“A Disciplined Mind in an Orderly World: mimesis in late antique ethical regimes ,” in Metapher - Narratio - Mimesis, ed. U. Volp, F. W. Horn, and R. Zimmermann, 235-256. WUNT: Mohr Siebeck, 2016.

“A Disciplined Mind in an Orderly World: mimesis in late antique ethical regimes ,” in Metapher - Narratio - Mimesis, ed. U. Volp, F. W. Horn, and R. Zimmermann, 235-256. WUNT: Mohr Siebeck, 2016.

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  ADisciplined Mind in an Orderly World Mimesis in Late Antique Ethical Regimes  Blossom Stefaniw Late ancient readers and writers functioned within diverse mimetic frames inherited from Plato and Aristotle and elaborated within the flourishing of Christian paideia in the late Roman Empire. From Plato to Christian paideia, from the time of the articulation of the cosmic order which allows for mimesis until that order bodied forth a thicket of new genres and rampant religious ima-ginings in the fifth century, one thousand years passed and whole empires rose and fell. It is no coincidence that the ancient literature on mimesis stretches over such a long and varied period, for throughout antiquity, discussion of  proper objects and modes of mimesis was a means of problematizing estab-lished social mores and motivating a new ethic, whether for all citizens or for the specially committed ethical athletes of the day. 1 Mimesis had a civic aspect from the start: Socrates’ program for the more intellectually disciplined citizen was to be achieved by redirecting emotional and mental engagement to less derivative forms of mimesis, and the bishops Athanasius . (ca. 296–373 CE) or Chrysostom . s(ca. 347–407 CE) exhortation to the Christian laity to fix their attention on only the best saintly exemplars was likewise meant to enable an ethically sound Christian  politeia . 2 In the span of time from Plato to Chrysos-tom, ethical thinkers also had to negotiate significant shifts in the terms of au-thority and the nature of the relation of empire to religion. Later Roman Chris-tians started to write profusely, to engage their cultural and intellectual patri-mony with a certain spiritual and political athleticism and, especially after the 1 Here I am thinking of individuals in the ancient world who made an extraordinary commitment to ethical self-development, whether through adherence to a philosophical life or conversion to asceticism. 2 See D.   B RAKKE ,Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism, Oxford 1995, 266: “From Athanasius .  perspective, the political function of asceticism was captured in his rhetoric of imitation of the saints: by likening themselves to virtuous persons of the past and present, Christians not only formed themselves into saints but also formed the Church as the em- bodiment of the Christian ?@ABCDEF .”  236    Blossom Stefaniw   reign of Julian (361–363 CE), to set their sights on full ideological hegemony. 3 In the midst of this profusion of ethical ingenuity, new subjectivities grew, including some wild digressions from the established masculinity of Aristotle . sand the Stoics . controlled and dominant citizen-soldier. 4 Those new subjectivi-ties required a new ethics, one which could be available not only to the philos-opher or intellectual, not only to the elite educated male. Ethics had to be en-cased in genres and media which could nourish all people and connect women, the poor, the marginalised and the otherwise unfree to a new religious dis-course. 