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Perpetua's PassionsMultidisciplinary Approaches to the Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis$
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Jan N. Bremmer and Marco Formisano

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199561889

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199561889.001.0001

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Nova Exempla. The New Testament of the Passio Perpetuae

Nova Exempla. The New Testament of the Passio Perpetuae

(p.254) XIII Nova Exempla. The New Testament of the Passio Perpetuae
Perpetua's Passions

Luca Bagetto

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis as a particularly far-reaching narrative — one concerned with law and testimony, order and exceptionality, politics and transcendence. It treats Perpetua’s account of her impending martyrdom as the literary representation of an exceptional event and asks: where does the law stand vis-à-vis the exceptional event? The hypothesis is that biblical law is able to keep pace with the exceptional reality of the intruding case. It is a law that contests the rules of the Roman Empire, and has to do with the exceptional intrusion of the concept of salvation into normal reality. It is the question of revolution, i.e. of the relationship of the law to its suspension. It is also the question of Messianism and charismatic power. The chapter argues that Perpetua’s event, in its very exceptionality, shows such an intrusion also in the field of literary representation. This event no longer belongs to the normal dimension of the as if. It is on the contrary located in a dimension of verbi gratia — the word as an exemplary sense of gift. This figural conception is discussed with regard to Hamlet and the relationship between reality and representation.

Keywords:   Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis, martyrs, martyrdom, Hamlet, event, law, salvation

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