Philosophy at the Festival: The Festal Orations of Gregory of Nazianzus and the Classical Tradition


Before serving as Bishop of Constantinople and becoming known to posterity as "the Theologian", Gregory of Nazianzus was an Athens-trained professional teacher of Greek literature. Steeped in the rhetorical culture of the Second Sophistic, his orations for Christian feasts such as Christmas and Pentecost belong to a Classical tradition that privileged the performance of philosophy at festivals. Widely copied and translated, they were instrumental in Gregory becoming one of the most popular and influential authors in Byzantium. This book shows how his orations represent a crucial point in the Late Antique reception of Platonism, rhetorical theory, and ancient festival culture.

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Byron MacDougall, Ph.D. (2015), Brown University, is Assistant Professor of Literary Arts and Studies at the Rhode Island School of Design. He has published articles on various aspects of Greek literary, philosophical, and religious culture in Late Antiquity and Byzantium.

 1 Gregory’s Life and Education
 2 Gregory’s Philosophical Culture

1 Mediterranean Festival Culture and Imperial Greek Rhetoric

2 Festival Spectatorship and Philosophical Theoria
 1 The Origins of Philosophical Theoria

3 The Prooemia of Gregory’s Orations and Traditions of Exegesis
 1 Platonic Preludes: Or. 2 and Gregory’s “Apology”
 2 Platonic Preludes at the Festival: Or. 38 “On Theophany” and the Timaeus
 3 Preludes Continued: The Divine Arrangement of Or. 40 “On Holy Baptism”
 4 The Influence of Gregory’s Prooemia: Gregory of Nyssa on Easter

4 Performing Philosophy: Purification, Contemplation, and Assimilation to the Divine
 1 Katharsis at the Festival
 2 Theosis at the Festival
 3 Katharsis, Theoria, and Theosis: The Nativity Oration (Or. 38.7)

5 The Rhetor’s Art: The Audience as Theoroi
 1 New Sunday and Contemplation of the Heavenly Festival
 2 The Holy Spirit and the Rhetor: Enargeia and the Feast of Pentecost

6 Gregory’s Festival Theoria in Byzantium: From Pseudo-Dionysius to Photius


Besides students and specialists, this book will be of immediate relevance for anyone interested in Classics, Early Christianity, Ancient Philosophy, Late Antiquity, Byzantine Studies, Greek Literature, and Classical Reception Studies.
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