1 Note that Halperin also emphasizes that there are distinct dangers attending "the lack of specifically homosexual content built into the meaning of 'queer'" (Halperin 1995: 64); in this instance, for example, reading asceticism as "queer" risks eliding the particular political oppression of gays and lesbians.
2 I discuss the erotic economy at work in Gregory's Trinitarian doctrine more fully in Burrus (2000: 97-112). Note that, although my reading of Gregory's trinitarianism is in many respects sympathetic, I by no means view its masculinism as merely benign, to put it simply. I am thus wary, for example, of Graham Ward's suggestion that a two-natured Christology centered on the ascension (i.e. on the aporetic, lost, or withdrawn Christ) effectively "displaces" the male body of Jesus and thereby "continually refigures a masculine symbolics until the particularities of one sex give way to the particularities of bodies which are male and female" - a theological "fact" that (in Ward's view) renders the theological concerns of feminists naive and irrelevant, evidence of an unredeemed "essentialism" and failure "to understand the nature of bodies and sex in Christ" (Ward 1999: 163, 177). I agree with Ward that the maleness of the historical Jesus may not present an insurmountable theoretical obstacle for feminist theology: the problem lies rather with the
"displaced" body of masculinity itself, i.e. with the transcendentalized masculinism of trinitarian theology.
3 I hope it will be clear that an apologetics that has blossomed into full-blown Christian tri-umphalism interests me even less. Thus, I find extremely disturbing the supersessionist positioning of Gregory of Nyssa vis-à-vis Judith Butler in Sarah Coakley (2000). If Butler's works can help us understand Gregory's, that is because Gregory already knows everything Butler knows, and then some, Coakley suggests. By the same token, what Butler is seen to lack - namely an asceticized Christian eschatology - Gregory already possesses. That this is supersessionism in the classical sense, despite the chronological inversion, is evidenced by Coakley's careful marking of Butler as Jewish. Butler's treatment of "power" (in contrast to Gregory's) "suggests comparison with the 'Yahweh' of her Jewish heritage who still lurks at the corners of her discussion," notes Coakley; also "lurking" at the most optimistic edges of Butler's purportedly generally pessimistic thought is "the myth of the cross and the resurrection," she adds (Coakley 2000: 66). "Odd, is it not (or not so odd?), that we needed the anguished insights of a secularized Jewish lesbian feminist to remind us of this deep strand of longing and wisdom" in Gregory's escha-tology, Coakley concludes with a flourish (Coakley 2000: 71). Interestingly, Butler, as far as I am aware, does not in her published work locate herself as either "Jewish" or "lesbian"; this is not perhaps surprising, given that Butler's most well-known book bears a subtitle that announces its resistance to "identity" (as cited by this chapter's subtitle): Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (J. Butler 1990).
4 Compare On Virginity 1: 'A man who takes this theme for ambitious praise has the appearance of supposing that one drop of his own perspiration will make an appreciable increase in the boundless ocean . . ." (Gregory of Nyssa 1994: 344a).
5 Establishing a chronology of Gregory's life and works is likely to remain a vexed task. On Virginity is, however, the only one of his texts that can be dated with some certainty to the period before Basil's death, and was thus probably written between 370 (when Basil was consecrated bishop) and 378 (when he died); see G. May (1971: 55). Michel Aubineau (1966: 31) is among those who have read Gregory's probable address of Basil as "our bishop and father" as implying that Gregory himself is not yet a bishop, thereby dating the work before 372, by which point Gregory had been appointed to the episcopacy of Nyssa. But as has been suggested by Jean Gribomont (1967: 25), Gregory could have referred to Basil in these terms when already a bishop himself.
6 English translations of On Virginity follow Gregory (1994: 343-71). J.P. Cavarnos's critical edition of the Greek is in Gregory (1952: 215-343).
7 Compare Mark D. Hart's provocative and carefully argued suggestion that we should "doubt the sincerity of Gregory's . . . lament in chapter 3 that his own marriage holds him back from a more noble way of life" (Hart 1992: 2; see also Hart 1990: 477). I interpret the passage as both more "sincere" than Hart takes it to be and more rhetorically arch than most other commentators assume.
