PSCO Presentation: 22 March, 2012

“Textual Ethics: Reading and Writing in the Plotinian and Origenist Traditions”

Jeremy Schott (UNC-Charlotte)


Why do we write? More fundamentally, should we write, and how do the ways we think about and use texts shape us and our communities? This presentation explores the ways that two contemporary late-ancient intellectual communities — the philosophical circle of the Platonists Plotinus and Porphyry and the community of Christian scholar-ascetics around Pamphilus and Eusebius of Caesarea — developed particular “ethics of textuality.” Instead of a historical narrative that describes the history of Neoplatonism and Christianity in terms of oversimplified differences between “pagans” and “Christians,” this presentation is interested in a historical narrative that looks at the different ways that competing intellectual communities developed answers to shared theoretical and practical issues surrounding textuality.

Meeting and Dining

All are welcome! All meetings will be held 7:00–9:00 pm in the Second Floor Lounge in Cohen Hall at the University of Pennsylvania.

Those wishing to dine together before the seminar will meet at 6:00 pm in the Cohen Hall Second-Floor Lounge to go next door to the food court in Houston Hall.

Suggested Reading

Plato, Phaedrus

(esp. the myth of Theuth and the discussion of the Phaedrian problem of writing, approx. 274a-279c in any easily available translation)

Any portion of either Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History and/or Preparation for the Gospel.

If you can, you might want to glance at Eusebius’s citation formulae at: PE 3.praef.4; 6.7.43; 8.10.19; 9.1.4; 10.1.9; 13.praef.1; 13.18.18; 14.4.16; 14.22.17; see also HE 3.8.1; 3.23.5. Any easily available translation will do. The point is to get a sense of the “flavor” of Eusebius’ highly quotational compositions.

PDF copies of the portions from Porphyry, Pamphilus and Eusebius, and Clement are available on request from Phil Webster (

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Selections from Porphyry, Life of Plotinus

Introductory portions of Pamphilus and Eusebius, Apology for Origen.

Introductory portions of Clement, Stromateis 1.

Those interested might also want to look at some of the theoretical work on “intertextuality” that informs Schott's analyses of the primary sources, e.g...

Julia Kristeva, “Word, Dialogue, and Novel,” in eadem, Desire in Language. A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art, trans. T. Gora, A. Jardine, & L. Roudiez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980), 64-91.

Kristeva’s article was one of the first to make the work of Mikhail Bakhtin accessible to western scholars; those who want to read the “real” Bakhtin out of which Kristeva develops her notion of “intertextuality” could look at Mikhail Bakhtin, “Discourse in the Novel,” in idem., The Dialogic Imagination, C. Emerson & M. Holquist, transs. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981).

For two seminal treatments of patristic quotation in the Latin tradition see Mark Vessey, “The Forging of Orthodoxy in Latin Christian Literature: A Case Study,” JECS 4 (1996), 495-513 and Éric Rebillard, “A New Style of Argument in Christian Polemic: Augustine and the Use of Patristic Citations,” JECS 8 (2000) 559-578.