Thursday, January 8, 2009

Peter Brown, Festschriften

The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages - Essays on the contribution of Peter R. L. Brown, By James Howard-Johnston & Paul Antony Hayward (2000) ISBN 13: 978-0198269786

Reviewed by Michael Cahill, Journal of Early Christian Studies 9.1 (2001) 145-146:

The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages: Essays on the Contribution of Peter Brown

James Howard-Johnston and Paul Anthony Hayward, editors. The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages: Essays on the Contribution of Peter Brown. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Pp. x + 298. $74.00

This collection of essays is made up of five parts, with an introduction by James Howard-Johnston. Part I, entitled "The Cult of Saints in Peter Brown," contains two essays: "On Defining the Holy Man" by Averil Cameron, and "Ascetics as Mediators and as Teachers" by Philip Rousseau. Part II, entitled "The Cult of Saints in Eastern Christendom" has two essays: "'For Next to God, You Are My Salvation': Reflections on the Rise of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity" by Claudia Rapp, and "'What We Heard in the Lives of the Saints We Have Seen with Our Own Eyes': The Holy Man as Literary Text in Tenth-Century Constantinople" by Paul Magdalino. Part III, "The Cult of Saints in Western Christendom," comprises three essays: "Demystifying the Role of Sanctity in Western Christendom" by Paul Antony Hayward; "The Origins of the Carolingian Attempt to Regulate the Cult of Saints" by Paul Fouracre; and "The Missionary Life" by Ian N. Wood. Part IV, "The Cult of Saints in medieval Rus,'" has two essays: Holy Men and the Transformation of Political Space in Medieval Rus'" by Paul A. Hollinsworth, and "The Holy Man and Christianization from the Apocryphal Apostles to St. Stephen of Perm" by Richard M. Price. Part V, entitled "The Cult of Saints in Islam," has two essays: "Prophecy and Holy Men in Early Islam" by Chase Robinson, and "The Etiquette of Devotion in the Islamic Cult of Saints" by Josef W. Meri.

The subtitle is to be given full weight. The volume has its origin in a conference held at Oxford in summer 1996 to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of Peter Brown's seminal article, "The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity" (Journal of Roman Studies 61 [1971]: 80.1-1; repr. in Society and Holy in Late Antiquity [London, 1982]). Six of the contributors are former pupils and this explains and indeed pardons the faint hagiographical tone to be noted (ironically!) at times in the collection.

The editor explains that the spread of the essays is due to the attempt "to follow Peter Brown's example and to keep the screen wide," and "to demonstrate the vitality that he imparted to the study . . . of a formative transitional period in West Eurasian history" (5). The result is that the essays cover a wide spectrum of specialized disciplines. In each case familiarity with the current literature and debate is presumed as the argument is carried forward. The editors' introduction is particularly useful to the generalist, especially in that it also serves as a "conclusion" in which he succeeds in showing the horizontal connections [End Page 145] between essays. In particular one may note the helpful consideration of the similarities and dissimilarities between the Christian and Islamic "saints." In this the editor reflects well the perspicacious nuance that characterizes the two studies of saints in Islam that conclude this volume. It is easy when offering a critique to complain of what is not dealt with; yet, significant omissions must at least be mentioned. The pagan holy man and the Jewish holy man, though both alive and well in this "West Eurasian" world of late antiquity, get little attention. In this regard it appears that the disciples' concerns reflect accurately the contours of the master's perspective. The outreach to Islam was clearly sanctioned by Brown in his endorsement of Henri Pirenne in 1974: ". . . to have introduced Islam into a debate previously restricted to western Europe was a master stroke of integration, the brightest 'leap' of current of all between two hitherto separate poles" ("Mohammed and Charlemagne by Henri Perinne," as reprinted in Society and Holy in Late Antiquity, 68). Attention is given to the pagan world, but mainly from the point of view of the struggle between pagans and Christianizing missionaries.

There is a note on each contributor and a generous index. In its Festschrift aspect this book is an excellent testimony to the worth of Peter Brown's work.

Michael Cahill, Department of Theology, Duquesne University

Excerpts in GoogleBooks.

The Philosopher and Society in Late Antiquity: Essays in Honour of Peter Brown, Andrew Smith (Ed.) (2000), ISBN 095438458X
Papers originally given at a conference at University College Dublin 27-30 June 2001, held under the auspices of the Dublin Centre for the Study of the Platonic Tradition.

No comments: