"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, January 9, 2015

Living High Atop a Column

When he was younger, one of my sons was fascinated with the life of St. Symeon Stylite, the ascetic who apparently lived atop a pillar for part of his life. Symeon is just one of many ancient figures treated in a recently published collection edited by Carol Harrison, Caroline Humfress, and Isabella Sandwell: Being Christian in Late Antiquity: A Festschrift for Gillian Clark (Oxford UP, 2014), 320pp.

About this book, published in honor of the historian and patristics scholar Clark, the publisher tells us:
What do we mean when we talk about "being Christian" in Late Antiquity? This volume brings together sixteen world-leading scholars of ancient Judaism, Christianity, and Greco-Roman culture and society to explore this question, in honor of the ground-breaking scholarship of Professor Gillian Clark. After an introduction to the volume's dedicatee and themes by Averil Cameron, the papers in Section I, "Being Christian through Reading, Writing, and Hearing," analyze the roles that literary genre, writing, reading, hearing, and the literature of the past played in the formation of what it meant to be Christian. The essays in Section II move on to explore how late antique Christians sought to create, maintain, and represent Christian communities: communities that were both "textually created" and "enacted in living realities." Finally in Section III, "The Particularities of Being Christian," the contributions examine what it was to be Christian from a number of different ways of representing oneself, each of which raises questions about certain kinds of "particularities," for example, gender, location, education, and culture.

Bringing together primary source material from the early Imperial period up to the seventh century AD and covering both the Eastern and Western Empires, the papers in this volume demonstrate that what it meant to be Christian cannot simply be taken for granted. "Being Christian" was part of a continual process of construction and negotiation, as individuals and Christian communities alike sought to relate themselves to existing traditions, social structures, and identities, at the same time as questioning and critiquing the past(s) in their present.
The publisher also gives us this:

Table of Contents
Introduction: The Discourses of Gillian Clark., Averil Cameron
I: Being Christian through Reading, Writing and Hearing
1. Why Don't Jews Write Biography? Simon Goldhill
2. The Maccabaean Mother between Pagans, Jews and Christians., Tessa Rajak
3. On the Status of Books in Early Christianity., Guy Stroumsa
4. An Inextinguishable Memory: Pagan Past and Presence in Early Christian Writing., Joseph Lossl
5. Playing Ball: Augustine and Plutarch on Capturing Wisdom., Carol Harrison
II: Being Christian in Community
6. Fiunt, non nascuntur christiani: Conversion, Community and Christian Identity in Late Antiquity? Andrew Louth
7. Julian and the Christian Professors, Neil McLynn
8. The City of Augustine: On the Interpretation of Civitas, Catherine Conybeare
9. Christianity and Authority in Late Antiquity: The Transformation of the Concept of Auctoritas, Karla Pollmann
10. Church Councils and Local Authority: The Development of Gallic Libri Canonum during Late Antiquity, Ralph Mathisen
III: The Particularities of Being Christian.
11. The Empresses' tale, AD 300-360, Jill Harries
12. 'Being Female': Verse commemoration at the Coemeterium S. Agnetis (Via Nomentana), Dennis Trout
13. Self Portrait as a Landscape: Ausonius and his Herediolum, Oliver Nicholson
14. Fashions for Varro in Late Antiquity and Christian Ways with Books, Mark Vessey
15. The Image of a Christian Monk in Northern Syria: Symeon Stylites the Younger, Fergus Millar

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