Thursday, 7 May 2015

Rafal Toczko: The Shipwrecks and Philosophers: The Rhetoric of Aristocratic Conversion in the Late 4th and Early 5th Centuries

In this study the literary aspects of the conversion to Christianity will be discussed. It has been based on the letters of Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Paulinus of Nola, and Uranus.  Letters were a very effective medium of the early Christian public relations and conversion of a member of aristocracy was always a phenomenon that ought to have been celebrated and communicated. The form and style of communication e.g. the metaphors used in trumpeting the new noble Christian can give us insight not only into the art of rhetoric but also into the epistemological ramifications, imaginary schemes that constituted thinking of the aristocracy in times when Christian life became an attractive choice.
The goal of this study is to present the detailed picture and systematization of the various modes in which conversion was treated as a literary theme in the correspondence of the studied period. The paper will focus on two different literary phenomena: 1. The rhetoric of persuading to conversion 2. The literary descriptions of famous aristocratic conversions. The first part will present the sophisticated rhetoric of Augustine persuading Volusianus and Licentius to become Christians.  The second part will offer discussion of the symbolic language used in letters celebrating the conversion of Paulinus, Paula, Fabiola et al. I will contextualize the roots of the early Christian rhetoric of conversion and conclude with some remarks corresponding with the modern theories of metaphor that could possibly be helpful in reconstructing the thought pattern of the Roman aristocracy in the studied period.

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