This book is a comprehensive study of the experience of alienation in its many and inter-related manifestations as attested in the late-antique East. It situates Christianity's enduring legacy in its early historical context and explores the way estrangement from all worldly attributes was elevated to the status of a cardinal religious virtue. The author analyzes the reasons for the new faith's concern for the marginalized and shows the contemporary relevance of social utopia as an antidote to alienation. Christianity's contradictions are also examined as, in opposing the existing legal order, the followers of the monotheistic religion inadvertently supported the violence of the imperial authority and its laws. Further, the study focuses on the existentialist and psychological dimensions of time-honoured metaphors, such as "Life is a theatre" and "Dead to the world", and investigates mental illness in late antiquity. Finally, the early origins of the modern concept of the self are traced back to the ideological transformations that marked the slow transition from antiquity to the middle ages.
The Author: Antigone Samellas was born in Athens, Greece. She received a B.A. in Sociology at Connecticut College in 1987 and an M.A. in Sociology at the London School of Economics in 1989. She then studied History at Yale University and obtained an M.A. in 1993 and a Ph.D. in 1999. In 2002 she published Death in the Eastern Mediterranean (50-600 A.D.). The Christianization of the East. An Interpretation. She is currently an independent scholar.
Contents: Life is a Theatre: The Theatricality of Everyday Life - From Distantiation as Affirmation to Distantiation as Negation - `Dead to the World': Asceticism and its Pleasures - From Stigmatization to Deculpabilization: Attitudes towards the Mentally Ill in Late Antiquity and the Healing Process in their Religious and Social Context - Sun's Justice: Social Utopia as an antidote to Alienation - Imperialism and Christianity - Martyrs, Criminals and Convicts: Christians show Solidarity towards the Outlaws without, ultimately, questioning the Law - True Life: Reading as Salvation.