Scrutinizing Desire

B. Diane Lipsett

in Desiring Conversion

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780199754519
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199827213 | DOI:
Scrutinizing Desire

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This chapter examines the interplay in The Shepherd of Hermas between desire and self-restraint, and does so as an entrance into the text’s larger concern with metanoia (repentance or conversion), self-scrutiny, and masculinity. The long, repetitive text evinces a striking array of techniques for self-examination, akin to those Foucault describes as ancient strategies for discursive self-formation. Scattered scenes with images of erotic desire are spread across the three sections of The Shepherd (Visions, Mandates, and Similitudes) and invite close analysis. Yet erotic sins or dangers seem less important than others, particularly economic sins, in the ethical register of this text. Rather, images of desire function metonymically within a broader discourse of virtue. In the end, metanoia and manliness in The Shepherd involve not so much the suppression of desire as the choice of its proper object, and even manly abandonment to holy desires.

Keywords: Hermas; metanoia; repentance; masculinity; self-formation; desire; Foucault

Chapter.  13797 words. 

Subjects: Early Christianity

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