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Drawing on comparative literature, ritual and performance studies, and the history of asceticism, Derek Krueger explores how early Christian writers came to view writing as salvific, as worship through the production of art. Exploring the emergence of new and distinctly Christian ideas about authorship in late antiquity, Writing and Holiness probes saints' lives and hymns produced in the Greek East to reveal how the ascetic call to imitate Christ's humility rendered artistic and literary creativity problematic. In claiming authority and power, hagiographers appeared to violate the saintly practices that they sought to promote. Christian writers meditated within their texts on these tensions and ultimately developed a new set of answers to the question "What is an author?"
Each of the texts examined here used writing as a technique for the representation of holiness. Some are narrative representations of saints that facilitate veneration; others are collections of accounts of miracles, composed to publicize a shrine. Rather than viewing an author's piety as a barrier to historical inquiry, Krueger argues that consideration of writing as a form of piety opens windows onto new modes of practice. He interprets Christian authors as participants in the religious system they described, as devotees, monastics, and faithful emulators of the saints, and he shows how their literary practice integrated authorship into other Christian practices, such as asceticism, devotion, pilgrimage, liturgy, and sacrifice. In considering the distinctly literary contributions to the formation of Christian piety in late antiquity, Writing and Holiness uncovers Christian literary theories with implications for both Eastern and Western medieval literatures.
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Derek Krueger is Joe Rosenthal Excellence Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. He is the author of Symeon the Holy Fool: Leontius's Life and the Late Antique City.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Literary Composition as a Religious Activity
For Lent 382, Gregory of Nazianzus placed himself under a vow of silence. This discipline, while restricting speech, did not restrain him from writing. In fact, as his poem On Silence at the Time of Fasting suggests, Gregory employed writing to assist him in his Lenten practice. "Hold still, dear tongue. And you, my pen, write down the words of silence and tell to the eyes the matters of my heart" (lines 1-2). In Gregory's hands, literary composition became a method for exploring his introspective quiet. While Gregory's poem documents his devotions, it also uses his writing to display and publicize his virtue. He writes, "Accept these sounds from my hand that you may have a speaking monument to my silence" (lines 209-210). On the page, readers would see Gregory performing his repentant silence. If they were reading aloud, as is likely, to themselves or to others, they would, ironically, even hear it. The poem produces an image of its author as pious, dutifully engaging in the patterns of religious observance. Moreover, for Gregory, adherence to literary form highlighted the disciplinary potential of writing: composing metrical poetry could become a formative spiritual practice. "I followed the advice of holy men and placed a door on my lips. The reason was that I should learn to set a measure, and be in control of everything" (lines 10-12). In another poem, On Writings in Meter, Gregory states that he writes poetry "to subdue [his] own unmeasuredness." Gregory uses meter not only to craft his poem, but to craft himself as well. The discipline of writing served as a powerful metaphor for the composition of a more Christian self.
In adapting writing as a tool for the cultivation of virtue, Gregory was not unique. In the course of the fourth century Christians negotiated a distinct relationship between writing and the religious life. According to Athanasius, Antony commanded his monks to keep diaries "to note and write down" the "stirrings of [their] souls." John Chrysostom called on his lay parishioners to keep a written record of their sins: "For if you write them down, God blots them out. . . . If you omit writing them, God both inscribes them and exacts their penalty." It is far from clear how many of his listeners could actually write. Generous estimates for basic literacy in the period range from fifteen to twenty percent. Skilled literacy, a product of grammatical and rhetorical training, may only have been available to a small, and predominantly male, two percent. Nevertheless, each of these fourth-century bishops imagined the potential for the practice of writing, even if intended only for the intimate audience of the author and God, to discipline, and thus afford an opportunity for human participation in God's act of redemption.
The power of writing to shape the Christian author flourished especially in the production of narrative literary forms. Saints' lives, in their combined ability to entertain and edify, contributed broadly to the formation of Christian practice and self-understanding. From the middle of the fourth century, Christian writers engaged in the task of representing holy people in text, offering models of the saints in narrative. But in hagiography authors deployed narrative simultaneously for the improvement of their readers and themselves. These literary acts of the making of saints were doubly generative, producing both the saints and their authors. Composing hagiography made one a hagiographer. Thus the lives of the saints are also the residuum of a process of authorial self-production, of the making of authors. In generating a Christian authorial persona, the author was inevitably the subject of his own creative act. Indeed, the authors of early Christian saints' lives and miracles collections reconceived the production of literature as a highly ritualized technology of the religious self.
