THE ASCETIC IMPERATIVE: FROM ANTIQUITY TO KIEV

Instructor: Svitlana Kobets, PhD

e-mail: svitlana@411.ca

Location: KMA, building #1, Room 227

Office Hours: Friday 2-4

 

 KMA SUMMER COURSE, May 3-June 15, 2006

 

COURSE DESCRIPTION

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 UkraineIn 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. 

 

COURSE OBJECTIVES


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%)

 

 

Class Performance:

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.

 

Attendance Policy:

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

 

SYLLABUS

 

CLASS 1

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)

 

Home Assignment:

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 svitlana@411.ca by 8 pm on Tuesday, May 9.

 

Additional materials:

  1. The full text of Marcus Aurelius Meditations http://classics.mit.edu/Antoninus/meditations.html
  2. Marcus Aurelius and his Meditations http://www.iep.utm.edu/m/marcus.htm

CLASS 2

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)

 

Home Assignment:

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 svitlana@411.ca by 8 pm on Monday, May 15.

 

Additional materials:

The Cynics http://www.iep.utm.edu/c/cynics.htm

 

CLASS 3

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)

 

Home Assignment:

1. Read the following texts and the Book of Jonah.

2. Be prepared to answer the following questions.

 

Additional materials:

  1. Asceticism in Judaism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asceticism
  2. On asceticism and Jewish tradition http://www.russianjews.org/philosophy/q22.asp

CLASS 4

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)

 

Home Assignment:

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 svitlana@411.ca by 8 pm on Monday, May 22.

 

Additional materials:

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

 

CLASS 5

TUESDAY, MAY 23, 8:30 AM -- 9:50 AM

9. The Egyptian Desert tradition. (discussion 1.5)

10. The Life of Antony (lecture 0.5)

 

Home Assignment:

1. Read the abridged version of Antony's Life. (pick up your copy of Antony's vita at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies on Tuesday, May 23, after the class)

2. Get prepared to answer the following questions. Send your answer to ONE of these questions along with your own questions, observations, comments to me via e-mail svitlana@411.ca by midnight on Tuesday, May 23.

 

Additional materials:

The full version of Antony's Life

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/vita-antony.html and

http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF2-04/Npnf2-04-38.htm#P3636_1501897

http://www.orthlib.ru/Athanasius/ant.html (in Russian)

 

CLASS 6

WEDNESDAY, MAY 24, 10:00 AM -- 11:20 AM

11-12. The Life of Antony (discussion 2.0)

 

Home Assignment:

1. Read the Life of St. Simeon Stylites by Theodoret, bishop of Cyrrhus (pick up your copy of Simeon's vita at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies )

2. Get prepared to answer the following questions. Send your answer to ONE of these questions along with your own questions, observations, comments to me via e-mail svitlana@411.ca by midnight on Monday, May 29.

 

Additional materials:

St. Simeon's Life by Evagrius

http://www.fordham.edu/HALSALL/source/evagrius-simeon.html

the Synaxarion version

http://www.saintbarbara.org/about/icons/symeon.cfm

The full version of St. Simeon's Life by Antonii  (Russian)

http://www.krotov.info/acts/05/2/simeon_stolp.htm

encyclopedia info

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simeon_Stylites

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13795a.htm

CLASS 7

TUESDAY, MAY 30, 8:30 AM -- 9:50 AM

13. The Life of Antony the Great. (discussion 1.0)

14.  The Syrian tradition: Simeon the Stylite (discussion 1.0)

 

Home assignment:

1. Read the Life of St. Serapion, the Life of Isidora, or The Nun who feigned Madness and the Life of Alexis the Man of God.

2. Read this addition to the Life of St. Serapion http://www.serbianorthodoxchurch.net/cgi-bin/saints.cgi?view=660246056174

3. Be prepared to discuss the following study questions.

 

CLASS 8

WEDNESDAY, MAY 31, 10:00 AM -- 11:20 AM

15. Unorthodox varieties of asceticism: feigned madness and wandering (lecture-discussion 0.5) The Nun who feigned Madness by Palladius (lecture-discussion 0.5)

16. St. Serapion by Palladius (discussion 1.0) and St. Alexis the Man of God (discussion 1.0)

 

SUNDAY, June 3, 2 pm

VISIT TO THE MUSEUM:

B & B Khanenko's Museum of Western and Eastern Art, 17 Tereschenkovskaya Street.

Guided tour. We will view and then discuss artistic representations of asceticism.

 

Additional materials:

The Temptation of St. Antony by Bosch.

CLASS 9

MONDAY, June 5, 6 pm-8:40    Room 325

17. Film Screening: Franco Zeffirelli’s “Brother Sun Sister Moon” (121 min)

18. St. Francis of Assisi in Franco Zeffirelli’s film “Brother Sun Sister Moon.” We will discuss the following questions to Zeffirelli's film. (discussion 40 min)

 

TUESDAY, JUNE 6, 8:30 AM -- 9:50 AM

There will be no class:

This class was rescheduled for Monday, June 5. See above.

 

Home Assignment:

1. Read Michel Foucault's article Technologies of the Self. (hard copies of this article are available at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies)

2. Get prepared to answer the following questions. E-mail me your discussion of one of these questions by June 7, 10:00 AM.

 

CLASS 10

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 7, 10:00 AM -- 11:20 AM

19. Michael Foucault, “Technologies of the Self” (discussion 1.0)

20. Ascetic tradition in Kievan Rus. Kiev-Cave Paterikon: The Life of St. Feodosii (lecture-discussion 1.0)

 

Home Assignment:

1. Read "The Life of St. Feodosii."

2. Get prepared to answer the following questions. Send your answer to one of these questions by Tuesday, June 13, 8:30 AM.

3. Read the first half of Shevchuk's novel "Eye of the Abyss."

4. Get prepared to answer the first five of the following questions.

 

Additional materials:

Kiev-Cave Paterikon (Ukrainian)

 

CLASS 11

TUESDAY, JUNE 13, 8:30 AM -- 9:50 AM

21. Kyiv-Cave Paterikon (discussion 1.0)

22. Asceticism and contemporary Ukrainian literature: Valerii Shevchuk, “Eye of the Abyss” (Oko Prirvy) (discussion 1.0)

 

Home Assignment:

1. Get prepared to answer the rest of the above questions to Shevchuk's "Eye of the Abyss."

2. Read the following article: Kallistos Ware, "The Way of Ascetics: Negative or Affirmative?"

3. Be ready to discuss 'affirmative' and 'negative' asceticism.

 

CLASS 12

MONDAY, JUNE 19, 10:00 AM -- 11:20 AM

ROOM 1-227 (This class was rescheduled from Wednesday, June 14)

23. Asceticism in contemporary Ukrainian literature: Valerii Shevchuk, “Eye of the Abyss” (Oko Prirvy) (discussion 1.5)

24. Asceticism: conclusions (discussion 0.5).

 

Additional materials:

English translation of "Eye of the Abyss" can be found here.

 

CLASS 13

MONDAY, JUNE 19, 11:30 PM -- 1:30 PM

25-26. Final Exam (Oral) Room 1-227

 
© 2017 by Svitlana Kobets. All right reserved.