"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Apophasis and Dionysius

Studies on Dionysius the Areopagite, as I have noted before, continue to emerge regularly today. He remains an enormously influential figure on all theology, Eastern and Western. Along comes another study of his thought from Harvard University's Charles Stang: Apophasis and Pseudonymity in Dionysius the Areopagite: "No Longer I" (Oxford Early Christian Studies, 2012), 272pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
This book examines the writings of an early sixth-century Christian mystical theologian who wrote under the name of a convert of the apostle Paul, Dionysius the Areopagite. This 'Pseudo'-Dionysius is famous for articulating a mystical theology in two parts: a sacramental and liturgical mysticism embedded in the context of celestial and ecclesiastical hierarchies, and an austere, contemplative regimen in which one progressively negates the divine names in hopes of soliciting union with the 'unknown God' or 'God beyond being.'
Charles M. Stang argues that the pseudonym and the influence of Paul together constitute the best interpretive lens for understanding the Corpus Dionysiacum [CD]. Stang demonstrates how Paul animates the entire corpus, and shows that the influence of Paul illuminates such central themes of the CD as hierarchy, theurgy, deification, Christology, affirmation (kataphasis) and negation (apophasis), dissimilar similarities, and unknowing. Most importantly, Paul serves as a fulcrum for the expression of a new theological anthropology, an 'apophatic anthropology.' Dionysius figures Paul as the premier apostolic witness to this apophatic anthropology, as the ecstatic lover of the divine who confesses to the rupture of his self and the indwelling of the divine in Gal 2:20: 'it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.'
Building on this notion of apophatic anthropology, the book forwards an explanation for why this sixth-century author chose to write under an apostolic pseudonym. Stang argues that the very practice of pseudonymous writing itself serves as an ecstatic devotional exercise whereby the writer becomes split in two and thereby open to the indwelling of the divine. Pseudonymity is on this interpretation integral and internal to the aims of the wider mystical enterprise. Thus this book aims to question the distinction between 'theory' and 'practice' by demonstrating that negative theology-often figured as a speculative and rarefied theory regarding the transcendence of God-is in fact best understood as a kind of asceticism, a devotional practice aiming for the total transformation of the Christian subject.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Is it the Third or Fourth Rome--and Who's Counting?

Tensions in the Orthodox world, and the pretensions of the Russian Church, can both be understood in part as the result of the longstanding fantasy that sees Moscow as the "Third Rome." The first Rome was ostensibly replaced in May 330 by the second or New Rome, Constantinople, and--so this reasoning goes--Constantinople in turn was lost in May 1453 when it fell to the Muslims. Shortly after that, Providence ostensibly used Ivan III (married to the niece of the last Byzantine emperor) to raise up Muscovy and its main city, Moscow, to become an imperial power ("tsardom") to occupy the place abandoned or lost by the previous two imperial cities. Now comes a new book to look at the history of the city itself: Katerina Clark, Moscow, the Fourth Rome: Stalinism, Cosmopolitanism, and the Evolution of Soviet Culture, 1931-1941 (Harvard University Press, 2011), 432pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
In the early sixteenth century, the monk Filofei proclaimed Moscow the “Third Rome.” By the 1930s, intellectuals and artists all over the world thought of Moscow as a mecca of secular enlightenment. In Moscow, the Fourth Rome, Katerina Clark shows how Soviet officials and intellectuals, in seeking to capture the imagination of leftist and anti-fascist intellectuals throughout the world, sought to establish their capital as the cosmopolitan center of a post-Christian confederation and to rebuild it to become a beacon for the rest of the world.
Clark provides an interpretative cultural history of the city during the crucial 1930s, the decade of the Great Purge. She draws on the work of intellectuals such as Sergei Eisenstein, Sergei Tretiakov, Mikhail Koltsov, and Ilya Ehrenburg to shed light on the singular Zeitgeist of that most Stalinist of periods. In her account, the decade emerges as an important moment in the prehistory of key concepts in literary and cultural studies today—transnationalism, cosmopolitanism, and world literature. By bringing to light neglected antecedents, she provides a new polemical and political context for understanding canonical works of writers such as Brecht, Benjamin, Lukacs, and Bakhtin. Moscow, the Fourth Rome breaches the intellectual iron curtain that has circumscribed cultural histories of Stalinist Russia, by broadening the framework to include considerable interaction with Western intellectuals and trends. Its integration of the understudied international dimension into the interpretation of Soviet culture remedies misunderstandings of the world-historical significance of Moscow under Stalin.

Eusebius Reconsidered

Francesca Aran Murphy, to whose work I have drawn attention previously, has written a long and fascinating essay on the writing of history, especially in the person of John Lukacs. Now a recent book looks more broadly at the question of writing history, especially Christian history, in the person and from the pen of Eusebius: Sabrina Inowlocki and Claudio Zamagni, eds., Reconsidering Eusebius: Collected Papers on Literary, Historical, and Theological Issues (Vigiliae Christianae Supplements) (Brill, 2011), 254pp.

About this book the publisher tell us:
Over the last decades, Eusebius has been the focus of a great deal of attention. New light has been shed both on his writings and on his personality, which has led to a welcome re-assessment of his significance. As a result, he is no longer perceived as a mere compiler but as a powerful author who largely contributed to the construction of the orthodox Church's triumphalism. This volume seeks to contribute to the ongoing re-evaluation of Eusebius as an active participant to the construction of late antique history, theology, and literature. The result is an interdisciplinary collection of … read morearticles by an international team of scholars who offer innovative papers on one of the most important late antique author.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Deliciously Dishy Diaries of Yves Congar

As I have noted before, I am an inveterate and unapologetic reader of diaries--the more indiscreet, the more "incorrect" in this stifling age of ideological conformity and shrieking demands for "apologies" at bogus offenses, the better. Evelyn Waugh's are immensely satisfying in this regard, as are Alan Clark's. For the theologian or liturgist, Alexander Schmemann's journals are fascinating and revealing in equal measure, though, as Michael Plekon has so helpfully noted, what we currently have in English is a heavily edited and truncated rescension of a much fuller French original.