While offering models of the saints in narrative, Christian hagiographers began to pose questions about authorship. The ascetic call to humility rendered artistic and literary creativity problematic. Claiming authority and power appeared to violate the saintly practices these authors sought to promote. Writers meditated within their texts on the tension inherent in Christian acts of authorship. According to ascetic teachers such as Evagrius of Pontus in the fourth century and Dorotheus of Gaza in the sixth, Christians were to regard themselves as greater than no one and attribute all virtuous acts to the work of God. This novel and distinctly Christian valuation of humility moved far beyond Roman aristocratic ideals of modesty. Self-assertion whether in the form of holding office or authoring a text seemed to counter Christ's example of self-humiliation in the incarnation and obedience in the crucifixion. Did writing displace the authorship of God or could it participate in it? In what ways did literary creation, an embodied practice, mark an author's own creatureliness?
This study addresses conceptions of authorship displayed in hagiographical works written between the fourth and the seventh centuries around the eastern Mediterranean, primarily in Greek. The period from the Christianization of the Roman Empire to the Arab conquest begins for modern historians as Late Antiquity and ends as early Byzantium, although the division between these two designations, the first primarily temporal, the second increasingly geographic, was subtle and slow. During this period new styles of authorial self-presentation emerged under the desire to bring acts of writing into conformity with Christian patterns of virtue and devotion.
Drawing on literary studies, ritual and performance studies, cultural history, and the history of asceticism, this book explores how hagiographers and hymnographers came to view writing as salvific, as worship through the production of art.
Through the reading of a wide variety of saints' lives, miracle collections, and narrative hymns, Writing and Holiness seeks out late antique and early Byzantine answers to the question "What is an author?" It illuminates the various models that Christian authors followed, considering a range of scripts according to which the performance of authorship proceeded. As writers cultivated the habits of Christian authorship, Christian literary culture constructed concepts of the saintly writer. What might it mean to be a Christian author, to write in a Christian context, to make writing an idiom of Christian self-expression, indeed of Christian self-fashioning through literary composition?
The thread running though the rhetorical strategies examined in this book is the attempt to integrate writing and piety. Considering late antique and early Byzantine hagiographical composition as a religious activity offers a new approach to a formative chapter in Christian literary history. Previous studies have tended to view an author's piety as a barrier to historical inquiry, dismissing miracle accounts (among other hagiographical elements) as pious fictions. Positivist attempts to extract "what actually happened" (as opposed to what is narrated) from hagiographical writings have consistently underestimated the centrality of theological and literary concerns. Neglect of the religious dimensions of the act of writing arises in part from the confluence of two additional trends. First, renewed interest in late antique popular culture has highlighted the affinities between the religious life of elites and nonelites. Despite the refreshing aspects of this approach, the distinctly literary contributions to the formation of piety have been overlooked. Second, traditional divisions between patristics and social history continue to exclude theology and religious composition from discussions of piety on the assumption that thought and action are separable. Since Émile Durkheim, the academic study of religion has tended to treat religion as a system of beliefs and practice. But the work of recent critics has argued that the distinction between beliefs and practices, or between thinking and ritual, tends to recapitulate Enlightenment distinctions between mind and body. Indeed a rigid application of Durkheim's distinction between beliefs and practices ill serves the formative Orthodox Christianity in which these acts of authorship took place. After the councils of Nicaea (325) and Constantinople (381), the doctrines of the Great Church focused on the embodiment of divine reason in the person of Jesus Christ. Confidence in the doctrine of the incarnation expressed itself bodily in a variety of practices including baptism and eucharist. The holding of orthodox theological ideas was itself a practice of constant mental vigilance. In short, thinking was an activity, something obvious to Christians such as Gregory of Nyssa, for whom contemplation of God was virtuous motion, "eternal progress toward the divine." For the late antique Greek authors considered in this study, writing was a vehicle for the expression of piety as well as a technology for its cultivation. As Chapter Seven discusses, texts themselves, the repositories of thought, were regarded as analogous to bodies. The act of writing bridged the mental and the bodily; while the written text, inscribed on papyrus or on skin, was embodied logos.
