Channels of imperishable fire : the beginnings of Christian mystical poetry and Dioscorus of Aphrodito (Book, 1995) []
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Channels of imperishable fire : the beginnings of Christian mystical poetry and Dioscorus of Aphrodito

Author: Clement A Kuehn
Publisher: New York : P. Lang, ©1995.
Series: Lang classical studies, v. 7.
Edition/Format:   Print book : EnglishView all editions and formats

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Genre/Form: Criticism, interpretation, etc
Additional Physical Format: Online version:
Kuehn, Clement A., 1952-
Channels of imperishable fire.
New York : P. Lang, ©1995
Named Person: Dioscorus, of Aphrodito; Dioscorus, of Aphrodito.; Dioscorus, Thebanus; Dioscorus van Aphrodito; Dioskoros, von Aphrodito.
Document Type: Book
All Authors / Contributors: Clement A Kuehn
ISBN: 0820426733 9780820426730
OCLC Number: 31239945
Description: xxiv, 291 pages, 10 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, map ; 24 cm.
Contents: Papyrological Symbols --
1. The Beginnings of Christian Mystical Allegory in Greek and Latin Poetry --
2. Dioscorus of Aphrodito: His Archive and a Brief Biography --
3. An Anacreontic and Chairetismos: Parody and Allegory? --
4. Elements of Mystical Allegory in Dioscorus' Encomia --
Appendix: Sophronius and Dioscorus.
Series Title: Lang classical studies, v. 7.
Responsibility: Clement A. Kuehn ; foreword by J.H.W.G. Liebeschuetz.

Table of Contents:

by clementkuehn (WorldCat user on 2008-04-05)

ILLUSTRATIONS xv ABBREVIATIONS xvii PAPYROLOGICAL SYMBOLS xix FOREWORD xxi INTRODUCTION 1 CHAPTER 1. THE BEGINNINGS OF CHRISTIAN MYSTICAL ALLEGORY IN GREEK AND LATIN POETRY 7 SOME DEFINITIONS 8 Mysticism 8 A Brief Digression on Divine Intermediaries and the Mystical Union 12 Allegory 14 EARLY VERSE DESCRIPTIONS OF THE CHRISTIAN MYSTICAL EXPERIENCE 18 Mystical Philosophy and the Hymns of Synesius of Cyrene 18 The “Psychomachia” by Prudentius 25 Concealed Allegory : Proclus and Musaeus 31 CHAPTER 2. DIOSCORUS OF APHRODITO : HIS ARCHIVE AND A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY 42 DISCOVERY AND DISPERSAL 42 PUBLICATIONS OF THE POETRY 47 A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY 52 Village, Father, and the Faith 52 The Poet’s Early Years 59 Problems with the Pagarchs 60 Early Poems 63 More Problems with the Pagarchs 65 Antinoopolis 69 Return to Aphrodito 74 CHAPTER 3. AN ANACREONTIC AND CHAIRETISMOS : PARODY AND ALLEGORY? 77 PART I. “VERSO F” AS PARODY THE POEM’S DATE OF COMPOSITION 80 THE DIOSCORIAN ANACREONTIC 83 Text 84 Translation 85 Commentary 85 Discussion of the Borrowed Stanza 88 THE CHAIRETISMOS 91 The Christian “Chairetismos” 91 The Dioscorian “Chairetismos” 94 Text 95 Translation 95 Commentary 96 EVIDENCE OF VERSO F’S UNITY 108 THE HONOREE OF THE UNIFIED POEM 112 THE MEANING OF THE UNIFIED POEM 114 Prayer Parodies 119 The Cult of Christian Icons 129 The Significance of the Parody 136 PART II. “VERSO F” AND THE APOCALYPSIS THE EARLY BYZANTINE READERS OF POETRY 138 DIOSCORUS’ ANACREONTIC AND THE APOCALYPSIS JOANNIS 140 DIOSCORUS’ CHAIRETISMOS AND THE APOCALYPSIS JOANNIS 143 OUTLINE 150 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS 152 CHAPTER 4. ELEMENTS OF MYSTICAL ALLEGORY IN DIOSCORUS’ ENCOMIA 156 ENCOMIA OF THE EARLY BYZANTINE PERIOD AND MENANDER RHETOR 160 EVIDENCE OF A MYSTICAL LEVEL OF MEANING 162 The “Nous” and “Sapientia” 163 The Cicada 167 The Source of the Nile 182 In the Land of the All-Sovereign 185 The Bridegroom and the Reflection of the Sun 188 In a Disorderly Way? 193 Eros 195 Proskynesis and Shining Tracks 198 Have Mercy On Me Who Trembles 200 Thebes Is Raised to Heaven 201 An Image 202 EVIDENCE OF AN ALLEGORY 203 The Mystical Ecstasy 205 The Hierarchy 209 Christ and His Angels and Saints 213 P.CAIR.MASP. III 67315 VERSO [=H.5] 216 Text 218 Translation 220 The Allegorical Addressees of the Hexameter Part 222 ALLEGORY IN BYZANTINE ICONS 223 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS 229 APPENDIX : SOPHRONIUS AND DIOSCORUS 233 BIBLIOGRAPHY 243 GENERAL INDEX (with a concordance) 283


