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date: 05 December 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This essay explores how the General Epistles and Hebrews use language of gender, sex, and procreation both to portray and to facilitate the spread of the messages and communities that used and produced them. Insofar as these letters attempt to create a discourse to define a fledgling, international community, the essay draws on Michael Warner’s notion of “publics” and “counterpublics” as groups constituting those individuals who recognize their membership through an intelligible discourse. In the letters, language of fictive procreation depicts itinerant, male preachers and letter-deliverers as fathering new communities (often figured as female), allowing for a novel discourse and community. At the same time, these texts default to using sexualized and gendered tropes common to the wider society to maximize intelligibility to as large as possible an audience. Public-private distinctions map onto a male female spectrum, while deviations from communal teaching become seduction and sexual sin.

Keywords: General Epistles, Hebrews, gender, sexuality, publics, Michael Warner, itinerancy, pedagogy, fictive kinship, epistolography

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