This essay is an exploration of the ascetic functions and possibilities of “spiritual exegesis.” By applying interdisciplinary performance theory to the writings of a key late ancient ascetic theorist, Gregory of Nyssa, it develops an understanding of spiritual exegesis as a textual performance enacting the ascetical agenda of transformation of the self. I argue that an act of interpretive engagement with Scripture in Gregory’s writings does more than offer a conceptual context for and a mythopoetic authentication of the ascetic praxis. It also encourages a reorientation of the reader’s habitual perceptions, of the text that one encounters and of oneself. By staging a process of an imaginative layering and stripping of identities and pulling the audience into the construction of a shared symbolic reality, this exegetical performance induces an experience of alternative realities and selves.


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pp. 529-558
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