Monasticism in Late Antiquity

Academic Year: 
Course Description: 

This seminar introduces the „ascetic revolution” as one of the central religious, intellectual, social, and cultural movements of late antiquity. Asceticism, the „rise of the holy man,” and monastic foundations show the alternative social and spiritual teaching of Late Antique Christianity. How did this Christian counter-culture became mainstream from the fourth century up to our time? The seminar will examine the story of a 1700-hundred year success story, focusing on the novel perception of the body and the new social use of the body, alive and dead. The topics to be addressed in the seminar include the ascetic ideal, spiritual discipline, the cult of the saints and the cult of relics, hagiography as a new literary genre, heterotopies, monasticism and the church, memory and the construction of self and community.

Learning Outcomes: 

Familiarity with core texts and objects of late antique Christianity; new theoretical work on the body and space; monastic ideal and organization; sanctity and liturgy; ability to formulate research questions and develop arguments within the academic discipline of hagiography; understanding of the  relation between asceticism and monastic concepts of holiness.


Regular class attendance, oral presentation, a 4000-word end-of-term paper on a chosen topic.

Grading: class participation 30%, oral presentation in class 30%, endterm paper 40%.