The rapid Christianization of the Roman Empire during the fourth century, and particularly the conversion of its lettered elites, meant the Christianization of Roman literary culture and traditions. New ideas about literary composition emerged in a environment where Christians also adapted the technologies of book production, revised scribal habits, and developed distinctly Christian modes of reading. Habits of literary composition came increasingly to reflect and incorporate the values and practices of late Roman Christianity. To be sure, Christians, especially in the Greek-speaking East, had been writing since the first century, composing gospels, letters, treatises, sermons, accounts of the lives of the apostles and the deaths of martyrs. The spread of Christianity among the upper classes, however, vastly increased the number of Christian orators and bishops with highly developed literary skills and the number of Christian aristocratic literary patrons with highly developed literary tastes. Despite attempts to characterize hagiography as a "low-level" genre, many saints' lives represent the work of highly literate authors for apparently sophisticated audiences. Other texts remain closer the patterns of orality from which they derived. Nevertheless, high literary style and sophisticated biblical allusion did not preclude the more literary texts from reaching a wider, and not necessarily educated audience.
Questions about the authoring of hagiography inevitably raise questions about genre.16 Ordinarily discussions of genre, both in late antiquity and the present, involve the classification of texts according to literary type, form, structure, and themes. One way to think about hagiography is as a new genre that began with Athanasius's Life of Antony, composed between 356 and 362, and proceeded to become the dominant literary form of both the Greek and the Latin middle ages. Thus late antiquity witnessed the birth of a new Christian literature. Indeed no other literary practice was as distinctively Christian as hagiography, the representation of the lives and miracles of Christian saints in writing. But the genre hagiography did not spring forth suddenly from nowhere, and it is also possible to narrate a history of the origins of hagiography that emphasizes the debt of its forms and structures to modes of Greco-Roman biography. To a great degree, the emerging culture of Christian Letters involved the Christianization of established Greco-Roman genres, and hagiography was no exception. The evangelists themselves composed the New Testament gospels following the conventions of the literary genre of the Life or biography. Eusebius's treatment of the life of Origen in Book Six of his Ecclesiastical History, and of the first Christian Emperor in the Life of Constantine also followed ancient models for narrating the lives of philosophers and statesmen. Christian funeral orations participated in the conventions of classical and contemporary pagan panegyric. Hagiography was never entirely new.
These two approaches to the history of hagiography, deriving from readers' drive to classify extant texts from the outside, are not mutually exclusive. Discussions of genre internal to the earliest Christian saints' lives, however, are more problematic, suggesting generic instability rather than the simple origins of a literary type. While Christian writers from the outset claimed the newness of what they were doing, they were surprisingly slow to fix its name. The term "hagiography" literally "holy writing" is a nineteenth-century scholarly designation. For the sixth-century theologian known as Dionysius the Areopagite, the adjective hagiographos described the divinely inspired scriptures, not the lives of the saints. Athanasius's Life of Antony presents itself as a letter. Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Macrina, composed in 381, also embedded in a letter, ponders what genre it belongs to. Too long for a letter, it is perhaps a "discourse," "a prose composition" or a "long-winded speech." Precisely what authoring the lives of the saints entailed remained unclear. Perhaps the first moment of explicit genre-consciousness occurred as late as the 440s, when a third or fourth generation hagiographer, Theodoret of Cyrrhus argued that the "lives of the saints" should take its place among the classical genres: epic, history, tragedy, and comedy. In time the genre would be called the "lives of the saints," a retrospective label that would gather the earlier precursors.
Deferring clarity about literary form to explore conceptions of authorship enables the rethinking of the formation of Christian literature. Each of the texts examined here uses writing as a technique for the representation of holiness. Some are narrative representations of saints that facilitate emulation and veneration. Others are collections of accounts of miracles composed to publicize a shrine. The Christological hymns of Romanos the Melodist, the subject of Chapter Eight, employ not prose, but poetry, and recount not the life of a saint, but retell the life of Christ. In each case, authorship includes reflection on the writing self. Perhaps genre can be seen from the writer's point of view as the ritualization of literary patterns and the adherence to traditions and structures as authors conform themselves to preexistent models. If so, then each of these works also belongs to a new genre, one of Christian authorship, a new way of writing that integrated literary habits with other forms of Christian life.
Christian ideas about authorship arose alongside broader theological reflection on writing and literature. Christian literary theories were closely linked to theories of signs. In contrast to the emphasis in the West where, under the influence of Augustine, language was often seen as a consequence of the Fall and a marker of the distance between humanity and God, Eastern discourse about the nature of language was significantly more sanguine.23 Greek theologians adapted Platonic conceptions that signs do not merely...
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Book Description University of Pennsylvania Pre, 2004. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110812238192
Book Description University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0812238192
Book Description University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0812238192