Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Decline and Fall of Late Antiquity Studies

In September of 2015 the Los Angeles Review of Books published an online essay by noted Byzantinist Anthony Kaldellis entitled "Late Antiquity Dissolves." Here are three excerpts to whet your late antiquarian appetite:
1. "there is an imperative to turn the sources toward the study of social and cultural history, specifically to reconstruct the ideological value systems that underpinned groups and communities. Texts, their contents, and their authors are treated as instrumental or exemplary in such broader social processes .... So Prokopios has to be pressed into service as an exponent of imperial ideology; or, if he is allowed to speak against Justinian, he has to be made into the spokesman for a senatorial opposition (whose existence has yet to be proven) or imperial ideology 'in general.'"
2. "Difference, like identity, was but a discursive construct, an artifact produced by texts that ostensibly postulate essences, but we should not be fooled by them, for what they really offer are 'negotiations' among ideological options floating in the common soup of the late antique mentality .... The field also exhibits a Christian bias in the way it reconstructs the generic mentality of late antiquity, treating pagans often as a troublesome inconvenience."
3. "Religious hatred that reached the level of bloodshed is frequently analyzed under the irenic guises of identity construction and discursive negotiation, as if we were dealing with merely textual communities cultivating positive role models along parallel tracks that rarely intersected. But euphemism and discursive amelioration will never fully occlude the fact that the later Roman Empire was the site of tremendous and unparalleled religious conflict, which was accompanied by what seems to be an intensification of state violence too."
Check out the full article here:

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