The Monastic Transformation of Graeco-Roman Popular Theater: A Corpus and Theory of Ancient Christian Comedy


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars


Religious Studies and Classics


For residence at the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Historical Studies during academic year 2019-2020


This project offers the first study of ancient Christian comic texts, demonstrating their significance for late Roman society, particularly Alexandria and Egypt. It explores six biographies of monastic saints—including repentant prostitutes, adulterers, and cross-dressing abbots—that adapt comic routines from theatrical mime. These texts form a carnivalesque subgenre that engages with prohibited emotions and thoughts to address tensions in early monasticism. The goal is the reconstruction of an ascetic poetics, which draws on cognitive literary theory, to outline the therapeutic uses of laughter and comedy. The monograph will be supported by digital humanities projects: an online edition of the Greek “Life of Eupraxia” as well as manuscript co-transmission networks showing the reception history of these comic lives.