factual, sometimes not, who have tried to imitate Christ in ways that have caught attention and captivated imagination. In the hagiographies, these holy women and men are figures whose lives are structured specifically for and around their ...

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9. Writing Hunger on the Body: Simone Weil’s Ethic of Hunger and Eucharistic Practice

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pp. 159-182

Simone Weil is a figure who incites much passion. Dismissed by some circles as perversely self-annihilating, embraced by others as providing vast stores of insight into suffering and compassion, very deliberately ignored by others, Weil is not a figure about whom most readers remain neutral. This passion is well-deserved; Weil wrote such provocatively ...

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10. The Body, to Be Eaten, to Be Written: A Theological Reflection on the Act of Writing in Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee

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pp. 183-206

I do not know when it touched me or where I was when it arrived. I do not even know why I was so haunted by it. It is as though I have had a recurring dream, since it has always been a part of my life. When I write, I feel more. When I write, I feel beautiful. When I write, I feel I am finally partaking in reality. It is not because writing is something ...

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11. Not With One Voice: The Counterpoint of Life, Diaspora, Women, Theology, and Writing

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pp. 207-232

It was on a dreary and foggy November day in 2000, somewhere within the maze of halls of the State Department’s National Foreign Affairs Training Center, that an overheard remark struck me as a most expressive designation of my native language and culture as I have come to consider it in diaspora. I was invited by the Appeal of Conscience ...

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12. Embodying Theology: Motherhood as Metaphor/Method

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pp. 233-252

What seems like nothing just might be everything, or at the very least point toward that expansive All. The givenness of motherhood makes it both an obvious and an unlikely mode of doing theology. This vocation often leaves women on the outside of the theological conversation; mothers are otherwise engaged with the sequestered, meandering work ...

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13. Postscript: Wounded Writing, Healing Writing

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pp. 253-257

It is a gratifying privilege to conclude these papers with my own reflections on what has been accomplished. I have been inspired by the recovery of so many theologians whose ideas, lives, and eloquent writing deepen our understanding of what the Christian tradition has been and can be. In the ancient desert, in convent and beguinage, in academic ...

Contributor Biographies

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pp. 259-262


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pp. 263-309


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pp. 311-315

E-ISBN-13: 9781602583771
E-ISBN-10: 1602583773
Print-ISBN-13: 9781602583764
Print-ISBN-10: 1602583765

Page Count: 327
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1st