Some may find all this "salacious" or whatever, but such objections are hard to regard as anything other than pious guff. We should be thankful for these records reveal to us the humanity of people whom some may be inclined to romanticize, lionize, or mythologize--and that is an effort greatly to be resisted. For those who may be, or more likely claim earnestly and piously to be, "scandalized" by the full humanity of a Waugh, Clark, Schmemann, or Congar, we must respond that God did not come to save plastic people or the plaster saints so often on offer in official hagiographies: He came to save us in our full humanity, "warts" and all. We must continually reject, as Newman aptly put it, the portrayal of Christian and holy living as merely a "clothes-rack of virtues." God saves real human beings as they really are: not as we wish or imagine them to be.

It is, then, an immensely happy development to have in English at long last the diaries of Yves Congar, one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century who did so much to advance the cause of Orthodox-Catholic unity. One leisurely day when I was wasting time in the library not working on my dissertation, I read parts of these journals in the French original to great enjoyment. And now here, thankfully, splendidly, they are available in English: Yves Congar, My Journal of the Council, trans. Mary John Ronayne and Mary Cecily Boulding, ed. Denis Minns (Liturgical Press, 2012), xlvi+979pp.

If you have any interest in, inter alia: Congar's life, the developments in the Catholic Church during the twentieth century, the Second Vatican Council, Protestant-Catholic relations, Orthodox-Catholic relations, the ongoing deliberations between the Society of St. Pius X (whose founder, Marcel Lefebvre recurs in this narrative, and is a far more complex personality than the portrait of him as some lone little Dutch boy holding his finger in the dike against some imagined tide of Vatican II-sponsored "modernism" or whatever) and Rome today, the early thought and career of Joseph Ratzinger, Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, and much else besides, then you simply must buy this book. It is an absolute goldmine of insights into all the foregoing persons, events, and institutions, and into Congar himself, of course--and much, much else besides. It ranges from soaring insights--especially into ecclesiology, which was Congar's speciality--to such mundane comments after an overlong meeting of conciliar officials in Rome in September 1964 as "Afterwards, I went out for a pee."  

He records the most hilariously but soberly apt description of Pope Paul VI I have ever read: his tortured personality was a perfect combination of "Paul outside the walls, and Peter in chains." 

He records the searing, startling chauvinism of many Roman curialists, and there are many instances of cringe-making incidents of Catholics approaching their Orthodox brethren with good intentions but incredibly clumsy, if not outright offensive, ideas and gestures. He does not hesitate to denounce the interference of nuncios in the life of local churches, calling their actions "cretinous" and "STUPID" [sic]. He savages those whom he regards as odious: e.g., Giuseppe Cardinal Pizzardo, prefect of the dicastery for seminaries and Catholic universities, calling him "an imbecile, a sub-human...this wretched freak, this sub-mediocrity with no culture, no horizon, no humanity." Other people who really arouse his ire include fanatical Mariologists who want to argue that the Theotokos was virtually on a par with the Trinity: these ideas he denounces, inter alia, as "crack-brained" and the product of people like the Franciscan theologian Carlo Balić, of whom Congar says "What a clown!!!" 

He is even more incredulous and incendiary in recording the ludicrous ideas of some people who exalt the pope to a level not merely on a par with, but in fact a part of, the Trinity. Some of these ideas are thinly disguised idolatry (papolatry indeed!) and so absurd I am astonished anyone could hold them, let alone advance them with a straight face.  Such a lot of nonsense.  

He gives us especially interesting reflections on how the work of the council is often undermined by its liturgies: all the talk about communion, ecumenism, and collegiality is often undone, or at least severely undermined, by liturgies in which the pope is carried in like some potentate on a litter and the entire focus is not on Christ, or the gospels, but the pope with "his sedia and his flabella." Again and again Congar makes clear his contempt for what he calls sixteenth-century court ritual totally at odds with the spirit of the gospel and true nature of the Church.

For all his openness to the East, and for all the work he so helpfully did to lay the groundwork for an East-West rapprochement, Congar records a consistent complaint about the various Eastern liturgies--Melkite, Ukrainian, Ethiopian--celebrated during the council, complaining that (horrors!) they all went over an hour, "wearing everybody out" (Ukrainian), often involved "strange bawling" and "terribly painful" chant that "put me in mind of the ravings of drunkards" (Ethiopian), or otherwise made Congar, who was very sick and incredibly overworked during the council, rather impatient to get on with whatever of the myriad tasks were at hand. Still, at points (e.g., 16 October 1964, after a Melkite liturgy) he does say that the 75 minutes it took were an "object lesson. The East speaks through liturgical action."  

Anyway, I'll have more to post as I make my way through this delightful but massive tome. Buy it, read it, and be astonished by the details, awed by this man's bluntness (so much so that publication was embargoed until the year 2000), convulsed with laughter at some of his acerbic but accurate comments, bored by some of the tedious details of endless meetings, but delighted for hours on end with this delicious vin extraordinaire

Cretan Christians and the Ottomans

I'm currently doing research on the relationship between the French Revolution, nineteenth-century nationalism in Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Orthodox Churches of those countries. So this book looks especially fascinating: Pinar Sinisik, The Transformation of Ottoman Crete: Revolts, Politics and Identity in the Late Nineteenth Century (Library of Ottoman Studies) (Tauris Academic Studies, 2011), 320pp.

About this book, the publisher tells us: 
The island of Crete under Ottoman rule in the nineteenth century saw successive revolts from its majority Christian population, who were set on union with the newly-independent Greece. This book offers an original perspective on the social, political and ideological transformation of Ottoman Crete within the nationalist context of the late nineteenth century. It focuses on the Cretan revolts of 1896 and 1897, and examines the establishment of the autonomous Cretan State and the withdrawal of Ottoman troops from the island in 1898. Based on Ottoman, British and American archival sources, the author demonstrates that, contrary to the standard view that the uprisings were merely an expression of discontent at Ottoman rule, Cretan Christians in fact aimed to radically change the socio-economic and political structure of Cretan society and to actually overthrow and expel the Ottoman administration. This book provides a deeper understanding of the Cretan experience, and of the wider politics of the Eastern Mediterranean, in the late nineteenth century.

Friday, May 25, 2012

New Books about Armenian Cilicia and Genocide

The Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia has announced a forthcoming series of books in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. We shall pay attention to them as they appear.
They have also recently published a number of books of interest, which may be viewed here.

