Holy Fools in Literature and Culture, Part 1

5 Wednesdays

October 4-November 1 2016

1-3 pm


Can a saint be subversive? Why were Jewish prophets despised? Can folly be saintly? This course will approach these riddles through the analysis of a variety of texts ranging from the Old and New Testament books to hagiographies, literary works and philosophical treatises. Unorthodox sanctity, marginal spiritualities and especially holy foolishness, or foolishness for Christ`s sake—a peculiar form of Christian asceticism, prophetism and divination—will be at the focus of our attention. We will examine different types of holy foolishness in Early, Eastern and Western Christianity as well as its cultural analogues in other world traditions to establish their cultural bearings. Concepts under discussion will include orthodoxy and heresy, canon and deviance, as well as what Michel Foucault aptly called “the technologies of the Self.” Our focus will be on cultural developments and beliefs, which informed and eventually brought to prominence a mysterious and baffling phenomenon of Eastern Orthodox foolishness for Christ. Among the course readings will be accounts about holy fools and unconventional Christian saints from Byzantium (including Syria and Egypt) to Eastern Slavdom and Western Europe  as well as literary pieces and elaborations bridging Late Antiquity, Middle Ages and Modernity. Our authors will include Late Antique representatives such as Palladius, Evagrius, Nicephorus as well as XIX and XX-century writers such as Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Vasilenko and Venedikt Erofeev.


© 2019 by Svitlana Kobets. All rights reserved.