8 Mark Hart (1990) gives a fine account of Gregory's "ideal of marriage as public service," especially in relation to his use of the term Xenovpyta in this passage.
9 Gregory's Platonism, however "overt" in its reference to themes derived ultimately from texts like the Republic, the Symposium, the Phaedo, and the Phaedrus, avoids literal or explicit citation, so that it gives the impression of reflecting a rather indistinct, highly mediated, and widespread cultural koine. Thus Aubineau (1966) comments that a perusal of the Platonic texts is useful for the contemporary reader not because Gregory cites them verbatim but because "they restore a mentality, diffuse in time and space, in which Gregory shared, following so many others, and which impregnated every student who haunted the universities in the fourth century of the era" (Aubineau 1966: 99). In On Virginity (11), however, the references to the Symposium are unmistakable, as Aubineau himself documents. In a much-cited study, Harold Fredrik Cherniss (1971) argues that Gregory is deeply familiar with the Platonic corpus itself, as well as with the biblical Platonism of Philo and Origen and the pagan neoplatonic school of thought represented by Plotinus and his followers.
10 In On the Making of Man, Gregory is more explicit on the point that sexual difference is a secondary accretion to humanity's original creation "in the image" of God, in whom there is no male and female. A sexed bodily nature was added to a prior sexless rational nature as an advance compromise with the need of a fallen humanity to reproduce itself in the face of mortality (On the Making of Man 16; Gregory of Nyssa 1994: 404a-406b). Resurrection will return humanity to its roots, with the elimination of marriage as the site of both sexual difference and procreation (On the Making of Man 17; Gregory of Nyssa 1994: 406b-407b). See VE.F. Harrison (1990).
11 Underlying the ambiguities of Gregory's conception of virginal desire are the ambiguities of "Platonic love" as represented in some of the very dialogues of Plato of which Gregory makes heaviest use. At issue is the structure of sublimation in both linking and opposing carnal and spiritual desires, as well as an implicit question of how the homoerotic functions in ancient philosophic discourse from Plato to Gregory. In reference to the Symposium, A.W. Price (1989: 226) notes that Plato "clearly believes that there is a natural connection between pederasty and pregnancy in soul" where the goal of love is defined as a mental or sublimated procreation "in beauty," structuring an erotic "succession" mimetically between like but unequal minds; "if ped-erastic desire is particularly susceptible to sublimation, then it is natural that those particularly capable of sublimation should incline towards pederasty."
12 It may also be related to what Christopher Stead (1976: 113) refers to (with considerable philosophic dismay) as a "really extraordinary flexibility and imprecision of terminology" resulting from a tendency to slide all too easily (from Stead's perspective) between the concrete and the abstract. Verna Harrison (1992: 97-9) takes a far more sanguine view of the matter, at the same time offering a broad but concise discussion of the relation between philosophic "concepts" and poetic "images" in Gregory's work.
13 See VE.F. Harrison (1996) for a thoughtful account of Gregory's Mariology in the broader context of the significance of motherhood as a privileged image for spiritual generation in his thought. Plato, Philo, and Origen are discussed as the bearers of a tradition that constructs a feminized masculinity through the development of an image of spiritual childbearing in Harrison 1995.
14 English translations of the Life of Moses follow Gregory of Nyssa (1978). There are two critical editions of the Greek: Gregory of Nyssa (1964) and Gregory of Nyssa (1955).
15 The dating of the treatise and the question of its "mysticism" turn out to be closely related; see Heine (1975: 1-26).
16 "The womb must be denied, or converted, before one can honourably return to it. . . . The womb is converted by being naturalized. But it is naturalized by being masculinized, which is to say, unnaturalized. The natural form of the cave is made available for human purposes by being routed through the masculine, a two-stage conversion that renders the cave an object of desire, an object to desire instead of the womb: One lives in a cave instead of with a woman. This is, to the ascetic, a natural desire that takes natural form, the form of the cave. . . . But life in a cave also represents a renunciation of natural desire, a will to desire the nonnatural, the unnatural, to have an unnatural desire, the very type of which is anal intercourse. The cave - or anus - is the natural and human site of gender conversion or transformation" (Harpham 1995: 363-4).