Their Catholicos has announced 2012 as the Year of the Armenian Book in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Armenian printing press.

In related matters, we have several new books about the dolorous events of 1915, the first being released last month: Taner Akçam, The Young Turks' Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire (Princeton U Press, 2012), 528pp.

The author, we are told, is actually Turkish, and one of the first and few Turkish academics to tackle this topic openly. About this book the publisher tells us:
Introducing new evidence from more than 600 secret Ottoman documents, this book demonstrates in unprecedented detail that the Armenian Genocide and the expulsion of Greeks from the late Ottoman Empire resulted from an official effort to rid the empire of its Christian subjects. Presenting these previously inaccessible documents along with expert context and analysis, Taner Akam's most authoritative work to date goes deep inside the bureaucratic machinery of Ottoman Turkey to show how a dying empire embraced genocide and ethnic cleansing. 
Although the deportation and killing of Armenians was internationally condemned in 1915 as a "crime against humanity and civilization," the Ottoman government initiated a policy of denial that is still maintained by the Turkish Republic. The case for Turkey's "official history" rests on documents from the Ottoman imperial archives, to which access has been heavily restricted until recently. It is this very source that Akam now uses to overturn the official narrative.
The documents presented here attest to a late-Ottoman policy of Turkification, the goal of which was no less than the radical demographic transformation of Anatolia. To that end, about one-third of Anatolia's 15 million people were displaced, deported, expelled, or massacred, destroying the ethno-religious diversity of an ancient cultural crossroads of East and West, and paving the way for the Turkish Republic.By uncovering the central roles played by demographic engineering and assimilation in the Armenian Genocide, this book will fundamentally change how this crime is understood and show that physical destruction is not the only aspect of the genocidal process.
A second book, a collection of essays, furthers our exploration of the events of 1915: Ronald Grigor Suny et al, eds., A Question of Genocide: Armenians and Turks at the End of the Ottoman Empire (Oxford U Press, 2011), 464pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
One hundred years after the deportations and mass murder of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, and other peoples in the final years of the Ottoman Empire, the history of the Armenian genocide is a victim of historical distortion, state-sponsored falsification, and deep divisions between Armenians and Turks. Working together for the first time, Turkish, Armenian, and other scholars present here a compelling reconstruction of what happened and why. 
This volume gathers the most up-to-date scholarship on Armenian genocide, looking at how the event has been written about in Western and Turkish historiographies; what was happening on the eve of the catastrophe; portraits of the perpetrators; detailed accounts of the massacres; how the event has been perceived in both local and international contexts, including World War I; and reflections on the broader implications of what happened then. The result is a comprehensive work that moves beyond nationalist master narratives and offers a more complete understanding of this tragic event.
A third recent book also treats the genocide: Raymond Kevorkian, The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History (I.B. Tauris, 2011), 1008pp. 

About this book we are told:
The Armenian Genocide was one of the greatest atrocities of the twentieth century, an episode in which up to 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives. In this major new history, the renowned historian Raymond Kévorkian provides an authoritative account of the origins, events and consequences of the years 1915 and 1916. He considers the role that the Armenian Genocide played in the construction of the Turkish nation state and Turkish identity, as well as exploring the ideologies of power, rule and state violence. Crucially, he examines the consequences of the violence against the Armenians, the implications of deportations and attempts to bring those who committed the atrocities to justice.Kévorkian offers a detailed and meticulous record, providing an authoritative analysis of the events and their impact upon the Armenian community itself, as well as the development of the Turkish state.  This important book will serve as an indispensable resource to historians of the period, as well as those wishing to understand the history of genocidal violence more generally.
And finally, set for release in November, is a second volume in a trilogy by Seta B. Dadoyan, The Armenians in the Medieval Islamic World: Armenian Realpolitik in the Islamic World and Diverging ParadigmsCase of Cilicia Eleventh to Fourteenth Centuries (Transaction Publishers, 2012), 310pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
In the second of a three-volume work, Seta B. Dadoyan explores the Armenian condition from the 970s to the end of the fourteenth century. This period marked the gradual loss of semi-autonomy on the traditional mainland and the rise of Armenian power of diverging patterns in southeastern Asia Minor, north Syria, Cilicia, and Egypt.
Dadoyan’s premise is that if Armenians and Armenia have always been located in the Middle East and the Islamic world, then their history is also a natural part of that region and its peoples. She observes that the Armenian experience has been too complicated to be defined by simplistic constructs centered on the idea of a heroic, yet victimized nation. She notes that a certain politics of historical writing, supported by a culture of authority, has focused sharply on episodes and, in particular, on the genocide.
For her sources, Dadoyan has used all available and relevant (primary and secondary) Armenian sources, as well as primary Arab texts and sources. This book will stimulate re-evaluation of the period, and re-conceptualizing Armenian and Middle Eastern histories.

Violence as Worship

As I have noted before, in discussing the important work of William Cavanaugh, the whole question, in the modern period, of what constitutes "religion," especially vis-à-vis the modern nation-state, is far more difficult and complicated than many realize. Along comes a recent work of interest to Eastern Christians because of the countries it examines in analyzing the categories of "religion," worship, violence, etc.: Hans Kippenberg, Violence as Worship: Religious Wars in the Age of Globalization (Stamford University Press, 2011), 296pp.
About this book the publisher tells us:
Today's religious violence challenges our understanding of religion. Do we need special notions such as 'cult' and 'fundamentalism' to come to terms with it? Does monotheism, with its claim to exclusivity, necessarily generate intolerance? Kippenberg rejects the idea that violence and religion are inherently connected and instead considers the actions, motives, and self-perceptions of real people. He shows that the violent outcomes of the American tragedies of Jonestown and Waco were not inevitable. In both cases, law enforcement, the media, and anti-cult networks believing in the necessity of liberation by force stood in opposition to communities who chose to idealize martyrdom. The same pattern applies to other major cases of religious violence since the 1970s: the Iranian revolution; the birth of Hezbollah in Lebanon; the conflict between Jews, Muslims, and American Protestants that grew out of disputes between Israel and its neighboring states; and the attacks of 9/11. In the age of globalization, religious ties fill the vacuum left by the weakening of traditional loyalties and by states that do not foster social solidarity. Lest we believe we are condemned to a violent future, Violence as Worship concludes with a discussion on prevention. Religion may inspire many conflicts, but it is also a resource that can be mobilized to avert them.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

You Traitorous Bastard!

