"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).

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Worlds of Eastern Christianity

As I briefly mentioned before, Ashgate is about to start bringing out a fascinating new series to which close attention will be paid on here and in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies as each volume appears in the months and years ahead. That series is entitled "The Worlds of Eastern Christianity 300-1500." Under the editorship of Robert Hoyland of Oxford University and Arietta Papaconstantinou of the University of Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne) and research associate at Oxford's Oriental Institute, this series, the publisher says, is necessary because
Eastern Christian studies have traditionally been oriented towards text collection and edition, with a heavily theological approach. Scholarly production on the subject, though abundant, suffers from fragmentation and compartmentalization across disciplines, with a lamentable lack of integrated and comparative studies. This series aims to promote a more holistic and inter-disciplinary approach towards the history of the East Christian communities of the Byzantine, Iranian and Islamic worlds during the period 300-1500. It will have two parts: the first presenting each of the East Christian cultural and linguistic communities in turn; the second focusing on a number of themes that cut across usual cultural, confessional and linguistic divides.
Each volume will bring together the most influential articles on the given topic and will open with an introduction by a leading expert in the field who will discuss the key aspects and debates and try to frame new questions and directions for future research. It is intended that they will act as a stimulus for new research into Eastern Christianity and as such they will be essential reading for all students and academics of Late Antiquity, Byzantium, Islam and Western Christendom.
Ashgate's catalogue projects at least eleven volumes in this exciting series, focusing on such things as:
  • Eastern Monastic Culture
  • Doctrinal Debates in Eastern Christianity
  • Church-State Relations
  • Arabicization and Islamization from 600-1500
  • The Languages and Literatures of the following Eastern Christian Cultures:
    • Georgian
    • Coptic
    • Ethiopian
    • Greek
    • Armenian
    • West-Syriac
    • East-Syriac
As of this writing, we should see three of the above appear before the end of the year:

First, in October, we should see Averil Cameron and Robert Hoyland, eds., Doctrine and Debate in the East Christian World, 300-1500 (The Worlds of Eastern Christianity, 300-1500), 450pp.  About this book, the publisher tells us:
The reign of Constantine (306-37), the starting point for the series in which this volume appears, saw Christianity begin its journey from being just one of a number of competing cults to being the official religion of the Roman/Byzantine Empire. The involvement of emperors had the, perhaps inevitable, result of a preoccupation with producing, promoting and enforcing a single agreed version of the Christian creed. Under this pressure Christianity in the East fragmented into different sects, disagreeing over the nature of Christ, but also, in some measure, seeking to resist imperial interference and to elaborate Christianities more reflective of and sensitive to local concerns and cultures. 
This volume presents an introduction to, and a selection of the key studies on, the ways in which and means by which these Eastern Christianities debated with one another and with their competitors: pagans, Jews, Muslims and Latin Christians. It also includes the iconoclast controversy, which divided parts of the East Christian world in the seventh to ninth centuries, and devotes space both to the methodological tools that evolved in the process of debate and the promulgation of doctrine, and to the literary genres through which the debates were expressed.
In November, the books on Ethiopian and Georgian are set to appear. About the former the publisher says:
This volume brings together a set of contributions, many appearing in English for the first time, together with a new introduction, covering the history of the Ethiopian Christian civilization in its formative period (300-1500 AD). Rooted in the late antique kingdom of Aksum (present day Northern Ethiopia and Eritrea), and lying between Byzantium, Africa and the Near East, this civilization is presented in a series of case studies. At a time when philological and linguistic investigations are being challenged by new approaches in Ethiopian studies, this volume emphasizes the necessity of basic research, while avoiding the reduction of cultural questions to matters of fact and detail.
About the latter, on the Georgian tradition, the publisher says:
This volume brings together a set of key studies on the history and culture of Christian Georgia, along with a substantial new introduction. The opening section sets the regional context, in relation to the Byzantine empire in particular, while subsequent parts deal with the conversion and christianization of the country, the making of a "national" church and the development of a historical identity. 
Watch, as I say, for careful attention on each volume as it appears. Bravo to Ashgate for taking this on. 

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