HIST-330 Monks, Nuns, Hermits
Spring for 2008-2009
This seminar will attempt to explain why certain members of the Christian church have chosen to reject the traditional path of marriage and family in favor of a counter-cultural lifestyle of celibacy and (usually) poverty. It will deal with the origins of Christian monasticism in the third century and trace its development down to the advent of the friars in the thirteenth. What did the men and women who withdrew into the eastern deserts hope to accomplish by withdrawing from society? How was the monastic impulse transformed by its encounter with new political and social circumstances in western Europe? What accounts for the tremendous variety of monastic orders, and how do hermits fit into the monastic movement? To explore these questions, we will read some modern historians, but we will rely heavily on primary sources, especially saints’ lives and monastic rules, in an effort to understand how monasticism influenced, and was influenced by, the major historical currents of this crucial millennium in European history.
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