As we continue to learn more about the encounter--ancient, medieval, and modern--between Christianity (both Eastern and Western) and Islam, we realize that the history is far more complicated than partisans, polemicists, or politicians would have us believe. What to make, e.g., of the Crimean War, which pitted two Christian powers against another Christian power and on the side of the Islamic Ottoman Empire--France and Britain with the Ottomans and against the Orthodox Russian Empire? 

A recent book looks at another unexpected alliance between an ostensibly Christian power and an ostensibly Islamic one, revealing, if nothing else, that--as the psalmist put it--you should put not your trust in princes: Christine Isom-Verhaaren, Allies with the Infidel: The Ottoman and French Alliance in the Sixteenth Century (Tauris Academic, 2011), 304pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
In 1543, the Ottoman fleet appeared off the coast of France to bombard and lay siege to the city of Nice. The operation, under the command of Admiral Barbarossa, came in response to a request from François I of France for assistance from Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent in France’s struggle against Charles V, the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain. This military alliance between mutual "infidels," the Christian French King and the Muslim Sultan, aroused intense condemnation on religious grounds from the Habsburgs and their supporters as an aberration from accepted diplomacy. Memories of the Crusades were, after all, still very much alive in Europe and an alliance with "the Turk" seemed unthinkable to many. Allies with the Infidel places the events of 1543 and the subsequent wintering of the Ottoman fleet in Toulon in the context of the power politics of the sixteenth century. Relying on contemporary Ottoman and French sources, it presents the realpolitik of diplomacy with "infidels" in the early modern era. The result is essential reading for students and scholars of European history, Ottoman Studies, and of relations between the Christian and Islamic worlds.

Active Participation

Oxford University Press continues to impress with the books it publishes in its series on Early Christian Studies. One of its latest offerings is that of Torstein Theodor Tollefsen, Activity and Participation in Late Antique and Early Christian Thought (Oxford, 2012), 240pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Activity and Participation in Late Antique and Early Christian Thought is an investigation into two basic concepts of ancient pagan and Christian thought. The study examines how activity in Christian thought is connected with the topic of participation: for the lower levels of being to participate in the higher means to receive the divine activity into their own ontological constitution. Torstein Theodor Tollefsen sets a detailed discussion of the work of church fathers Gregory of Nyssa, Dionysius the Areopagite, Maximus the Confessor, and Gregory Palamas in the context of earlier trends in Aristotelian and Neoplatonist philosophy. His concern is to highlight how the Church Fathers thought energeia (i.e. activity or energy) is manifested as divine activity in the eternal constitution of the Trinity, the creation of the cosmos, the Incarnation of Christ, and in salvation understood as deification.      
  • Focuses on the ancient background of an important topic in modern Orthodox spirituality, the concept of divine energies and how created beings may participate in these
  • Provides a detailed survey of these theological concepts in the thought of Gregory of Nyssa, Dionysius the Areopagite, Maximus the Confessor, and Gregory Palamas
  • Clearly shows both the continuities and the discontinuities between pagan and Christian thought
  • Explains the relevance of late antique and Byzantine thinking for modern Orthodox theology

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Byzantium and Bulgaria

Studies on all things Byzantine continue to pour forth today in greater numbers than ever before. Along comes one such study by Panos Sophoulis, Byzantium and Bulgaria, 775-831 (East Central and Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 450-1450) (Brill, 2011), 481pp. + 13 ill. 
About this book the publisher tells us:

New Series on Orthodoxy in the 21st Century

The World Council of Churches has just announced the publication of a new series of books, "Doxa and Praxis: Exploring Orthodox Theology."

The first two publications will be released later this summer. The first is by the well-known Orthodox theologian Metropolitan Kallistos Ware and is titled Orthodox Theology in the Twenty-First Century. The second book is by the series editor, Pantelis Kalaitzidis, Orthodoxy and Political Theology.

The WCC has also recently published several books of interest to Eastern Christians, including the edited collection of essays, Just Peace: Orthodox Perspectives (WCC Publications, 2012).

About this book the publisher tells us:
Despite their largely pacifist origins, Christianity and Christian traditions can claim only limited success in their efforts to conciliate conflict, avoid violence, and stop war. The eminent contributors to this deeply reflective book believe it is time to look to the East, to the very different perspectives among Orthodox Christians, on issues of war and the justice that must undergird peace. From Europe and Russia, as well as the Middle East and Asia, two dozen Orthodox theologians and church people cast the classic dilemmas of war and peace, military service, just war, and religious nationalism into a deeper theological framework. The book examines: the historical characterizations of Orthodoxy in a variety of settings and nations (Greece, Oriental Christianity, Bulgaria, Armenia, Western Europe, etc.); dilemmas of nationalism for the churches; the Russian Orthodox Church and the military; the invasion of Iraq; globalization; fundamentalism; interreligious tensions; the ecclesial vocation of peacemaking.

Also just released in January of this year is another edited collection,  Building Bridges: Between the Orthodox and Evangelical Traditions (WCC Publications, 2012), 268pp.
About this book the publisher tells us:
In recent decades, Evangelicals and Orthodox Christians have encountered each other more widely than ever before. Relationships have often been difficult and dogged by misunderstanding. How can two Christian traditions, which seem so different, begin to understand each other and find common ground? Is it possible for Orthodox and Evangelical Christians to move from competition to co-operation and develop relationships marked by mutual respect? What are the key theological issues between them which need to be faced? And what might these two traditions be able to offer together to the whole church? Building Bridges presents papers, reports, and reflections from a remarkable series of seminars, bringing together representatives of these streams of Christianity. Held at Bossey, Switzerland, between 2000 and 2006, the seminars built on earlier consultations and brought together theologians and church leaders from a wide range of Evangelical and Orthodox churches. The topics explored include the nature of salvation, the role and place of Holy Scripture, the nature and purpose of the church, and what it means to be human. Building Bridges will be a stimulus to further dialogue between two traditions of considerable theological and demographic significance.
Finally, released last November is a third collection of essays, Many Women Were Also There: the Participation of Orthodox Women in the Ecumenical Movement (WCC Press, 2011), 244pp. About this book the publisher tells us:
In this book, the distinctive voices of Orthodox Christian women wrestle with the realities of their lives and contexts - but also of their faith - within the long and ambiguous legacy of the Christian tradition for women. Keenly aware of the insights and shortcomings of Orthodox Christianity, they reflect the historical, theological, and practical aspects of women's experience. Drawing especially from North America, Europe, and Greece, the book includes noted theologians and biblical scholars, as well as women in ministry, counseling, political science, and public service. Together they envision a future in which Christian life delivers on the promise of those early days when "many women were with him."

