00555 - Ancient Christian Literature

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2019/2020

Learning outcomes

The course leads the student to know ancient Christian Literature in its historical development, and in its connection with jewish and graeco-roman tradition and with literary genres. The student will learn how to read and analyze ancient Christian texts.

Course contents

Forms, characters and historical development of the literature on martyrdom.
The course aims at offering an image of Christian literature concerning the theme of martyrdom between I and III century. A.D. in the variety of its genres and subgenres, emphasizing the importance of the identity factor underlying this literary and theological phenomenon in the context of nascent Christianity.
- The first module (Module 2; 30 hours) will be dedicated to the literary premises of the martyrs' acts and passions in Hellenistic Jewish production (but not only: see the so-called 'acts of the pagan martyrs') and in some canonical texts (Gospels; Acts of the Apostles, Paul, Apocalypse of John). We will pass on to the reading of the Martyrdom of Polycarp, of the so-called Acts of the martyrs of Lyons and Vienne and, finally, of some texts of the end of the II century, central to the understanding of the intra-Christian debate on the value and meaning of martyrdom as such (Irenaeus of Lyons; Clement of Alexandria; Truthful Testimony; Montanist Oracles).
The second module (Module 1, 30 hours) will be dedicated to some Acts of the martyrs of the centuries II-III and to Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis.

 

Readings/Bibliography

1) Texts:

(anthology of texts on martyrdom, from which will be chosen the text concerning both units):

– A.A.R. Bastiaensen (a c. di), Atti e passioni dei martiri, Milano, Mondadori 1987

2) Studies (part common to both units):

a) (Handbook of Early Christian Literature):

– M. Simonetti-E. Prinzivalli, Letteratura Cristiana Antica, EDB, Bologna 2010 (solo le pp.: 11-54; 79-100; 103-224; 502-519; 531-556.

b) (General introduction to the writings on martyrdom):

– A.A.R. Bastiaensen, Introduzione, in Id. (a c. di), Atti e passioni dei martiri, Milano, Mondadori 1987, pp. I-XL.

– A. Monaci Castagno, L’agiografia cristiana antica. Testi, contesti, pubblico, Morcelliana, Brescia 2010, pp. 1-92;

3) Essays by choice (4 = 2 units, or 2 = 1 unit) for the students who cannot attend lessons:

  • A.R. Birley, voluntary Martyrs in the Early Church: Heroes or Heretics?, in Il martirio volontario, Una storia condivisa nell’ebraismo, nel cristianesimo e nell’islam, “Cristianesimo nella Storia” 27 (2006) 99-128;
  • A. Falcetta, From Jesus to Polycarp: Reflections on the Origins of Christian Martyrdom, in Il martirio volontario, Una storia condivisa nell’ebraismo, nel cristianesimo e nell’islam, “Cristianesimo nella Storia” 27 (2006) 67-98;
  • C. Straw, «A Very Special Death». Christian Martyrdom in its Classical Context, in: M. Cormack (ed.), Sacrificing the Self: Perspectives on Martyrdom and Religion, Oxford-New York 2002, pp. 39-57.
  • G. Lanata, Gli Atti dei martiri come documenti processuali, Milano 1973, pp. 1-20;
  • J.W. van Henten – A. Wénin, Martirio e morte nobile nel giudaismo e nelle fonti dell’antico ebraismo ellenistico, in in Il martirio volontario, Una storia condivisa nell’ebraismo, nel cristianesimo e nell’islam, “Cristianesimo nella Storia” 27 (2006) 31-66;
  • E. Zocca, Il modello dei sette fratelli ‘maccabei’ nella più antica agiografia latina, in “Sanctorum” 4 (2007) 101-127;
  • E. Zocca, Modelli – Martirio – Santità: un rapporto multidirezionale, Adamantius 14 (2008) 378-394

Teaching methods

Lectures; use of bibliographic and electronic databases.

Assessment methods

Oral examination. Students can attend both modules (12 cfu), or only one module by choice (6 cfu). During the test the students will have to:

a) demonstrate that they have fully read the proposed texts;

b) know how to identify the main protagonists and characters of the literature on martyrdom of I-III centuries in its historical development and in the variety of its literary forms;

c) be able to describe the main lines of the development of ancient Christian literature in the first centuries.

Students can frequent both modules (12 cfu), or only one module (6 cfu) at their choice.

– 1st module (30 hours, 6 cfu);

for students who frequent the lessons:

- the handbook (see over, Studi, point [a]);

- one of the two general introductions (see Studi, point [b]);

- the texts commented and the teaching notes;

- integral reading of the Martyrdom of Polycarp (in: A.A.R. Bastiaensen [a c. di], Atti e passioni dei martiri, Milano, Mondadori 1987, pp. 3-31) and of the Acts of the martyrs of Lyon and Vienne (ivi, pp. 59-95); 

– 2nd module (30 hours, 6 cfu);

for students who frequent the lessons:

- the handbook (see above, Studi, point [a]);

- one of the two general introductions (see above, Studi, point [b])

- the texts commented and the teaching notes;

- integral reading of the Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis (in: A.A.R. Bastiaensen [a c. di], Atti e passioni dei martiri, Milano, Mondadori 1987, pp. 107-147), the Acts of Justin (ivi, pp. 47-57), the Acts of Pionius  (ivi, pp. 149-191) and the Acts of Cyprian (ivi, pp. 193-231);

For students who cannot attend lessons the program will be the same as for students who attend lessons; they will substitute lesson notes with two essays at choice (one module, 6 cfu), or with four essays at choice (two modules, 12 cfu), from the list given above Bibliography, point 3 (to be uploaded in the teaching materials):

Teaching tools

Projector; PC.

Office hours

See the website of Antonio Cacciari

See the website of Daniele Tripaldi