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Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary Paperback – March 12, 1983

3.6 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Dramatic, informative and entertaining...a substantial and provocative book." - TLS

"A work of remarkably elegant and eloquent scholarship." - Observer

"Astonishing and enlightening.... packed with scholarship, imagery, vivid selection, and wry contrastive comment." - Margaret Mead

From the Inside Flap

Shows how the figure of Mary has shaped and been shaped by changing social and historical circumstances and why for all their beauty and power, the legends of Mary have condemned real women to perpetual inferiority.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 488 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Vintage Books ed edition (March 12, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394711556
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394711553
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #383,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on April 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
The fact remains that this book offers a very solid and accurately researched survey of the development of the "phenomenon" of devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus. It is not exhaustive by any means, but traces all the major strains of development from at least the third century. What the book fails to do adequately is critically delve into the real roots of Marian themes as found in the New Testament records. Indeed, what we see in the very first century of the Christian/Biblical era is a rather rapid (and radical) development of attitudes about the Mother of Jesus, a shift from early indifference and ignorance of Mary's role (the Marcan Gospel, Pauline letters) to an outright "lifting up" of Mary as the Ideal Christian, the First True Disciple, worthy of loud praise (Luke), and even iconic status as Eve-Israel 'Mother of believers'(John) and glorified symbol of the Church itself (Revelation). I wish Werner had spent more time drawing attention to how swift and startling these developments in the understanding of Mary were when the New Testament writings were being composed. Also, how did these "arcs of thought" regarding Mary take root geographically in the 2nd century church? Werner could have noted that it was no coincidence that Gospel communities giving great prominence to the figure of Mary(Luke's Antioch, the Johannine churches) in the first century continued to preserve these emphases in the 2nd (Ignatius of Anioch, Irenaeus-Justin, etc). Otherwise, Werner gives a solid depiction of how formative ecclesiastical motives (asceticism, Christological controversy) rattled the chains of Mary's rather flexible image in the patristic age, and how her mystique lent itself so readily to mythical, legendary rumblings about her death, intercessory powers, etc.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Marina Warner's writing style is so magnificent that each paragraph seems a tribute to the beauty of the English language. I should like to use this book as an instruction manual for advanced courses in literary composition.

In itself, this book is a landmark work of European history. Marina's treatment of nearly a millennium of devotions, historical implications, poetry, art, and culture is exceedingly extensive and cohesive.

I withheld the fifth star because the underlying thesis, that the devotions to Mary have condemned women to inferior status, distorts the essence of the devotions chronicled. Even in the 'age of faith,' the connections between devotion, which admits to God's ways being unknowable, and the physical manifestations (icons, relics and the like) which make them come alive for the believer, hardly would have been veritable manuals of 'how to use Mary's holiness to underline female inferiority.' In fact, were this book a historical work without the feminist angle, it would have been far better.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Good book coming from the second wave of feminism, although sometimes it feels like a rant. Still, the history of Mary is very well researched.
Published in 1976 by Marina Warner, Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary is both a lasting work of scholarship and an artifact of its own time—second wave feminism. As such, it focuses less on the legal restrictions that have been put on women through the centuries than it does on the influence that culture has upon our view of women. The subject of Warner’s book holds deeply personal relevance to her own experience, so at times the book might seem almost like a personal rant. However, it is an experience shared by many women—especially those who grow up Catholic—and the scholarship that Warner puts into the writing of her book should not be understated. It is a rare feat for an author to write about such a personal subject with research of such depth, and Warner does just that. Alone of All Her Sex stays admirably focused on its topic throughout, not veering too much into other feminist agendas.
Warner’s book is structured in five major parts. Each part is about a certain identity that Mary represents: Mary as the Virgin, Queen, Bride, Mother, and Intercessor. Warner tells us, “I have not undertaken a history of the cult of the Virgin as such, but in chronological order I have taken aspects of her composite personality at their zenith and then worked backwards and forwards in time showing the ideas that contributed to their genesis and growth and lingered on in the tiredness of old age” (xxiii).
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Format: Paperback
I am a catholic, and one of my favorite subjects is mariology. I personally find this book illuminating in the fact that for many years many (male) theologians have used the figure of the Virgin Mary to oppress women in many different ways. I admire Marina Warner's work.
However, not always Marian dogmas are used in such a way. I think that this book makes an extraordinary point against the devotions to the Virgin Mary, but avoids the fact that also such devotions have been used to free women.
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