The Female Patience Figure as Speaker

  • Robin Waugh
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


A text that has long been acknowledged as a questioner and destabilizer of male-traditional attitudes concerning gender and the political structures of the Roman Empire is the Passio Sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis (Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas). This text is probably from the late second century.1 Critics have mostly focused on the apparently autobiographical account of a young North African noblewoman in the passio, Perpetua, who experiences trials and visions just before her martyrdom. If the account is genuine, these events are related in her own words—an attribution that the narrator insists upon: haec ordinem totum martyrii sui iam hinc ipsa narrauit sicut conscriptum manu sua et suo sensu reliquit (108) [Now from this point on the entire account of her ordeal is her own, according to her own ideas and in the way that she herself wrote it down (109)]. With the prison-diary section possibly representing an extremely rare example of feminine self-expression from this period, Perpetua’s passion has attracted much critical attention.2


Gender Change Male Authority Semiotic Stage Masculine Attribute Wrestling Match 
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  1. 1.
    See Judith Perkins, The Suffering Self: Pain and Narrative Representation in the Early Christian Era (London: Routledge, 1995), p. 104. For the manuscripts and editions of this passio, seeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
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© Robin Waugh 2012

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  • Robin Waugh

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