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2022/2023 Lecture Series Event – Unfinished Christians: Ritual Objects and Silent Subjects in Late Antiquity

Posted by on Thursday, October 6, 2022 in Uncategorized.

The Department of Classical and Mediterranean Studies at Vanderbilt University welcomes Georgia Frank, Charles A. Dana Professor of Religion, Department of Religion at Colgate University to present Unfinished Christians: Ritual Objects and Silent Subjects in Late Antiquity. This event will be held in 203 Cohen Memorial Hall on Thursday, October 6, 2022 at 4:10pm with reception to follow the presentation. Free event parking will be available in Lot 95 by Cohen Memorial Hall in all non-reserved spaces.

This talk focuses on how ordinary Christians learned to experience conversion rituals. Professor Frank will focus on instructions by church leaders who described baptism as a craft involving makers, making, and materials. In sermons addressed to the nearly and newly baptized, their teachers called on catechumens to think of themselves both as works in progress as well as apprentices learning to make things. An initiate might be compared to a sketch, a sculpture, a pot, or some metal object. In short, baptismal teachers likened the baptistery into a workshop, or ergastērion, a place where craftspeople learned a skill through apprenticeship, cooperation, and long periods of training. Candidates for baptism learned to imagine themselves as an object to be smelted, melted, kiln-fired, scraped, sculpted, drawn, painted, or dyed. They also saw themselves as trainees, who learned through failure and frustrated designs, do-overs and damage. These craft metaphors invited initiands to regard self-making as a messy process, involving rough material with vibrant plasticity, yet also bearing signs of prior defects, including warping, friability, cracks, dents, and rust. Professor Frank’s analysis explores how metaphors of fabrication shaped baptismal instructions in the Greek-speaking eastern Mediterranean, particularly in the sermons of John Chrysostom (d. 407), Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386), and Proclus of Constantinople (d. 446).

This lecture is sponsored by the Department of Classical and Mediterranean Studies and the Department of Religious Studies. It is free and open to the public.

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