Friday, 1 May 2015

Pierluigi Lanfranchi: The Use of Emotions in John Chrysostom’s Sermons against the Jews

The aim of my paper is to explore the emotional dimension of the interaction between Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity. More precisely, I am interested in the way Christian authors used emotions in their anti-Jewish polemics. This approach allows us to grasp the mechanisms – rhetorical and psychological – which the polemicists exploited in order to convey their message. It also makes it possible to consider in a different way the relationship between rhetoric and reality, between the texts and their historical and social context.
As all religious groups, Christian communities were also “emotional communities”, that is groups that share the same rules of emotional expression and attach (or do not attach) importance to the same feelings. I will analyse as a case study the discourses against the Jews delivered by John Chrysostom in Antioch in 386-387.
By studying these sermons I try to answer the following questions: what kind of emotions did Chrysostom mobilize against the Jews? What did he mean while speaking of zēlos, orgē, thumos, misos? How did Chrysostom’s public react to his discourses? My hypothesis  is that his sermons witness an emotional divide between John and his public, as well as a certain resistance by the audience to accept Chrysostom’s instructions. The emotional regime he wants his public to abide to, does not coincide with the emotions the public actually feels. In other words, the emotional community imagined by Chrysostom diverges from the emotional community he addresses.

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