The Rhetoric and Themes of the Madrasa Cycle in Praise of Abraham Qidunaya Attributed to Ephrem the Syrian

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The Rhetoric and Themes of the Madrasa Cycle in Praise of Abraham Qidunaya Attributed to Ephrem the Syrian

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Title: The Rhetoric and Themes of the Madrasa Cycle in Praise of Abraham Qidunaya Attributed to Ephrem the Syrian
Author: Hayes, Andrew John
Abstract: The cycle of Syriac madrase on the fourth-century ascetic, Abraham Qidunaya, has suffered long neglect because scholars generally doubted its attribution to Ephrem the Syrian. Examination of the cycle's rhetoric and theological themes, however, proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Ephrem authored its first five poems, whereas the latter ten derive from a later imitator. This discovery permits a deeper understanding of Ephrem's theology of asceticism and virtue, the history of early Syriac asceticism, and the distinctive contribution of Ephrem's poetic skill. With these purposes in mind, the analysis adopts and improves methods developed by Phil Botha for analyzing Ephremian rhetoric via polarities, yielding an account of Ephrem's poetry as a sort of verbal iconography. Analysis of the authors' language and imagery as the "pigments" of their authors' palettes highlights that the first five poems' ascetical imagery is traditional, a character which diminishes throughout the latter ten, replaced by a new presentation of sexual renunciation and evangelical wisdom. Analysis of Ephrem's rhetorical devices as iconographic "canons" reveals that he commends a holistic and communal notion of virtue, strongly anti-dualist. Pseudo-Ephrem's rhetorical patterns commend spiritual insight and apostolic ministry. Analysis of rhetorical structure and strategy manifests Ephrem's emphasis on the rootedness of the life of glory in the glory of God. By contrast, the structure of the disunited, more individualistic pseudo-Ephremian poems emphasizes Abraham's divinization and the availability of divine power in him, with three newer eschatologies operative. Several conclusions result vis-a -vis the questions posed. First, these poems seek to persuade by imitating in a distinctively Syriac way the multi-faceted character of scripture. Second, despite earlier scholars' dissatisfaction, these poems do shed light on the history of Syriac asceticism. His admirers saw not a dichotomy between Greco-Egyptian monasticism and Syriac proto-monasticism, but a pioneer whose fame enhanced Urhay's religious credentials, much as Anthony enhanced those of the Egyptian church. Third, Ephrem's ascetic ideal was to reflect God's glory in the inhabited world, while simultaneously returning to paradise through asceticism, understood as heavenly mercantilism. The cycle affords a privileged glimpse of this ideal before it disappears in subsequent generations of Syriac writers.
Description: Degree awarded: Ph.D. Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures. The Catholic University of AmericaThis dissertation can be viewed by CUA users only.
Date: 2012-02-15

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