History | Seminar in Ancient History
H705 | 3033 | Watts

A portion of the above section reserved for majors
Above section meets with HIST H780


From Biography to Hagiography: Virtue through Texts will look at the
presentation of virtue in biographic literature and the ways in
which the evolving religious and cultural attitudes of the later
Roman world changed the literary presentation of exemplary
individuals.  Students will handle a chronological range of
materials (in translation) that begin with third century texts and
end examples from the later fifth/early sixth century.  Although
each will work from the same basic organizational template, these
texts will emphasize a diverse set of characteristics in their
descriptions of ideal rhetoricians, philosophers, and Christian
ascetics.  Among the other themes the course will explore are: 1)
the sources used by ancient biographers (with particular attention
being paid to the role of oral materials in the texts); 2) the
nature of the individual in biographic literature (with emphasis
upon the question of how much change an ideal character is permitted
to undergo in various biographic traditions); and 3) the manner in
which external indications of virtue in one biographic tradition
(like the ability to speak freely to emperors or resolve local
disputes) impact other such traditions.

This course is by its nature interdisciplinary and is designed to
take advantage of the diverse skills of cultural historians,
classicists, medievalists, scholars of religion, scholars of
literature, and philosophers to produce a nuanced understanding of
these often underappreciated documents.  For this reason, all
interested graduate students are welcome and are encouraged to use
the course as an opportunity to examine themes related to their own
interests in a new historical or literary context.