by clementkuehn (WorldCat user on 2008-04-05)

BOOK SYNOPSIS Ever since the poems of Dioscorus of Aphrodito (c. 520 – c. 585 C.E.) were discovered on papyri in Upper Egypt, they have perplexed and disturbed scholars. Written largely in a Homeric vocabulary, many appear to be praising dukes and other government officials according to encomiastic conventions. Yet the poems do not adhere closely to these conventions. The present book demonstrates that many of these problematic passages may have mystical significance and that the encomia possibly have an allegorical level of meaning. The study also reveals the valuable contribution these poems make to our understanding of early Christian mysticism, mystical allegory, and Late Antique culture. The poems that were discovered were written by the author’s own hand and many contain his own emendations and corrections. They are the oldest surviving poems written by a known poet in his own hand. DETAILS The Greek poems by Flavius Dioscorus were first discovered in 1905 in the ruins of the ancient village of Aphrodito in Upper Egypt. It was soon recognized that his encomia (poems praising dignitaries) were markedly different from the poetry of his contemporaries, and many verses were difficult to understand. At least one early editor said that the obscurity was the result of a lack of skill in writing Greek. (“At no moment has he any real control of thought, diction, grammar, metre, or meaning.” H. Milne, P.Lond.Lit., p. 68.) Dioscorus was bilingual, and his native language was Coptic. Yet the documents discovered with the poetry show that Dioscorus, a lawyer, was fluent at writing both Coptic and Greek. His expertise in drafting legal documents in Greek was sought out not only by Aphroditans but also by the nobility in Antinoopolis (the second most important city in Egypt and the residence of the duke). Another scholar suggested that the obscurity was due to interference by the Coptic language and way of thinking—that is, while writing Greek, Dioscorus was thinking Coptic. (L. MacCoull, Dioscorus of Aphrodito: His Work and His World, pp. 62-63, 147-59.) Without a doubt Dioscorus was often, if not usually, thinking in his native language; and Dioscorus obviously incorporated the Coptic culture into his poetry. Yet philologists have not been able to show where the Coptic language, culture, or “cognitive style” was responsible for any of Dioscorus’ difficult verses. This study demonstrates that many of the difficulties in understanding the poems arise from the fact that the poet incorporated elements of Christian mysticism. These mystical elements seem to interrelate to form a deeper level of meaning, and if so, the encomia can be deemed mystical allegories. Dioscorus was not content with simply praising a local dignitary. Through allusions, metaphors, and symbols the honoree was compared to a saint and even to Christ. In fact, the encomiastic poetry composed by Dioscorus shows an allegorical style similar to that which clearly imbues many of his prose documents. Unlike the documents, however, Dioscorus’ poetry was not constrained by the facts of a legal complaint. Thus the allegorical elements are more cohesive and more fully developed. And unlike the documents, much of the imagery seems to be derived from mystical literature. Many of the biblical and literary influences on the poetry have been pointed out by previous scholars (see Chapter 2); this study examines the presence and the nature of the mystical imagery. Chapter 1 surveys the beginnings of Christian mystical poetry and points out some relationships to the poetry of Dioscorus. There is also a discussion of allegorical interpretations of the Homeric epics by late Neoplatonists. If Dioscorus was indeed writing mystical allegories, his style and his concept of the “inspired poet” might have been derived from the literary theories of the Neoplatonic philosopher Proclus (c. 410 – 485 C.E.). Chapter 