Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Thomas Hunt: Razored passages from St Jerome: the logic of circumcision in On Famous Men

Michael Donaghy's poem ‘City of God' (1993) weaves together the poet's Catholic patrimony and the topography of the Bronx. The events of the poem are catalysed by a collection of ‘razored passages from St Augustine' discovered in the bedroom of a failed seminarian after his nervous breakdown. Stalking the broken priest through the bankrupt city, Donaghy explores the ruinous power of reading. The figure of Augustine has long been used to investigate the cultural inheritance of Christianity as well as to frame the Late Antique in general (Marrou; Brown). Recent discussion has also highlighted the importance of Augustine's contemporary, Jerome of Stridon, in this process of reception and scholarship (e.g. Cain; Chin; Duval; Fürst; Vessey). Building on Donaghy's poem and this scholarship on Jerome, this paper argues that the index of Christian culture that Jerome outlines in On Famous Men (393) bears a significant debt to Origen's theology of history, not least the Homilies on Luke which Jerome translated in 392. The paper focuses on those writers or books which Jerome self-consciously excises from On Famous Men and argues that these absences should be read alongside the discussion of signification, dereliction and circumcision in Origen's fifth homily on Luke. Given the recent importance attached to Jerome in shaping the Christian culture that was to be received by medieval and modern scholars of Patristics, this debt to Origen's supersessionist theology needs to be unpacked. Razored passages can cut - as Donaghy tells us - and Jerome's inheritance, like Augustine's, is double-edged.

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