Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Ascetisism

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Ascetisism

Article excerpt

Asceticism. Edited by Vincent L. Wimbush and Richard Valantasis, with the assistance of Gay L. Byron and William S. Love. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. xxxiii + 638 pp. $125.00 (cloth).

This volume collects papers from an interdisciplinary conference on asceticism held in New York in 1993. The conference papers represent a wide variety of religious traditions (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Indian), including less well-known ones, such as the Zoroastrian. A considerable range of methodologies is also represented, from the straight historical, to the comparative-religions approach, to philosophical, archaeological and feminist studies. Participants examine ancient practices, contemporary practices, iconography, literature and even the way in which modern medical research supports some of the traditional claims of ascetics.

The editors and conference organizers attempted to create unity out of this plethora of approaches by grouping the papers into five broad sections, "Origins and Meanings of Asceticism," "Hermeneutics of Asceticism," "Aesthetics of Asceticism," "Politics of Asceticism," and "Ascetica Miscellanea," with two general papers (by Kallistos Ware and Edith Wyschogrod) as an overall introduction to the themes and issues. Each set of three papers is followed by a response, and Elizabeth Clark was charged with the daunting task of responding to the collection as a whole.

The reader interested primarily in Christian asceticism will find some gems in this collection: Kallistos Ware's plenary address is not only historically learned, but also notable for its constructive proposal to accord minority strands of the tradition a considerably higher status than they have generally been granted. Likewise, Bernard McGinn contributes a characteristically strong essay exploring the relation of asceticism and mysticism in the Christian tradition from late antiquity to the Middle Ages. …

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