Theodoret of Cyrrhus

Happily today we are seeing an expanding interest in Christianity in Syria in the first millennium. A recent publication continues this development: Adam M. Schor, Theodoret's People: Social Networks and Religious Conflict in Late Roman Syria (Transformation of the Classical Heritage) (University of California Press, 2011), 360pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Theodoret's People sheds new light on religious clashes of the mid-fifth century regarding the nature (or natures) of Christ. Adam M. Schor focuses on Theodoret, bishop of Cyrrhus, his Syrian allies, and his opponents, led by Alexandrian bishops Cyril and Dioscorus. Although both sets of clerics adhered to the Nicene creed, their contrasting theological statements led to hostilities, violence, and the permanent fracturing of the Christian community. Schor closely examines council transcripts, correspondence, and other records of communication. Using social network theory, he argues that Theodoret's doctrinal coalition was actually a meaningful community, bound by symbolic words and traditions, riven with internal rivalries, and embedded in a wider world of elite friendship and patronage.
One of the world's leading scholars of Syriac Christianity, Susan Ashbrook Harvey of Brown University, says of this book:
Adam Schor has written a lively and incisive study of a notoriously difficult era. Mining the substantial (but greatly understudied) letter collections of the times, applying the insights of network theory, and boldly taking on the entire corpus of Theodoret's writings--an ambitious project in itself--Schor has produced strikingly fresh material throughout. With rich insight and rigorous attention to detail, Schor opens new vistas on the late antique landscape. Thought-provoking at every turn!

The Petrine Reign

Peter the Great continues to provoke attention from historians and scholars, including theologians who have recently been re-evaluating his rule and its impact on the Orthodox Church in the Russian Empire. Along comes a new book to deepen our understanding: Robert Collis, The Petrine Instauration: Religion, Esotericism and Science at the Court of Peter the Great, 1689-1725 (Brill, 2012), 633pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
The reign of Peter the Great (1672-1725) was marked by an unprecedented wave of reform in Russia. This book provides an innovative reappraisal of the Petrine Age, in which hitherto neglected aspects of the tsar’s transformation of his country are studied. More specifically, the reforms enacted by the tsar are assessed in light of the religious notion of instauration – a belief in the restoration of Adamic knowledge in the last age – and a historical and cultural analysis of the impact of Western esotericism at the Russian court. This book will be appeal to scholars of Russian history and religion, as well as being of wider interest to those studying Western esotericism in Early Modern and eighteenth-century Europe.

Monday, May 21, 2012

You Damned Fool!

Earlier I drew attention to a new book about holy fools in Russia. Holy Foolishness in Russia: New Perspectives.

I've had a chance to interview Svitlana Kobets about this book and here are her thoughts:
AD: Tell us a bit about your background, research interests, and other publications.

Both I and my colleague and co-editor of the present volume, Priscilla Hunt, have a shared background in Slavic and medieval studies and a long-standing research interest in the phenomenology of holy foolishness.

Ever since my graduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the phenomenology of holy foolishness and its versatile adaptations in Russian literature and culture have been in the focus of my research. My doctoral dissertation, entitled Genesis and Development of Holy Foolishness as a Textual Topos in Early Russian Literature (UIUC 2001), as well as my post-doctoral LMS thesis, The Prophetic Paradigms: the Fool for Christ and the Hebrew Prophet (PIMS 2009), place Russian foolishness in Christ within the context of medieval Russian literature, popular culture, and the socio-cultural history of Byzantium, Kievan Rus', and Russia.  As I continued my research, I compared (in several articles) the Russian holy fool with his counterparts from other cultures and discussed various aspects of the paradigm of holy foolishness in several other articles. Holy foolishness, the Middle Ages, and Christian ascetic traditions also provide the methodological edge for my literary critique and the venue for an exploration of contemporary literature. 

My recent article "Holy Foolishness and its Hellenistic Models: Serapion the Sindonine or Serapion the Cynic?" (forthcoming in a compilation Rewriting Holiness [KCLMS, UK]), explores the impact of the Cynical movement on the Christian hagiographic traditions about holy foolishness. My contribution to the present compilation discusses the clash and the reconciliation of historical and textual realities in the vita of the first Kievan—and later on Ukrainian and Russian—fool for Christ, Isaakii of the Kiev Caves Monastery. 

As for current projects, I am working on a monograph entitled The Holy Fool in Russian Literature and Culture, in which I explore cultural idiosyncrasies of Russian foolishness for Christ, its relationship to the Byzantine prototype, and its textual evolution in Russian religious and secular literature.

My colleague and co-editor, Priscilla Hunt, has a wide range of research interests (medieval Russian literature, theology, iconography) including the phenomenology of holy foolishness

Hunt’s innovative study of Ivan the Terrible’s holy foolery entitled, "Ivan IV’s Personal Mythology of Kingship," offers a versatile and most comprehensive treatment of the issue of Ivan’s orientation toward the behavioral paradigm of foolishness in Christ. Another subject of her research, Archpriest Avvakum, is an important cultural figure who extensively relied on the behavioral paradigm and theology of holy foolishness. In her scholarly work Hunt examines a variety of texts, including hagiography and iconography to understand how poetic structure embodies culturally specific models of the self, the state, history, and the world. She wrote widely on the autobiography and other writings of the Archpriest Avvakum in the 17th century; works from the age of Ivan IV and the ritualized behavior and writings of Ivan IV himself; Wisdom icons from the early 16th and 15th centuries as well as the Wisdom iconography of light as it evolved from the fifth to the fourteenth century to reflect the symbolism of a sphere of light in the works of Dionysius the Areopagite and the Neo-Platonic tradition. She is currently working on a monograph entitled Wisdom Builds her House: A Study in the Poetics of Russian Identity. In her contribution to this volume, an article entitled "The Fool and the King: The Vita of Andrew of Constantinople and Russian Urban Holy Foolishness," Hunt examines the holy fool’s show vis-à-vis a liturgical spectacle, involving the imperial ritual of the Elevation of the Cross, approaching the latter as the key to the former.

