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The Human Ideal in Byzantine Theology

Alexis Torrance, University of Notre Dame, Fellow 2017–2018

I studied debates and discussions surrounding the concepts of perfection and the human ideal in Byzantium. Examining a series of “flashpoints” of especial interest—from the writings of Maximus the Confessor in the seventh century to the hesychast controversy in the fourteenth—I made significant progress in piecing together a mosaic of sorts that conveys some of the breadth and depth of Byzantine interest in this topic. From intricate discussion of the relationship between “rest” and “movement” in the age to come in Maximus and the earthy, “concretized” understanding of perfection in Theodore the Studite, to the controlling role of Christological dogma in Symeon the New Theologian’s vision of deification and the debates during the hesychast controversy over the precise role of reason in the perfected life, the project brings together an array of issues of fundamental concern in Byzantine theology, each of which is still subject to significant scholarly discussion and debate. I also completed a coedited volume, Personhood in the Byzantine Christian Tradition; published an article on the reception of Palamite thought on the island of Cyprus in the fourteenth century; and finished several forthcoming articles and chapters.