Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Book review: Moines et communautés monastiques en Égypte (IVe-VIIIe siècles)

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (Review by Shawn W.J. Keough)

Ewa Wipszycka, Moines et communautés monastiques en Égypte (IVe-VIIIe siècles). JJP supplement 11. Varsovie: Journal of Juristic Papyrology, 2009.

Ewa Wipszycka's first contribution to the study of Egyptian monasticism appeared in 1986, and for the past twenty-five years a steady stream of articles from her pen has left its significant imprint on the field and firmly established her reputation as one of the world's preeminent specialists of the institutional and social history of late antique Egyptian Christianity. The book everywhere bears the mark of a specialist intimately acquainted with an enormous range of source material: Wipszycka skilfully combines the skills of historian, papyrologist and archaeologist, a rare feat. The result is a volume that presents an incredibly detailed description and analysis of Egyptian monastic institutions and communities in which the social conditions and lived realities of late antique monastic centres flanking the Nile are presented in all their fascinating diversity and complexity. Only one previously published essay appears unchanged within this book marking the culmination of a quarter century's research, while more than fifteen previous studies have been revised, updated and incorporated into the volume, much of which presents new material.

The volume opens with a lengthy introduction to and consideration of the literary sources undergirding Wipszycka's study. As the volume is not so much concerned with monastic spirituality or theological controversy as with the social circumstances of Egyptian monastic centres, certain texts appear rarely, if at all (such as the writings of Evagrius of Pontus).

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