5 Two strains of mimetic underbrush are discernible among Christians in late antiquity. Both bred mimesis with textuality, and thereby with the  body, the imagination, narrative, epistemology and emotion, so that it took root and flourished, making manifest how the new Christian subject might live in the agonistic and physicalized religious order of the late Roman empire. One strain located Christians as citizens of a new empire and fo-cused on the larger populace, making space for the passions and the body. The other strain of mimetic proliferation was more stringent, aimed pri-marily at exceptional religious athletes and ascetics, and requiring the erad-ication of the passions and extraordinary discipline of the body. These two ethics were compatible with each other and cross-bred, belonging to the same species but thriving at different temperatures, as it were. The potency of mimesis as an ethical standard lies in the volatile mix of its apparent banality and intuitive appeal when it is understood as a mere exhortation to imitate the example of moral leaders, and its real and fecund complexity when it is embedded in the created order and used as an argu-ment for sustaining both civic order in the world of governance and mental 3 On this transition in the relationship of Christians to the literary patrimoney, see V. L IMBERIS ,  K Religion . as the Cipher for Identity. The Cases of Emperor Julian, Libanius, and Gregory Nazianzus, HTR 93.4 (2000), 373–400. 4 Michel Foucault has studied the dominance and control, even over the body, that was expected of elite males in his work on the History of Sexuality: M. F OUCAULT ,The Histo-ry of Sexuality: an Introduction, The History of Sexuality I., trans by R. Hurley, New York 1978; I DEM ,The Use of Pleasure. The History of Sexuality II, trans. by R. Hurley, New York 1985; I DEM ,The Care of the Self, The History of Sexuality III, trans. by R. Hurley,  New York 1986. On the masculinity particular to elite males in late antiquity see S.R.   H OLMAN ,On Phoenix and Eunuchs: Sources for Meletius the Monk’s Anatomy of Gender, JECS 16.1 (2008), 79–101, and S. T OUGHER  ,Social Transformation, Gender Transfor-mation? The Court Eunuch, 300–900, in: L. Brubaker/J. Smith (eds.), Gender in the Early Medieval World. East and West, 300–900, Cambridge 2004, 70–82. 5 On ethics as subjectification, or the mode of relating the self to the discourse which defines what is true and what can be known, see M. F OUCAULT ,The Hermeneutics of the Subject. Lectures at the Collège de France 1981–1982, New York 2005; I DEM ,On the Governments of the Living. Lectures at the Collège de France 1979–1980, New York 2014.   Mimesis in Late Antique Regimes   237 order in the inner world of the individual. Mimesis is particularly fertile in the late ancient world because it engages the widespread assumption that living well, that is, attaining virtue and thus fulfilling one . sbrief as a hu-man subject, is a matter of achieving closer and closer approximation to an ideal by means of persistent discipline and self-correction relative to an established model. 6 For purposes of the present essay, I will deliberately neglect the pedestri-an notion of mimesis as imitation of a moral exemplar, a notion readily comprehensible to modern readers and not really specific to the late antique world. Instead, I will pursue mimetic ethics where it appears most counter-intuitive and most particular to the religious and intellectual culture of the late Roman empire, namely where it is manifest as a means of binding indi-viduals and institutions to the created order, where it is mobilised as a means of directing and ordering proper civic passions and right orders of knowledge, and where it appears to be a driving force in the thriving textuality of early Christianity. The pedestrian notion of mimetic ethics as imitation of the example of a spiritual master cannot be entirely ignored, for in late antiquity the spiritual expert is the linchpin of the created order and the means of redemption for the people, but it will not occupy us beyond the requirements of due diligence. 7 Another limit to the present study can be set in the corpus of literature to be examined; a complete survey of one thousand years of ethical thought is impossible. Instead, I will focus on a handful of authors connected more or less closely to asceticism and philos-ophy, with a view to illustrating the particular and distinct uses of mimesis  just mentioned, while making no claim to completeness nor any attempt at the identification of larger shifts from one epoch to another. I will first assess the conceptual patrimony which came down to Christian authors through Plato, Aristotle, and Paul, and then address how ethics were gene-   6 For exemplars in early Christianity, see P. B ROWN ,The Saint as Exemplar in Late An-tiquity, Representations 2 (1983), 1–25; G. S TROUMSA ,Caro salutis cardo. Shaping the Person in Early Christian Thought, HR 30 (1990), 25–50; G. F RANK  ,The Memory of the Eyes: Pilgrims to Living Saints in Christian Late Antiquity, Berkeley 2000. 