17 In the Dialogue on the Soul and the Resurrection, Gregory engages and revises Plato's theory of the soul and the passions, displacing a model in which reason (as the "charioteer") controls desire and anger (the "horses") with a model in which a purified desire (agape) overwhelms or encompasses reason; see my discussion of this text in Burrus (2000: 112-22).
18 Heine (1975) follows Ekkehard Muhlenberg (1966) in challenging a narrowly "mystical" reading of Gregory's Life of Moses as well as his Commentary on the Song of Songs. Like Muhlenberg, he sees a close connection between the more "philosophically" framed theological and epistemological issues debated in Against Eunomius and the "spiritual" concept of eternal progress thematized in these less overtly polemical works; he argues furthermore that Gregory is at least as concerned to engage and counter Origenism's concept of spiritual "satiety" as Eunomius's concept of divine knowability. Closer attention to the philosophical context of the Life of Moses is offered by the recent work of Thomas Böhm (1996).
19 See, for example, the careful discussion in Böhm (1996). Regarding the broader question of Gregory's "mysticism" - with which the interpretation of the Life's "theophanic" passages is deeply entangled - Verna Harrison (1992: 61-3) observes with characteristic good sense that it is possible to reject a simplistic three-stage model of mysticism, accept the importance of polemical contexts, and still find in a work like the Life of Moses a central concern with describing "a path to participation in divine life" figured in terms of the soul's pursuit of an unmediated union with God.
20 Although I have borrowed Harpham's voice for my reading of Gregory's Life of Moses, Harpham (it should be noted) is himself actually interpreting a Renaissance painting of Jerome's Life of Paul.
21 At the risk of stating the obvious, I would add that the (male) homoerotic also "illuminates without defiling" because it has eliminated the female.
22 This English translation follows Gregory (1961: 197-203). Note that Franz Dünzl (1993: 380-8) emphasizes the intertextual complexity and fluidity of Gregory's erotic imagery in his Commentary on the Song of Songs, which by no means confines itself to the metaphors explicitly suggested by the biblical text.
23 In contemporary sadomasochistic parlance (and elsewhere), "bottom" and "top" designate passive and active sexual roles, performed in such a way as to both intensify and denaturalize such distinctions.
24 On masochism and deferral see Lynda Hart (1998: 79) and Deleuze (1989: 33-5).
25 Hart is here (if only provisionally) invoking Deleuze's claim that sadism and masochism represent not identical or even complementary erotic practices (as is commonly argued) but are "entirely dissimilar" phenomena; thus, the masochist's torturer is not a sadist but "a pure element of masochism" (Deleuze 1989: 13, 42). Hart implicitly assumes that the particular erotic practice that interests her (lesbian s/m) is "masochistic" in Deleuze's terms, and that she can refer to s/m partners as "two masochists." In the end, however, she does not find Deleuze's claim that sadism always turns on a father figure and masochism on a mother figure nearly queer enough (L. Hart 1998: 164-5).
26 Note that Sarah Coakley likewise appears alarmed at what she has unveiled in her own reading of this Father. Having undertaken to interpret Gregory through the theoretical lens of the "secularized Jewish lesbian feminist" Judith Butler, she too finds it necessary to deliver a stern admonishment in closing: "it is not, note, the goal of Gregory's vision to enjoy various forms of previously-banned sexual pleasure; or to escape or sneer at a supposedly 'repressive' pornography law" (Coakley 2000: 70-1).
27 See, for example, the comments of Lynda Hart (1998: 164); this critique of Hegel's theory of subjectivity (largely a product of Hegel's French reception) has, however, itself been critically interrogated by Judith Butler (1987).
28 The ways in which (masochistic) sexuality exceeds and indeed undermines the formation of the ego are explored in Bersani (1986) and Bersani (1988).
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