AD: Your book is entitled Holy Foolishness in Russia: New PerspectivesPerhaps you might start off by telling us just what is meant by "holy foolishness."

Iurodstvo o Khriste, or foolishness in Christ, is a peculiar form of Eastern Orthodox asceticism whose practitioners feign madness in order to provide the public with spiritual guidance but eschew praise for their saintliness. It has been noted on several occasions that iurodstvo is seminal for the understanding of Russian national self-perception, that implicitly and explicitly it provided material for the country’s aesthetic self-expression, and that it is momentous for Russia’s religious and philosophical worldview. While religious thinkers regard holy foolishness as a unique form of non-institutional asceticism, their secular counterparts perceive this phenomenon as a defining characteristic of the Russian religious tradition, the one which distinguishes it from the religious traditions of the West. 

Another seminal characteristic of the fool in Christ is that, as a liminal figure, in the cultural as well as the social sense the holy fool is simultaneously oriented towards sacred and profane values, norms, and models. Moreover, through his appearance, discourse, and behavior he simultaneously affirms and challenges the stability and the very reality of the existing social order and its values. In the figure of the holy fool the central antinomies of the old and medieval Russia (folk culture/Christian culture, blasphemy/piety, the individual/the public, the irrational/the rational) are brought together and dynamically reconciled. The claim that the whole of Russian culture, as well as the Russian people’s collective sense of self, had been markedly influenced by this phenomenon, has been advanced on several occasions.

AD: What led you to work on a book about holy fools?

This book is a collective effort of scholars who share interest in the phenomenon of Russian holy foolishness. Most of the articles found in this book were first presented as papers at thematic panels dedicated to different aspects of holy foolishness, which took place at a number of international conferences, including the Medieval Congress in Leeds, UK (2007), the International Congress of Slavists in Ohrid, Macedonia (2008), the annual meeting of the Association for Slavic, East European and Euroasian Studies (2009) and the Conference of the Canadian Association of Slavists, Ottawa (2009). These panel discussions not only brought together colleagues from different spheres of Slavic studies but also brought to the fore diverse and dynamic character of contemporary scholarship dedicated to holy foolishness. Our volume brings their interdisciplinary and innovative research to the broad reader.

AD: Your subtitle of course refers to "new perspectives." What is new in the study of holy fools today?

In the last two decades the subject of holy foolishness, its phenomenology and history as well as its adaptations in Russian literature and culture came to the scholarly focus with renewed intensity. Sergei Ivanov’s ground-breaking monograph Byzantine Holy Foolery [Vizantiiskoe iurodstvo] (1994) (expanded and translated edition Holy Fools in Byzantium and Beyond (Oxford Studies in Byzantium), became the first scholarly history of the phenomenon of Byzantine iurodstvo, making possible a more informed dialogue about its various cultural meanings. 

At the same time, there appeared works of literature and art that draw in a variety of ways on the phenomenology of holy foolishness. A number of dissertations, articles, and book-length studies on the subject followed. Studies of holy foolishness and its literary/artistic adaptations go hand in hand, delving into new aspects of the phenomenon and its different national endorsements by Russian and Ukrainian cultures. 

Our volume presents the most recent scholarship on the subject of holy foolishness. Pioneering in several respects, it offers the first and only English translation of the classic study of holy foolish phenomenology, “Laughter as Spectacle,” by A. M. Panchenko, who was the last century’s foremost Russian researcher of holy foolishness; new discussions of miniatures accompanying the text of St. Andrew’s vita; innovative explorations of hagiographical, historical, poetical, and liturgical aspects of writings about such seminal holy fools as Andrew of Constantinople, Isaakii of the Kiev Caves Monastery, and Kseniia of St. Petersburg; and new discussions of the adaptations of the holy fool’s phenomenology by modern and post-modern literature and culture. Further, it addresses foundational moments in the institutionalization of holy foolishness: the Church-calendar commemorations of holy fools inherited from Byzantium; the first Russian narrative describing holy foolishness as a form of asceticism; the first Russian holy foolish vita with verifiable facts about the protagonist’s life; the first Russian canonized female holy fool, Kseniia of St. Petersburg; and comprehensive treatments of holy foolery’s cultural significance for Leningrad underground poets, Soviet and post-Soviet performance art, and postmodern thinkers.

AD: Would you say that we have seen an evolution in the "type" of holy fool over the last several centuries? In other words, are there fools today, and are they different from historic fools like St. Isaak of the Kievan Caves, St. Basil the Fool, or St. Kseniia of St. Petersburg?

There are ‘yes’ and ‘no’ parts in the answer to this question. On the one hand the great variety of holy foolish types described in early Byzantine texts did not become outdated and accounts for the contemporary holy foolish types just as well. On the other hand, as a live phenomenon enduring in changing socio-historical circumstance, holy foolishness cannot but change and assume new forms, both in liturgical and artistic spheres.

When we talk about the types of holy fools, evolution of this cultural paradigm and the phenomenology of holy foolishness in general, we have to keep in mind that fools for Christ of late antiquity, of the medieval period, and even of early modern times are available to us only through their textualizations--mostly hagiographic portrayals. Hagiographies of such famous holy fools as St. Andrew, St. Isaak, St. Basil, and St. Kseniia are hardly dependable portrayals of historical individuals. As I argue in my article about St. Isaakii, the tale about this holy fool, at least in part, was based on factual materials, but foremost it is a textual construct. Isaakii’s hagiographer was most likely dealing with a case of real mental derangement rather than with an ascetic feat of feigned madness. However, he successfully dealt with this problem as he interpreted Isaakii’s bizarre personality and aberrant behaviors in terms of the intentional provocation of abuse and voluntary martyrdom of a holy fool. 

