In this bold interdisciplinary work, Geoffrey Galt Harpham argues that asceticism has played a major role in shaping Western ideas of the body, writing, ethics, and aesthetics. He suggests that we consider the ascetic as "the 'cultural' element in culture," and presents a close analysis of works by Athanasius, Augustine, Matthias, Grünewald, Nietzsche, Foucault, and other thinkers as proof of the extent of asceticism's resources. Harpham demonstrates the usefulness of his findings by deriving from asceticism a "discourse of resistance," a code of interpretation ultimately more generous and humane than those currently available to us.
During Russia's late imperial period, Orthodox churchmen, professionally trained theologians, and an array of social commentators sought to give meaning to Russian history and its supposed backwardness. Many found that meaning in asceticism. For some, ascetic religiosity prevented Russia from achieving its historical destiny. For others, it was the means by which the Russian people would realize the kingdom of God, thereby saving Holy Russia and the world from the satanic forces of the West.
Patrick Lally Michelson's intellectual history of asceticism in Russian Orthodox thought traces the development of these competing arguments from the early nineteenth century to the early months of World War I. He demonstrates that this discourse was an imaginative interpretation of lived Orthodoxy, primarily meant to satisfy the ideological needs of Russian thinkers and Orthodox intellectuals as they responded to the socioeconomic, political, and cultural challenges of modernity.
The essays in this provocative collection exemplify the innovations that have characterized the relatively new field of late ancient studies. Focused on civilizations clustered mainly around the Mediterranean and covering the period between roughly 100 and 700 CE, scholars in this field have brought history and cultural studies to bear on theology and religious studies. They have adopted the methods of the social sciences and humanities—particularly those of sociology, cultural anthropology, and literary criticism. By emphasizing cultural and social history and considerations of gender and sexuality, scholars of late antiquity have revealed the late ancient world as far more varied than had previously been imagined.
The contributors investigate three key concerns of late ancient studies: gender, asceticism, and historiography. They consider Macrina’s scar, Mary’s voice, and the harlot’s body as well as Augustine, Jovinian, Gregory of Nazianzus, Julian, and Ephrem the Syrian. Whether examining how animal bodies figured as a means for understanding human passion and sexuality in the monastic communities of Egypt and Palestine or meditating on the almost modern epistemological crisis faced by Theodoret in attempting to overcome the barriers between the self and the wider world, these essays highlight emerging theoretical and critical developments in the field.
Contributors. Daniel Boyarin, David Brakke, Virginia Burrus, Averil Cameron, Susanna Elm, James E. Goehring, Susan Ashbrook Harvey, David G. Hunter, Blake Leyerle, Dale B. Martin, Patricia Cox Miller, Philip Rousseau, Teresa M. Shaw, Maureen A. Tilley, Dennis E. Trout, Mark Vessey
In 1975, when political scientist Benedict Anderson reached Wat Phai Rong Wua, a massive temple complex in rural Thailand conceived by Buddhist monk Luang Phor Khom, he felt he had wandered into a demented Disneyland. One of the world’s most bizarre tourist attractions, Wat Phai Rong Wua was designed as a cautionary museum of sorts; its gruesome statues depict violent and torturous scenes that showcase what hell may be like. Over the next few decades, Anderson, who is best known for his work, Imagined Communities, found himself transfixed by this unusual amalgamation of objects, returning several times to see attractions like the largest metal-cast Buddha figure in the world and the Palace of a Hundred Spires. The concrete statuaries and perverse art in Luang Phor’s personal museum of hell included, “side by side, an upright human skeleton in a glass cabinet and a life-size replica of Michelangelo’s gigantic nude David, wearing fashionable red underpants from the top of which poked part of a swollen, un-Florentine penis,” alongside dozens of statues of evildoers being ferociously punished in their afterlife.
In The Fate of Rural Hell, Anderson unravels the intrigue of this strange setting, endeavoring to discover what compels so many Thai visitors to travel to this popular spectacle and what order, if any, inspired its creation. At the same time, he notes in Wat Phai Rong Wua the unexpected effects of the gradual advance of capitalism into the far reaches of rural Asia.
Both a one-of-a-kind travelogue and a penetrating look at the community that sustains it, The Fate of Rural Hell is sure to intrigue and inspire conversation as much as Wat Phai Rong Wua itself.
On Liturgical Asceticism
David W. Fagerberg Catholic University of America Press, 2013 Library of Congress BV5031.3.F34 2013 | Dewey Decimal 248.47
Drawing on the Eastern Orthodox tradition of asceticism and integrating it with recent Western thought on liturgy, David W. Fagerberg examines the interaction between the two and presents a powerful argument that asceticism is necessary for understanding liturgy as the foundation of theology
Gandhi, with his loincloth and walking stick, seems an unlikely advocate of postmodernism. But in Postmodern Gandhi, Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph portray him as just that in eight thought-provoking essays that aim to correct the common association of Gandhi with traditionalism.
