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By Rebecca Krawiec

This publication depicts the lives of lady clergymen inside a monastery situated in higher Egypt within the interval 385-464 CE. in this interval, the monastery was once headed by way of a monk named Shenoute; 13 of his letters to the ladies lower than his care live on. those writings are fragmentary, basically partly translated, little studied, and written in difficult-to-decipher Coptic. regardless of those difficulties, Krawiec has used the letters to reconstruct a sequence of quarrels and occasions within the lifetime of the White Monastery and to determine a number of the key styles within the contributors' relationships to each other in the international as they perceived it.

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Extra info for Shenoute and the Women of the White Monastery: Egyptian Monasticism in Late Antiquity

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From these conflicts we learn 20 Shenoute and the Women of the White Monastery that clothing was originally made in generic sizes but was eventually made to measure for the men, or at least for Shenoute; and that it was more ornate than one might expect in an austere life, with fringes, varied colors, and other decorations. These details suggest that although the rules more often pertain to secret eating, conflicts about clothing were also a central problem in the functioning of the monastery, especially in relations between Shenoute and the women’s community.

The analysis of these less tangible issues leads from a functional description of daily life into an investigation of the culture that daily life represents, supports, and maintains. 68 While no one could know for certain who was going to be among the saved, a monastic life correctly lived offered a greater sense of the assurance of receiving that salvation. The belief that one would receive salvation at Judgment Day, then, was the present reward for living a monastic life. All aspects of monastic culture were transformed by the spiritual goal of the monastery: the control and limitation of both material goods and emotional bonds defined the salvific monastic life, and the exercise of power functioned to help monks adhere to it.

The crisis is first apparent in the surviving record when Shenoute, as often happens with a transfer of power, became aware of current situations in the women’s community which he wished to change. In this case, he somehow learned about behavior among the women which he believed was in need of correction. ”10 The latter distinction, whether or not a monk had kin within the monastery, seems to have been the most important source of disagreement among the monks. The women who did not have kin have complained that the monks with kin were better taken care of than they.

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