Erasing alterity: gendered characterisation in the different versions of Vita Anastasiae

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Despite official declarations against cross-dressing in the fourth century, eleven uitae that praise the ascetic superiority of cross-dressing female saints were produced in late antiquity. Engaging in a practice that was explicitly forbidden by numerous ecclesiastical synods, women who cross-dressed were often labelled as 'others' because they resisted social expectations and gender norms and trespassed into the masculine realms of independence and holiness. This study examines the gendered representation of one of these cross-dressing female saints named Anastasia. It traces her gendered representation across three versions of her Greek uita, two of which are preserved in Vita Danielis and one in the Greek Menaion. These texts are fascinating because of the differing degrees to which they tolerate and promote the gender ambiguity of the heroine. While the former versions allow Anastasia a degree of gender ambiguity, the Menaion version suppresses much of this ambiguity. I will demonstrate this by exploring three aspects of Anastasia's gendered characterisation in the texts: 1) designations for her throughout each narrative; 2) her identification as a eunuch; and 3) the degree of agency attributed to her. I conclude by offering some thoughts about how alterity theory can help account for these different representations, which I argue are responses to the perceived alterity of the saint.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-46
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of the Australian Early Medieval Association
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Vita Anastasiae
  • Life of Anastasia
  • cross-dressing
  • monasticism
  • late antiquity
  • gender
  • eunuch
  • saint
  • Menaion
  • Hagiography
  • Vita Danielis
  • Egyptian monasticism
  • sexuality and gender
  • alterity


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