7 The role of bishops and of political leaders in this capacity will be discussed below on the basis of the study of S. E LM ,Sons of Hellenism, Fathers of the Church. Gregory of  Nazianzus, Emperor Julian, and the Christianization of the Late Roman Elites, Berkeley 2012; For master-disciple relationships see R. N AIWELD  in this volume, and I DEM ,Les Antiphilosophes. Pratiques de soi et rapport à la loi dans la littérature rabbinique classique, Paris 2011; B. R  ENGER   (ed.), Meister und Schüler in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Von Religionen der Antike bis zur modernen Esoterik, Göttingen 2012; E ADEM ,The Allure of the ‘Master’. Critical Assessments of a Term and Narrative, Diskus. The Journal of the British Association for the Study of Religions 14 (2013), 95–125; E ADEM ,Abschied eines Schülers vom Meister. Der sog. panegyricus Gregors des Wundertäters auf Origenes: A[\@]   ^F_B`Ca_B@]  – A[\@]   ?_@`bcdeCBf[]  – A[\@]   `gdCFfCBf[] ,Ph. 156.1 (2012), 34–53.  238    Blossom Stefaniw   rated by anchoring mimesis in the created order, civic passions, and textuality in turn, drawing on a variety of authors from the eastern empire from the third to the fifth century. 1. Mimesis in the Notional Patrimony: Plato, Aristotle, and Paul Of Plato . sdiverse uses of the term mimesis, two are of particular import for our purposes: 8 the first is that exemplified by the discussion of education in Republic 394e–397b: mimesis is learning by imitating good examples of right conduct. 9 Examples of right conduct are good when they correlate with the true nature of the virtues, that is, Justice itself, Courage itself, etc. Young  people should be supplied with appropriate objects of imitation in the form of  persons, whether literary or real, who manifest knowledge of the virtues in their comportment. Myths and poetry, which are emotionally gratifying, but which do not serve as appropriate models of virtuous behavior, should be withheld from the young citizen-soldier in training, for whom Plato’s educa-tional program is designed. 10  This literary puritanism is motivated in part by the larger program of cultivating mental discipline with a view to freeing the intellect to gain access to intelligible realities, a program which Plato shares with later educated ascetics like Origen (ca. 185–256 CE), Antony (ca. 251–    8 Eric Havelock, in reference to the use of the term in Plato, says that mimesis is “the most baffling of all words in his philosophical vocabulary” (E.A. H AVELOCK  ,Preface to Plato, New York 1963, 20). 9 See Plato, Republic 395b–d for one of several varying definitions of mimesis: “If, then, we are to maintain our srcinal principle, that our guardians, released from all other crafts, [395c] are to be expert craftsmen of civic liberty, and pursue nothing else that does not conduce to this, it would not be fitting for these to do nor yet to imitate anything else. But if they imitate they should from childhood up imitate what is appropriate to them – men, that is, who are brave, sober, pious, free and all things of that kind; but things unbe-coming the free man they should neither do nor be clever at imitating, nor yet any other shameful thing, lest from the imitation [395d] they imbibe the reality.” Dj   k_F   Cld   ?_mC@d   A[\@d   nBF`o`@ µ Dd ,  C@q]   brAFfF]   s µ  td   Cmd   kAAcd   ?F`md   ne µ B@g_\Bmd   ubDB µ vd@g]   nDtd   DwdFB  [395c] ne µ B@g_\@q]   xADgyD_zF]   C{]   ?[ADc]   ?|dg   uf_B}Dt]   fF~  µ en•d   kAA@   x?BCenDrDBd   €CB  µ  Dj]   C@‚C@   bv_DB ,  @ƒn•d   n   nv@B   „d   FƒC@q]   kAA@   ?_|CCDBd   @ƒn•  µ B µ Dt`yFB : x…d   n•  µ B µ mdCFB ,µ B µ Dt`yFB   C…   C@rC@B]   ?