"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).

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Coptic Culture and Knowledge

I finished a discussion with my students just two short weeks ago now looking at Coptic-Muslim relations in Egypt, and allowed myself a very cautious expression of hope that perhaps under President el-Sisi we were seeing long-overdue signs of improvement in treatment of the Coptic Church in Egypt--that was before the attack on the cathedral in Cairo this Sunday. Copts, as I stressed in class, have been in it for the long haul, and know, more than just about anybody else, the costs of living long-term under Islam. Theirs is a venerable culture with an extensive and impressive history, some of it told in this new book, Studies in Coptic Culture: Transmission and Interaction, Mariam Ayad, ed. (American University of Cairo Press, 2016), 288pp.

About this book we are told:
Coptic contributions to the formative theological debates of Christianity have long been recognized. Less well known are other, equally valuable, Coptic contributions to the transmission and preservation of technical and scientific knowledge, and a full understanding of how Egypt's Copts survived and interacted with the country's majority population over the centuries. Studies in Coptic Culture attempts to examine these issues from divergent perspectives.
Through the careful examination of select case studies that range in date from the earliest phases of Coptic culture to the present day, twelve international scholars address issues of cultural transmission, cross-cultural perception, representation, and inter-faith interaction. Their approaches are as varied as their individual disciplines, covering literary criticism, textual studies, and comparative literature as well as art historical, archaeo-botanical, and historical research methods. The divergent perspectives and methods presented in this volume will provide a fuller picture of what it meant to be Coptic in centuries past and prompt further research and scholarship into these subjects.

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