June 10, 2023

Barry Presents on Gender Violence

Jennifer Barry, assistant professor of religion, presented a portion of her recent work at the Women’s and Gender Studies Brown Bag lunch on Wednesday, Jan. 24.

The talk was the result of her Faculty Research Grant awarded for the 2017-2018 academic year. Barry’s next major book project is on male fantasies of gender violence in late antiquity.

A description of the talk, called “Dismissing Sexual Violence: Augustine and the Sack of Rome,” follows:

Sexual violence during times of war is infinitely complex, particularly when religion informs the historical narrative. A famous example of invasion and destruction that lives on in Christian memory is the sack of Rome in 410 C.E. And yet, the details regarding sexual violence are often skipped over. The noted exception is preserved in Augustine’s most famous work the City of God. In this story, we discover hidden among the remains of Rome’s fallen heroes the bodies of sexually violated women. They are buried deep within the polemical layers of Book I. While these women, and their experiences, are the focal point of Augustine’s narrative, we may nonetheless find it surprisingly difficult to hang onto or even trust their horrific accounts. This talk explores the pressing question: Why does Augustine make it so easy to forget the victims of sexual violence?