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The Will of OthersCoercion, Captivity, and Choice in Late Antiquity


Scholarly reflections on the concept of the will as it is articulated in late ancient texts have centered on the male individual and the difficulties he faces as he tries to train or direct his intentions. By contrast, in this article we seek to explore late ancient concepts and negotiations of the will by considering a cluster of ancient Jewish and Christian narrative scenarios in which women are under the threat of sexual assault. Rather than a split between warring parts of one person, these narratives treat moments when the will of one actor is in conflict with the will of another. Thus, these scenarios raise questions that cannot otherwise be accessed about human intention, agency, and subjectivity, and their limitations by social and cultural realities. We argue that these cases should be viewed not as the marginal troubles that sometimes happen to women, but as expressions of the fundamental problems at the heart of the theories of the will embraced within late ancient Judaism and Christianity.

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