Instructor: Svitlana Kobets, PhD
Location: KMA, building #1, Room 227
Office Hours: Friday 2-4
KMA SUMMER COURSE, May 3-June 15, 2006
Who is an ascetic? Is asceticism a universal phenomenon? Was Antony of Egypt indeed the first Christian ascetic? Is asceticism a must or a mistake? Do the Old and New Testament texts supply us with ascetic models? Was Jesus an ascetic? This course will address these questions. It will survey the history and phenomenology of several ascetic traditions through the masterpieces of Antiquity, Byzantium, Kievan Rus and Ukraine. In the beginning we will explore the ascetic legacy of the classical (Epictetus, Diogenes, Marcus Aurelius) and Hebrew worlds. This combined legacy will bring us to the discussion of asceticism in the New Testament and early Christian texts. Within this discussion we will consider a variety of texts (the Old and New Testaments, lives of saints, scholarly articles, fictional literature) which will demonstrate different approaches to asceticism as well as the diversity within the ascetic movement (hermits, monks, pillar saints, fools for Christ). Our discussion of the Western Christian asceticism will be centered around the figure of a far-famed Western ascetic, St. Francis of Assisi. The discussion of the selections from the Kiev-Cave Paterik will show us the continuity between the spiritual and literary traditions of Byzantium and Kievan Rus. Finally, the discussion of ascetic themes and imagery in Valerii Shevchuk’s novel "Eye of the Abyss" (Oko Prirvy) will bridge the ancient, medieval and contemporary expressions of the ascetic imperative. Among the themes important to this course will be the origins and meanings of asceticism, its cultural representations, its social and political meanings, and universal themes pertaining to asceticism.
By the end of this course you should expect to have
-become acquainted with the concept and phenomenologies of asceticism in several Christian and non-Christian cultural traditions;
-thought deeply about the social, historical, and cultural bearings of Christian ascetic movement;
-thought deeply about such issues as the ascetic ideal, sanctity, heresy and marginality;
-critically assessed and analyzed a number of textual representations of ascetic phenomenology and spirituality.
COURSE REQUIREMENTS AND GRADING
Your final grade will consist of the following elements:
Short written assignments (15%)
Seminar participation (45%)
Final Exam (Oral) (40%)
As a preparation for each class you are expected to (1) attentively read all the assigned texts, (2) formulate your own questions and thoughts about these texts, (3) contemplate and prepare to answer the assigned questions. These answers as well as your questions and thoughts (3-8 sentences) will be e-mailed to the instructor by 8 pm the day before the class. Late submissions will not be accepted. Your short answers will prepare you for our class dicussions and will be frequently used to initiate those. This class is for the most part a seminar (there will be several lectures though), and its value to you will directly correspond to your level of active involvement in class discussions.
Please be sure to bring a letter of excuse for official or excused absences (illness, religious holidays, family emergencies). After three unexcused absences, your course grade may be lowered by 15% (e.g., 90% to 75%, 70% to 55%, etc.) Five or more unexcused absences may result in the lowering of your grade by 20% (e.g., 100% to 80%, 80% to 60%, etc). Your presence and participation are crucial to the success of this course!
LANGUAGE: English. Several texts will be available in Ukrainian yet all the discussions will be conducted in English.
RECOMMENDED PREPARATION: Advanced knowledge of English.
STRUCTURE: lecture-discussion combination
TIME: 26 hours
REQUIRED TEXTS: all the required texts will be available online or as handouts.
Bibliography and Web Resources
WEDNESDAY, MAY 3, 11:40 AM -- 13 PM
1. Introduction to the course. (0.5)
2. Asceticism in Ancient Greece and Rome: the Stoic tradition and Marcus Aurelius. (lecture-discussion 1.5)
1. Read the excerpts from THE MEDITATIONS by Marcus Aurelius.
2. Be prepared to answer the following questions.
3. Answer at least one of the above questions in writing. Send your answer along with your own questions and thoughts to me via e-mail email@example.com by 8 pm on Tuesday, May 9.
- The full text of Marcus Aurelius Meditations http://classics.mit.edu/Antoninus/meditations.html
- Marcus Aurelius and his Meditations http://www.iep.utm.edu/m/marcus.htm
WEDNESDAY, MAY 10, 11:40 AM -- 13 PM
3-4. Asceticism in Ancient Greece and Rome: Marcus Aurelius and the Stoic tradition. (discussion 2.0)
1. Read the biography of Diogenes of Sinope.
2. Get prepared to answer the following questions.
3. Answer at least one of the above questions in writing. Send your answer along with your own questions and thoughts to me via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org by 8 pm on Monday, May 15.
The Cynics http://www.iep.utm.edu/c/cynics.htm
TUESDAY, MAY 16, 8:30 AM -- 9:50 AM
5. Asceticism in Ancient Greece and Rome: the Cynics. (discussion 1.5)
6. Can we talk about asceticism in the Old Testament tradition? The Hebrew Prophet. (lecture 0.5)
1. Read the following texts and the Book of Jonah.
2. Be prepared to answer the following questions.
- Asceticism in Judaism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asceticism
- On asceticism and Jewish tradition http://www.russianjews.org/philosophy/q22.asp
WEDNESDAY, MAY 17, 10:00 AM -- 11:20 AM
7. The Hebrew prophet (discussion 1.5)
8. The Egyptian Desert tradition: Introduction (lecture 0.5)
1. Read the following texts. (pick up a hard copy of these text at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies on Friday, May 19 after 2 pm)
2. Which of these texts do you find the most interesting? Explain why. Send your answer along with your own questions and thoughts to me via e-mail email@example.com by 8 pm on Monday, May 22.
Why should we read the Desert Fathers? by Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov
The Desert Fathers http://hometown.aol.com/fatherpius/desert.html
The Desert Fathers: additional texts