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Monsters and grotesque bodies: narratives and ontologies in Ancient Christianity

Grant number: 23/04548-2
Support Opportunities:Regular Research Grants
Duration: November 01, 2023 - October 31, 2025
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Theology
Principal Investigator:Paulo Augusto de Souza Nogueira
Grantee:Paulo Augusto de Souza Nogueira
Host Institution: Escola de Ciências Humanas, Jurídicas e Sociais (EHJS). Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Campinas (PUC-CAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil
Associated researchers: Breno Martins Campos ; César Carbullanca Nuñez ; José Adriano Filho ; Magdalena Diaz Araujo ; Marcio Cappelli Alo Lopes ; Marcus Reis Pinheiro ; Pedro Lima Vasconcellos ; Silas Klein Cardoso


This project proposes, from the advantage point of the so-called Monster Theory, the narrative and imagetic analysis of Early Christian texts (from the 2nd to the 4th Centuries) of different literary genres (Apocryphal Apostolic Acts, Apocryphal Apocalypses, and Desert Fathers' Apophtegmata) that contain monstrous elements. "Monstrous," from this standpoint, tentatively define entities that resist classification: a) the hybrid being that belongs to two or more species, the ontologically split, and thus resistant to world-ordained classifications; b) the segmented, disfigured, or discontinuous human body in the edge of the recognition, be it through the violent dismembering or phantasmagoric apparition; c) the therianthropic, the animal and the human metamorphosing into each other; d) the androgynous, in their gender role's transitions; and, e) the places where these forms manifest and occur, such as in the wildernesses, imaginary cities, graves, caves, and verticalized, otherworldly spaces. From the study of these sources and building upon monster theory, we aim to offer a twofold contribution:1) To analyze narrative and imagetic models produced by subaltern Early Christian groups that created persistent imaginary structures in history and cultures. In the literary production of Early Christianity, the monstrous had the function of shaping identities, naming and classifying the exotic and the strange. Still, paradoxically, it also offers access to profound animistic connections with different modes of existence, promoting radical connective and ecologic thinking. 2) To introduce and explore theoretical possibilities of the concept of monstrous and its associated ideas of grotesque and hybrid in the Brazilian fields of religious studies, biblical studies, and history of religion. Especially in Brazilian religious studies, this is a relatively unexplored theoretical topic that could enable a complex understanding of mythopoetic accounts' creation that articulate ontological, psychological, and social fissures in the subjects and communities in history. These expressions of the monstrous cannot be documented only in the past but persist in history and even in contemporaneity, permeating religious symbols, discourses, and the arts.Keywords: Monstrosity, Grotesque, Hybrid Beings, Metamorphose, Apocryphal Literature, Early Christianity. (AU)

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