_@`af@dCF   Dƒyq]   xf    ?Fzncd ,  udn_Dz@g] ,  `ob_@dF] , †`z@g] ,  xADgyv_@g] ,  fF~   C…   C@BF‚CF   ?|dCF ,  C…   n•   udDADryD_F  µ aCD   ?@BDtd  µ aCD   nDBd@q]   DwdFB  µ B µ a`F`yFB ,µ en•   kAA@  µ en•d   Cmd   Fj`^_md ,  ‡dF  µ  xf    C{]  µ B µ a`Dc]   C@‚   DwdFB  [395d] u?@AFr`c`Bd . 10  Cf. discussion in E.V. H ASKINS ,Mimesis Between Poetics and Rhetoric: Perfor-mance Culture and Civic Education in Plato, Isocrates, and Aristotle, Rhetoric Society Quarterly 30.3 (2000), 9.   Mimesis in Late Antique Regimes   239 356 CE) and Evagrius (345–399 CE). 11  Careful exclusion of frivolous litera-ture and avoidance of emotional provocation is also key to Plato because he wants education to serve an optimized and stable social order: emotional response to diverse literary figures would lead to confusion about the individ-ual . sproper role in the  polis . 12 Plato . splea for optimised imitation of the ideal models of the virtues is neither surprising nor unfamiliar; the person should modify her actions and dispositions such that they align with the Ideas as accurately as possible. Good action follows naturally from attaining correct knowledge of the Good. Since Plato is so confident that there is no gap between knowing what is right and doing what is right, pedagogy and epistemology take on key ethical roles. Given his belief that better imitation results from better knowledge, compe-tent mimesis naturally requires good pedagogy. 13  The mental capacity for knowledge of the realm of the forms is to be cultivated through education, where education is taken especially in the sense of discipline or askesis  of the appetites and emotions. 14  In addition, people need good copies to observe and study, so that they draw viable conclusions about the paradigms: “[…] the goal of an imitation is to be similar to its srcinal and not to be pleasant as many think […] the imitation, in virtue of its similarity to its model, permits us to learn from it about the model itself.” 15  People should be taught to direct their mimetic efforts towards the least derivative manifestation of any given 11  Compare this teaching from the letters of Antony: “The mind also starts to discrimi-nate between them and begins to learn from the Spirit how to purify the body and the soul through repentance. The mind is taught by the Spirit and guides us in the actions of the  body and soul, purifying both of them, separating the fruits of the flesh from what is natu-ral to the body, in which they were mingled, and through which the transgression came to  be, and leads each member of the body back to its srcinal condition, free from everything alien that belongs to the spirit of the enemy.” Letter I,27–31 (transl. from S. R  UBENSON ,The letters of St. Antony. Monasticism and the Making of a Saint, Minneapolis 1995, 199); For an example of the same notion in Evagrius, see his Kephalaia Gnostica, 5.2; 5.31; 5.34: “The intelligible sword is the spiritual saying that separates the body from the soul, or the vice and the ignorance. […] The intelligible shield is practical knowledge that guards unharmed the passible part of the soul. […] The intelligible helmet is spiritual knowledge that guards unharmed the intelligent part of the soul.” (Translation from L. D YSINGER  ,Psalmody and Prayer in the Writings of Evagrius Ponticus, Oxford 2005). 12   H ASKINS ,Mimesis (s. note 10), 13, discusses this in connection with Republic   386c– 389d. 13   Republic 300e. 14  For discussion of how to interpret this ethical stance toward embodiment, see J. D ILLON ,Rejecting the Body, Refining the Body. Some Remarks on the Development of Platonist Asceticism, in:, V. Wimbush/R. Valantasis (eds.), Asceticism, New York 1995. 15  Plato, Laws 668a–b (L. G OLDEN ,Mimesis and Katharsis, CP 64.3, 1969, 145–153, 150) (Also in 798d–e Laws). I BID ., 153: “[…] that for both Plato and Aristotle mimesis is a learning process which reaches its natural climax in katharsis ,astate of intellectual clarifi-cation.”
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