Cover: Demons and the Making of the Monk: Spiritual Combat in Early Christianity, from Harvard University PressCover: Demons and the Making of the Monk in HARDCOVER

Demons and the Making of the Monk

Spiritual Combat in Early Christianity

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$83.00 • £72.95 • €75.95

ISBN 9780674018754

Publication Date: 01/30/2006


322 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches


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David Brakke’s Demons and the Making of the Monk…is a very sharply focused study of spiritual combat between monks and demons in fourth- and early fifth-century Egypt. Satan takes a back seat in this story: Brakke concentrates instead on the emergence of the monastic project (‘The monk is now such a familiar figure that it is difficult to remember that he did not always exist’), and examines how conflict with demons was essential to the formation of this freshly minted religious identity… The book comes to life…in the second half, which is devoted to analysis of the monks’ graphic stories about their encounters with demons.—Alastair Sooke, The Times Literary Supplement

The implications of this work reverberate well past the monk’s cell in the Egyptian desert… [Brakke]’s use of psychoanalytic concepts to explicate the narrative of monk–demon encounter, reminiscent of D. Elliott’s brilliant Fallen Bodies: Pollution, Sexuality, and Demonology in the Middle Ages (Philadelphia, 1999), along with his magisterial use of intellectual history and cultural studies, reveals an innovative interdisciplinary methodology that should serve as a model for scholars of the history of religion in the twenty-first century.—Dennis P. Quinn, Religious Studies Review

Brakke turns his considerable skill…to a subject of crucial importance for understanding early Christian monastic spirituality: the monk’s battle with the demons. It is the singular contribution of this outstanding book to lay bare the roots of this important idea and to delineate the astonishing range of expressions to which it gave rise in early monasticism. One of the virtues of Brakke’s disciplined historical analysis is that we come to see that neither ‘spiritual combat,’ nor ‘demons’ meant one thing in early monastic experience. Rather, there were intricate and subtle differences between and among different authors, schools, and monastic traditions concerning what it meant to struggle with demons. It is Brakke’s stated aim to investigate the idea of ‘spiritual combat’ in all its complexity and variety, to understand how theological assumptions, ecclesial location, philosophical orientation, literary genre and other matters affected this crucial idea.—Douglas Burton-Christie, Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality

This is a fruitful book which deserves attentive reading, above all in its exploration of the nature of spiritual combat as seen by fourth- and fifth-century ascetics.—Anthony Meridith, S.J., The Way

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