St. Basil (Vasilii) the Fool of Moscow can be found in the municipal records of the early sixteenth-century Moscow and there is evidence that Kseniia of St. Petersburg was a historical person as well. Although, just like in the case of Isaakii of Kievan Caves Monastery, 
there is no evidence that the latter two were iurodivye. At the same time, there are vitae, which reflect verifiable records of holy fools’ lives. Such is the vita of Simon of Iurievets, which Sergei Ivanov discusses in his article, "Simon of Iurievets and the Hagiography of Old Russian Holy Fools." Ivanov argues that the hagiographical account of Simon of Iurievets’ life was tailored by his contemporaries to fit the literary paradigm of holy foolishness.

Thus, we might as well be talking about two types of accounts of holy foolishness, one that is represented by hagiography and iconography and another one that bases itself on historical records and verifiable facts. These two overlap, diverge, and rely on each other. Both of them served as an inspiration for artistic creations, which represent yet another side of the story about Russian holy foolishness. Therefore, when we talk about the evolution of the “type” of the holy fool and the continuity of the tradition of holy foolishness, we need to account for hagiographic, historical, and literary aspects of the this tradition. All of them have their idiosyncrasies and all of them had an impact on the contemporary Russian scene. Ivanov’s article about Simon of Iur’evets, Shtyrkov’s article about Kseniia of St. Petersburg, and my article about Isaakii of the Kievan Caves Monastery all discuss interconnections between factual and literary components in these saints’ canonized images and their differences vis-à-vis their Byzantine models. Marco Sabbatini’s article offers an insight into the intricacies of the interactions of the tradition of Russian holy foolishness as a consciously adopted behavioral model. He explores its role as an inspiration for poetry as well as quest for liberty and protest in the Leningrad underground of the 1970s. Laura Piccolo discusses emulations of holy foolishness as well as its parody by contemporary Russian performance artists. These articles show that the holy fool endures in Russian culture both as an artistic derivation and a religious type. 

Since we are talking about the holy fools today, I would like to note that the iurodivy is presented seemingly only in hagiographies whereas in real life it is always a controversial, sordid, and even appalling figure, which does not make acceptance of his message easy for the onlookers. This year’s performance of the Russian punk feminist group Pussy Riot in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow is the most recent example of a holy foolish disturbance, an ugly yet called for spectacle. 

The show of the young women, who sang a prayer “Mother of God, chase away Putin,” thus protesting against Putin’s recent election to presidency, indeed brings to mind the audacity of the holy fool vis-à-vis the tyranny of those in power. Pussy Riot triggered an upsurge of heated discussions of holy foolishness and its relevance for today’s Russia. The fact that for their unorthodox performance the young women are facing criminal charges and up to seven years of imprisonment tells us the harsh truth about today’s Russia’s rejection of their iurodivye.

AD: After the collapse of the East-Roman or Byzantine Empire, the holy fool disappears among almost all Eastern Christians except for the Russians and Ukrainians. Why has this figure retained such a place among East-Slavs? Is there something unique about East-Slavic culture that seems to allow for the on-going place of fools that other cultures may have lost?

The intriguing question about reasons for Russia’s unique predilection for holy foolishness has been ever popular and hypotheses are many. The majority of them, however, are speculative. For example, an American scholar, Ewa Thompson, finds the explanation in Russian “national character.” A number of Russian and Western scholars are in agreement. Another hypothesis by a historian of Russian culture, George Fedotov, holds that the holy fool appeared on the Russian socio-historical arena to reinstate Russia’s spiritual balance, which had been severed after the decline of saintly princes. In my recent study of the role that the model of the Hebrew prophet played in the formation of the paradigm of holy foolishness, I trace the connection between these two cultural paradigms. I suggest that in Russia these two cults went hand in hand and that the former informed the latter. I believe that prominence of the Hebrew prophet in early Russian Christianity was an important contributing factor to the emergence and escalation of the cult of the iurodivyi. I also believe that there were a number of factors that brought about the holy fool’s prominence in Russian culture. At this time, however, there is no comprehensive study that would account for a variety of reasons for the holy fool’s importance to Russian culture and the question why Russians and no other Christian nation have had a canonical category of fools for Christ’s sake remains open.

AD: Are there major differences between Slavic fools (such as St. Basil, after whom the famous Kremlin cathedral is named) and their Byzantine predecessors --people like St. Andrew of Constantinople, or St. Simeon Salos?

Here again, we are talking about texts and hagiographic types rather than real individuals. One of the differences between the two traditions is the superior craftsmanship of Byzantine hagiographers. The explicit description of the holy fool’s folly is an important distinct feature of the Byzantine hagiography, which stands in sharp contrast to Russian iurodivy’s down-played foolery. Russian vitae almost never present the iurodivy as a blasphemer (St. Basil’s destruction of an icon is a rare exception) nor are there any colorful descriptions of the holy fool’s transgressions. Scenes with prostitutes comparable to those found in vitae of Simeon of Emesa or Andrew of Constantinople or instances of the fool’s defecation in the street are unthinkable in Russian vitae. Another distinct mark of the Russian tradition is that the holy fool’s madness often received an essentially new interpretation: it would be seen as real, yet would be invested with divine connotations. Hellenistic influences, which we discern in the Byzantine vitae are important and prominent whereas Russian hagiography of holy foolishness mostly drew on the Hebrew tradition.

AD: Some Orthodox theologians such as Kallistos Ware have suggested that fools blur the boundary between eccentricity and insanity, raising the question: are these people really mad or not? Ware suggests we do not need to be too concerned about psychoanalyzing fools so much as listening to their message. What are your thoughts on the use of modern psychology in trying to understand iurodstvo?  

Kallistos Ware points to the very core of holy foolishness. The iurodivyi is indeed a madman and a sage, a prophet and a pariah who always vacillates between sacred and profane realms. I believe that the attempts to psychoanalyze the holy fool would not bring us any closer to understanding of this phenomenon or its cultural role. Practitioners of psychoanalysis usually chastise Russia for its odd cult and condemn the holy fool as an aberration. For example, an American Slavist, Rancour-Laferriere, considers both the holy fool and by extension the Russian nation that worships him, practitioners of masochism. I think the scholar’s goal should be to explore, describe, discover rather than condemn. I totally agree with Ware that the holy fool’s insanity should not be of any concern to his audiences. The paradigm of holy foolishness dictates that the holy fool feigns madness and that the question is not whether he or she is really insane but how the onlookers react to his alleged madness. By presenting himself to the world as a feeble-minded, marginal individual, the holy fool exposes himself to society, to its cruelty or mercy. The holy fool’s hagiography and mythology posit that he is a sinner in the eyes of the sinners and a holy man in the eyes of the righteous ones, yet the drama of recognition plays itself out over and over again. The iurodivyi has always been—and remains today—the benchmark of the society’s mores and each individual’s personal ethos.

