The Monk And The Book: Jerome And The Making Of Christian Scholarship

Paperback | October 7, 2014

byMegan Hale Williams

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In the West, monastic ideals and scholastic pursuits are complementary; monks are popularly imagined copying classics, preserving learning through the Middle Ages, and establishing the first universities. But this dual identity is not without its contradictions. While monasticism emphasizes the virtues of poverty, chastity, and humility, the scholar, by contrast, requires expensive infrastructure—a library, a workplace, and the means of disseminating his work. In The Monk and the Book, Megan Hale Williams argues that Saint Jerome was the first to represent biblical study as a mode of asceticism appropriate for an inhabitant of a Christian monastery, thus pioneering the enduring linkage of monastic identities and institutions with scholarship.

Revisiting Jerome with the analytical tools of recent cultural history—including the work of Bourdieu, Foucault, and Roger Chartier—Williams proposes new interpretations that remove obstacles to understanding the life and legacy of the saint. Examining issues such as the construction of Jerome’s literary persona, the form and contents of his library, and the intellectual framework of his commentaries, Williams shows that Jerome’s textual and exegetical work on the Hebrew scriptures helped to construct a new culture of learning. This fusion of the identities of scholar and monk, Williams shows, continues to reverberate in the culture of the modern university.

"[Williams] has written a fascinating study, which provides a series of striking insights into the career of one of the most colorful and influential figures in Christian antiquity. Jerome's Latin Bible would become the foundational text for the intellectual development of the West, providing words for the deepest aspirations and most intensely held convictions of an entire civilization. Williams's book does much to illumine the circumstances in which that fundamental text was produced, and reminds us that great ideas, like great people, have particular origins, and their own complex settings."—Eamon Duffy, New York Review of Books


 

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In the West, monastic ideals and scholastic pursuits are complementary; monks are popularly imagined copying classics, preserving learning through the Middle Ages, and establishing the first universities. But this dual identity is not without its contradictions. While monasticism emphasizes the virtues of poverty, chastity, and humilit...

Megan Hale Williams is associate professor of history at San Francisco State University. She is coauthor, with Anthony Grafton, of Christianity and the Transformation of the Book: Origen, Eusebius, and the Library of Caesarea.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:312 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:October 7, 2014Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022621530X

ISBN - 13:9780226215303

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgements
List of Abbreviations

Introduction

1 The Making of A Christian Writer
2. Experiments of Exigesis
3. Interpretation and Construction of Jerome's Authority
4. Jerome's Library
5. Toward the Monastic Order of Books
6. The Book and the Voice
7. Readers and Patrons

Epilogue

Appendix: Chronology of Jerome's Career
Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

"This is an immensely readable book that, without artifice or invention, gives us a picture of Jerome's desk and the books that surrounded it, while allowing a clear view through the window onto the world that both threatened and supported him."