Combining core sections of their influential book Gandhi: The Traditional Roots of Charisma with substantial new material, the Rudolphs reveal here that Gandhi was able to revitalize tradition while simultaneously breaking with some of its entrenched values and practices. Exploring his influence both in India and abroad, they tell the story of how in London the young activist was shaped by the antimodern “other West” of Ruskin, Tolstoy, and Thoreau and how, a generation later, a mature Gandhi’s thought and action challenged modernity’s hegemony. Moreover, the Rudolphs argue that Gandhi’s critique of modern civilization in his 1909 book Hind Swaraj was an opening salvo of the postmodern era and that his theory and practice of nonviolent collective action (satyagraha) articulate and exemplify a postmodern understanding of situational truth.
This radical interpretation of Gandhi's life will appeal to anyone who wants to understand Gandhi’s relevance in this century, as well as students and scholars of politics, history, charismatic leadership, and postcolonialism.
TheReligion of Existence reopens an old debate on an important question: What was existentialism?
At the heart of existentialism, Noreen Khawaja argues, is a story about secular thought experimenting with the traditions of European Christianity. This book explores how a distinctly Protestant asceticism formed the basis for the chief existentialist ideal, personal authenticity, which is reflected in approaches ranging from Kierkegaard’s religious theory of the self to Heidegger’s phenomenology of everyday life to Sartre’s global mission of atheistic humanism. Through these three philosophers, she argues, we observe how ascetic norms have shaped one of the twentieth century’s most powerful ways of thinking about identity and difference—the idea that the “true” self is not simply given but something that each of us is responsible for producing.
Engaging with many central figures in modern European thought, this book will appeal to philosophers and historians of European philosophy, scholars of modern Christianity, and those working on problems at the intersection of religion and modernity.
Although an ascetic ideal of leadership had both classical and biblical roots, it found particularly fertile soil in the monastic fervor of the fourth through sixth centuries. Church officials were increasingly recruited from monastic communities, and the monk-bishop became the dominant model of ecclesiastical leadership in the Eastern Roman Empire and Byzantium. In an interesting paradox, Andrea Sterk explains that "from the world-rejecting monasteries and desert hermitages of the east came many of the most powerful leaders in the church and civil society as a whole."
Sterk explores the social, political, intellectual, and theological grounding for this development. Focusing on four foundational figures--Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, and John Chrysostom--she traces the emergence of a new ideal of ecclesiastical leadership: the merging of ascetic and episcopal authority embodied in the monk-bishop. She also studies church histories, legislation, and popular ascetic and hagiographical literature to show how the ideal spread and why it eventually triumphed. The image of a monastic bishop became the convention in the Christian east.
Renouncing the World Yet Leading the Church brings new understanding of asceticism, leadership, and the church in late antiquity.
Table of Contents:
I. Basil of Caesarea and the Emergence of an Ideal 1. Monks and Bishops in the Christian East from 325 to 375 2. Asceticism and Leadership in the Thought of Basil of Caesarea 3. Reframing and Reforming the Episcopate: Basil's Direct Influence
II The Development of an Ideal 4. Gregory of Nyssa: On Basil, Moses, and Episcopal Office 5. Gregory of Nazianzus: Ascetic Life and Episcopal Office in Tension 6. John Chrysostom: The Model Monk-Bishop in Spite of Himself
III The Triumph of an Ideal 7. From Nuisances to Episcopal Ideals: Civil and Ecclesiastical Legislation 8. Normalizing the Model: The Fifth-Century Church Histories 9. The Broadening Appeal: Monastic and Hagiographical Literature
Epilogue: The Legacy of the Monk-Bishop in the Byzantine World
Historians of religion have examined at length the Protestant Reformation and the liberal idea of the self-governing individual that arose from it. In Spiritual Despots, J. Barton Scott reveals an unexamined piece of this story: how Protestant technologies of asceticism became entangled with Hindu spiritual practices to create an ideal of the “self-ruling subject” crucial to both nineteenth-century reform culture and early twentieth-century anticolonialism in India. Scott uses the quaint term “priestcraft” to track anticlerical polemics that vilified religious hierarchy, celebrated the individual, and endeavored to reform human subjects by freeing them from external religious influence. By drawing on English, Hindi, and Gujarati reformist writings, Scott provides a panoramic view of precisely how the specter of the crafty priest transformed religion and politics in India.
Through this alternative genealogy of the self-ruling subject, Spiritual Despots demonstrates that Hindu reform movements cannot be understood solely within the precolonial tradition, but rather need to be read alongside other movements of their period. The book’s focus moves fluidly between Britain and India—engaging thinkers such as James Mill, Keshub Chunder Sen, Max Weber, Karsandas Mulji, Helena Blavatsky, M. K. Gandhi, and others—to show how colonial Hinduism shaped major modern discourses about the self. Throughout, Scott sheds much-needed light how the rhetoric of priestcraft and practices of worldly asceticism played a crucial role in creating a new moral and political order for twentieth-century India and demonstrates the importance of viewing the emergence of secularism through the colonial encounter.
To Train His Soul in Books explores numerous aspects of this rich religious culture, extending previous lines of scholarly investigation and demonstrating the activity of Syriac-speaking scribes and translators busy assembling books for the training of biblical interpreters, ascetics, and learned clergy.