June 1, 2023

Barry Presents at International Conferences in United Kingdom

Jennifer Barry, Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Mary Washington, recently attended three conferences and one workshop in the United Kingdom. Barry was invited to present a paper at the Birkbeck Institute, University of London for the “Exiles, Sanctions and Punishments in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages” colloquium. Professor Barry was then invited to present a paper at the International Medieval Congress hosted by the University of Leeds. Both events allowed Barry to showcase material stemming out of her forthcoming book, Bishops in Flight: Exile and Displacement in Late Antiquity.

Professor Barry was also invited to attend the pre-conference workshop and conference on Religion & Rape Culture, which was supported by The Shiloh Project. Barry is now an active member of the project and will be co-developing a pedagogical research group alongside of her University of Sheffield colleague Meredith Warren. The working group will focus on teaching rape culture in the religious studies classroom.

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?


Barry Publishes Article on Exile in Early Christianity

Jennifer Barry, Assistant Professor of Religion, has published an article titled “Receptions of Exile: Athanasius of Alexandria’s legacy,” in the collected volume Clerical Exile in Late Antiquity edited by Julia Hillner, Joerg Ulrich and Jakob Engberg. This article is the result of a pre-arranged collaborative project held at the International Patristic Society Conference held at Oxford University, U.K. (July 2015). Barry’s contribution stems from her larger work on clerical exile in late antiquity.

Chapter abstract:

This chapter examines how the stories of Athanasius of Alexandria’s many exiles became a popular literary schema that circulated within pro-Nicene Christian literature during the late fourth and early fifth centuries. I argue that Athanasius’s identity as a triumphant exile quickly became the standard by which subsequent episcopal exiles were measured. Indeed, by the time the Johanite controversy of the fifth century takes shape in and around Constantinople, Athanasius the exile is invoked to bolster support for John Chrysostom’s tarnished reputation as a failed exile. John’s earliest biographers, Ps.-Martyrius and Palladius of Helenopolis, insist that those who question their hero’s orthodoxy are no better than those heretical enemies of the great Athanasius.

Barry Presents at Society of Biblical Literature & American Academy of Religion

Jennifer Barry, Assistant Professor of Religion, recently presented two invited papers at the annual conference of the Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religion in San Antonio, Texas. In the pre-arranged session Construction of Christian Identities, the first paper touched on new theoretical methods for assessing early Christian identity and was built on work from her current book project. The second paper was then presented at a workshop on Digital Humanities in Biblical, Early Jewish, and Christian Studies. This paper addressed Barry’s growing interest in topics related to gender, early Christianity, and the web.

Failure as a Category of Analysis: Re-thinking Christian Identity


Clerical exile is an unstable condition as well as identity in the late ancient Christian movement. According to ecclesiastical historians, exile often marks a bishop as an “orthodox” or a “heretical” Christian. For this paper, I briefly examine an exile that rests uneasily in the latter category: Eusebius of Nicomedia. Eusebius’ exile is remembered as a just punishment for his support of “Arian” theology. And yet, it is evident that during his lifetime, Eusebius returns from his exile with even more power and influence. Christian memory-making, thus, poses a significant challenge for historians of early Christianity. Ultimately, this paper examines how the category of “failure” helps us to re-evaluate early Christian sources. As a new category of analysis, we might shift our understanding of other presumed failures as a way to re-imagine Christian identity.

BandofAngels.org: Accessing Women’s History through the Digital Humanities


Kate Cooper’s work Band of Angels: The Forgotten World of Early Christian Women reminds us that the material reality of the past must always remain central and that the feminist political project cannot afford to lose its emphasis on embodied history. The Band of Angels project, appropriately named after the text, builds on this vision. We seek to provide an online resource to collect similar stories and broaden access to the stories and experiences of early Christian women like Thecla of Iconium. Like the Project Vox (projectvox.library.duke.edu) out of Duke University, the Band of Angels project aims to interrupt educational ‘habits’ that continue to exclude women. Many teachers and community leaders are interested in bringing women into the center of our understanding of early Christianity, but do not have easy access to resources that will help them to correct the record. The Band of Angels project (BandOfAngels.org) intends to remove those obstacles by collecting and providing an online resource with links to primary sources, bibliographies, and useful web links, with extracts from Cooper’s book as an initial gateway.