AD: Your introduction to this volume notes that fools were especially common in 15-16th centuries. What was it about that time that made fools so popular and prevalent? What was it that caused their revival, as you later note, in the 19th and early 20th centuries?

The 15th and especially 16th centuries yield the biggest number of holy fools’ canonizations and largely because of that are considered centuries of the climax of the holy fool’s popularity as Russia’s saint. I believe that there were several probable contributing factors. Among them is the popular recognition of the holy fool’s messianic role as a prophet. In the reign of Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584), which was the time of unrelieved tyranny and oppression, the holy fool’s audacity vis-à-vis the tyrant supposedly solicited him favor among common people. It is during the 16th century that the Russian mythology of the holy fool sees a new development and his hagiography gains a new topos: the holy fool starts being portrayed as the mouthpiece and protector of people. The canonization of St. Basil the Fool of Moscow became yet another contributing factor to the furthering of the holy fool’s popularity. 

In the end of the 16th century, the Russian Church pronounced St. Basil the Fool Russia’s national saint in order to support Russia’s claim to the status of an independent patriarchate in the Orthodox world. (I discuss this issue in my upcoming monograph The Holy Fool in Russian Culture.) In the nineteenth century, the revival of the cult of holy fools went hand in hand with such socio-cultural developments as Russia’s search for national identity and the revival of the Church. The same factors are at play today, in the twenty-first century. In the present volume, Swedish scholar Per-Arne Bodin addresses the question of the renewed popularity of the holy fool and holy foolishness in post-modern culture. I would also like to observe that in today’s Russia the phenomenon and behavioral model of holy foolishness remain as urgent as ever. An unfortunate yet telling trigger for the urgency of the solo protest staged by the holy fool proceeds from a number of characteristics that contemporary Russia shares with medieval Muscovy. Just like in the Middle Ages, there is today a deep gap between the government and the people—the corruption and self-serving position of the former and the subdued status and suppressed rights of the latter—that calls for the brash voice and intervention of the holy fool.

AD: Until the recent canonization of St. Kseniia of St. Petersburg, holy foolishness seems to have been the almost exclusive province of men. Do you have any thoughts on why that is?

It is true that St. Ksenia of St. Petersburg is the only Russian canonized female holy fool and that male holy fools figure much more prominently in Russian hagiography as well as in scholarly discussions. At the same time, the first portrayal of the holy fool, the anonymous nun in Palladius’ Lausaic History (nun by the name of Isidora in the rendition of Isaak Syrian) is that of a female. We also have historical evidence about female holy fools from the notes of foreign travelers (Massa, XVII c.), sketches of Russian ethnographers (Pryzhov, XIX c.), and accounts of contemporary church historians (Hieromonk Damaskin [Orlov], 1992), all of whom describe a number of female fools for Christ. One of the most famous nineteenth-century holy fools, Pelagiia Ivanovna Serebrennikova, spiritual daughter and follower of Serapion Sarovskii, awaits canonization. As we learn from her vita about hardships and hindrances, which she encountered on her way to holy foolishness, we come to appreciate how difficult it was (if not next to impossible) for a healthy, mentally normal woman of a child-bearing age (both before and after her marriage) to undertake the ascetic exploit of holy foolishness. Nonetheless, female holy fools have always been a part of the tradition of holy foolishness. If they are fewer in numbers and less noticeable than male iurodivye,  it was probably because they, just like the Desert Mothers, have always been in the shadow of their male counterparts. Nevertheless, the canonization of St. Kseniia of St. Petersburg in 1988 marked the importance of this cultural type for the post-Soviet era and the contemporary Russian world. 

AD: Much of your introduction very helpfully reviews the state of the literature about fools in various languages. Are we seeing a revival in scholarly study today of holy fools?

Yes, we are certainly seeing a revival of scholarly interest in the phenomenology, history and textual appropriations of holy foolishness, which is evident from the sheer volume of publications of primary and secondary texts on this topic. The articles included in the present volume are not only representative of a wide thematic scope and multi-disciplinary nature of contemporary approaches to holy foolishness but also provide commentary on its enduring urgency for today’s Russia.

AD: You conclude by noting that this new volume marks the "bicentenary of scholarship devoted to holy foolishness." What areas do you think still need further exploration today and in the years ahead?

Holy foolishness still has a lot in store for its researchers, both historians (including comparative, church, and art historians) and scholars of literature and culture. A major lacuna in the studies of holy foolishness lies on the junction of Byzantine and Russian traditions. It is yet to be explored through what venues and in what forms (languages, redactions) Byzantine texts relevant to the tradition of holy foolishness were transmitted to Eastern Slavdom. While researching texts, which were instrumental to the formation of the Russian tradition of holy foolishness, it will be also of great interest to see how the same texts had an impact on other Christian, especially Western European, cultures. Moreover, the venues of transmission to the Slavic world and Russia of the seminal for the tradition of holy foolishness text, The Vita of Simeon of Emesa, remains almost completely unknown. 

Overall, Slavonic and Russian translations of Simeon’s vita, their availability to and influences on the Russian tradition of holy foolishness remain unstudied. Illuminated vitae of holy fools have received very scarce attention--as did Russian iconography of fools for Christ. Our compilation features two pieces on the illuminations of the Vita of St. Andrew of Constantinople (Bubnov, Kobets). Other important yet virtually unstudied issues include holy foolishness in Ukraine; the holy fool’s place within the tradition of Russian Old Believers; ethnographic accounts of contemporary holy fools and the popular/folk dimension of the tradition of holy foolishness. Meanwhile, the protean figure of the holy fool and his diverse phenomenology continue to inspire artists of all genres, creating new layers of the contemporary culture imbued with familiar spirit yet always new imagery of holy foolery. In the light of this situation it will not be an exaggeration to say that studies of holy foolishness have a lot in store for scholars that will not be exhausted in the foreseeable future.
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