Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Jane Heath: Clement's Autobiographical Narrative as a Paradigm for Reading the Stromateis

Ever since Eusebius, Stromateis 1.1.11 has been read as the principal primary source for Clement of Alexandria's biography.  This has lent it prominence in discussion of Clement's work, since scholarly interpretation regularly organises meaning through a historical, biographical lens.  But the well-known passage discloses precious little:  vague and allusive, it seems designed to frustrate enquiry, though scholars have often sought to supply the details that Clement hides.  This short communication will argue that his primary purpose in this passage is to develop a paradigm for how readers should engage with the Stromateis by taking the author as their model.  Clement's account of his journey to acquire wisdom, while probably historically accurate, is elusively presented because its intention is symbolic.  Drawing on tropes that were widespread in Greek and Roman literature and partly paralleled in Jewish and Christian discourse, Clement articulates how the reader should travel through the Stromateis both at a literary level (encountering much transmediterranean wisdom but ultimately resting in browsing the apostolic meadow in Egypt) and at a metaliterary level (where the mind travels in quest of understanding, which the whole person puts to use in treading the ‘ways' of wisdom).
This shift in emphasis from author to author-reader relationship affects our reading of the Stromateis as a whole, encouraging greater attentiveness to the pedagogical, theological and historical significance of Clement's use of literary form.

No comments:

Post a comment