2 discusses the discovery and dispersal of Dioscorus’ archive and gives a sketch of the life of the poet. Dioscorus’ original poems are now in libraries and museums throughout Egypt, Europe, and the United States, and more verses continue to turn up in museum collections. The documents that were discovered with the poems also give a vivid picture of the life of Dioscorus’ community. The monastic and poetic environment around Aphrodito, the ruthlessness of tax collectors, and the threat of Moslem invasions—all these had a deep effect on Dioscorus and helped shape his poetry. Chapter 3 analyzes one poem in detail, P.Cair.Masp. I 67097 verso F. This two-part poem is complex and subtle. The poem’s literal level seems to satirize the Christian cult of icon worship. While the satire shows disdain for this kind of worship, it seems that a deeper level simultaneously shows the proper sphere of Christian worship: in the Holy Spirit and in truth. The poem is encomiastic in nature, but also an anomaly: it does not employ the formal encomiastic style of Dioscorus’ other poems. And unlike the other poems, it appears to have an allegorical level that reflects the apocalyptic and mystical imagery of the Book of Revelation. Yet it offers a good introduction to Dioscorus’ complex thinking and rich imagery. And since the attitudes in this poem correspond to Monophysite beliefs, it perhaps gives a hint of the author’s religious inclinations. Chapter 4, the final chapter, focuses on the elements of mystical allegory in Dioscorus’ formal encomia. The superficial level of these poems praises various government administrators and dignitaries and generally follows the conventions suggested by Menander Rhetor. Yet several phrases clearly have mystical significance, and others contain common mystical imagery. These spiritual elements reveal a structure among themselves and a relationship to the mystical philosophy of Ps.-Dionysius the Areopagite, whose treatises were very popular among Christian exegetes during the sixth and seventh centuries, including Maximus Confessor and Anastasius of Sinai. Because Dioscorus’ formal encomia show a remarkable homogeneity and often repeat verses, they are discussed as a group rather than individually. The conclusions, therefore, are general. Dioscorus’ epithalamia (wedding poems) and ethopoeiae (poems which deal with imaginary situations) employ imagery that is different from that found in the encomia and thus are not included in this study. Dioscorus’ encomia might have been influenced by the allegorical art of the early Byzantine period. Many icons depicted Christ, the Blessed Virgin, the saints, and the angels as government magistrates and nobility. Through such allegories, spiritual dynamics (hierarchies) were made comprehensible to the laity. In Chapters 3 and 4, several pertinent examples of allegorical Christian art are examined and compared to Dioscorus’ poetry. There are striking similarities between the Dioscorian poem P.Cair.Masp. I 67097 verso F and a later poem by Sophronius of Jerusalem, Carmina Anacreontica No. 20. It seems that the patriarch Sophronius (ob. c. 639), an ardent supporter of Chalcedon, was responding directly through his poetry to the non-Chalcedonian sentiments in the Dioscorian poem. The Appendix explores the correspondences and their significance. Finally, it must be kept in mind throughout this study that, unlike the Psychomachia by Prudentius, there is no unquestionable proof that Dioscorus deliberately wrote allegories. This book examines the evidence, external and internal, which suggests mystical allegory, and sketches the probable shape of that allegory. Yet if a deeper level was deliberately created by the poet, it was also partially concealed. The creation of a screen to shield mystical truths would have been in compliance with the dictates of Eastern mystical philosophy. BRIEF BIOGRAPHY Clement A. Kuehn received his B.A. degree in