The Theology Workshop is pleased to be co-sponsoring, with the Late Antiquity & Byzantium Workshop, a presentation by Aaron Hollander, PhD student in Theology. The paper is entitled “Paradox and Wonder: The Catastrophic Holiness of Saint Symeon the Fool,“ and will be submitted as the orals statement for Aaron’s qualifying examination in the Autumn.
Tuesday, May 28th * 4:30 – 6:00 pm * Cochrane-Woods Arts Center, Room 152
In the Life of Symeon the Fool, a saint’s life written in mid seventh-century Cyprus, the holy man appears anything but holy. While performing strange and occasionally violent miracles, he gorges himself on gas-inducing legumes, anoints the eyes of the sick with mustard, and drags around a dead dog on a leash. The citizens of Emesa, where he bumbles and offends for the bulk of the narrative, struggle to categorize the man as either a miracle-worker or a “crazy abba,” and they fail to do so. He is, in the author’s own terms, paradoxos—a living, iconic coincidence of incompatibilities. This presentation considers the hagiographical functions of paradox and humor though the lens of a classical theatrical concept, “catastrophe,” a sudden slip from one set of logical expectations to another. I argue that the comic text both represents catastrophe in the understanding of Symeon’s interlocutors and elicits catastrophe in the understanding of the Life’s readers. So doing, the Life of Symeon not only emblematizes the famous and diversely understood Byzantine “holy fool” tradition, but also elucidates the philosophical and theological stakes of hagiographical edification in a most unconventional fashion.
No advance preparation is expected of workshop participants. Refreshments will be served. Persons who require assistance should contact Jenna in advance at email@example.com.