English Literature from the University of Illinois, Chicago; he received his Master’s and Ph.D. in Classical Studies from Loyola University, Chicago. At Loyola, he studied under the guidance of Professor James G. Keenan, noted papyrologist and historian of Late Antiquity, and Leo Sweeney, S.J., author of numerous books on Christian philosophy and metaphysics. His dual interests in ancient documents and mystical theology led to several articles on papyrological topics and his first book: Channels of Imperishable Fire : The Beginnings of Christian Mystical Poetry and Dioscorus of Aphrodito (1995). When an archive of sixth century Greek papyri was discovered in Petra, Jordan, Kuehn joined Ludwig Koenen and Jaakko Frösén in an attempt to conserve and decipher them (The Petra Papyri I). As a Senior Research Fellow of the United States Information Agency, Kuehn remained in Jordan until 1996, when he became Assistant Professor of Classical Studies at Fordham University in New York City. His research then became devoted to the Hexaemeron and medieval manuscripts. He currently teaches AP Vergil and Medieval Paleography at Hopkins School in New Haven, CT. BRIEF BIBLIOGRAPHY Books: Kuehn, Clement, and John Baggarly, S.J., editors. Anastasius of Sinai. Hexaemeron. (Orientalia Christiana Analecta 278). With a Foreword by Joseph Munitiz, S.J. Rome: Pontifical Oriental Institute, 2008. Frösén, Jaakko, Antti Arjava, Marjo Lehtinen, Zbigniew Fiema, Clement Kuehn, et al., editors. The Petra Papyri I. Amman: American Center of Oriental Research, 2002. Kuehn, Clement. Channels of Imperishable Fire : The Beginnings of Christian Mystical Poetry and Dioscorus of Aphrodito. (Lang Classical Studies 7). With a Foreword by J. Liebeschuetz. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1995. Principal Articles: Review of Patrology : The Eastern Fathers from the Council of Chalcedon (451) to John of Damascus (†750). Edited by Angelo Di Berardino. In Byzantinische Zeitschrift 101/2 (2008): in preparation. Review of P.Sta.Xyla. The Byzantine Papyri of the Greek Papyrological Society. Volume 1. Edited by Basil Mandilaras. In The Classical Bulletin 72 (1996): 74-76. Review of Griechische literarische Papyri christlichen Inhaltes II. Edited by Kurt Treu and Johannes Diethart. In The Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 30 (1993): 155-164. “A New Papyrus of a Dioscorian Poem and Marriage Contract, P.Berol.Inv.No. 21334.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 97 (1993): 103-115, plates 2-3. “Dioskoros of Aphrodito and Romanos the Melodist.” The Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 27 (1990): 103-107. Key Papers and Seminars: “The Medieval Book of Hours.” Oxford University, Oxford, England, August 2006. “Deciphering the Petra Papyri : A Pond in the Woods.” ACOR Seminar Series, Amman, Jordan, March 1996. “Two Dowry Documents of the Petra Papyri.” Association Internationale de Papyrologues, Berlin, Germany, August 1995. “The Cicada : Poet, Philosopher, Mystic. Cicada Imagery from Homer to Dioscorus.” American Philological Association, Atlanta, GA, December 1994. “The Comic Tradition of Exaggerated Compound Words.” American Philological Association, Washington, D.C., December 1993. “A New Papyrus of a Dioscorian Poem and Marriage Contract.” Byzantine Studies Conference, Urbana, IL, October 1992. “Human Victims in the Iliad's Similes.” Classical Association of the Middle West and South, Hamilton, Ontario, April 1991. Instructional Design: Sweeney, Leo, S.J. Christian Philosophy : Greek, Medieval, Contemporary Reflections. New York: Peter Lang, 1997. Sweeney, Leo, S.J. Divine Infinity in Greek and Medieval Thought. New York: Peter Lang, 1992. Karavites, Peter, and Thomas Wren. Promise-Giving and Treaty-Making : Homer and the Near East. (Mnemosyne, Supplements 119) Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1991.


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