Monasticism and Literature Criticism: Major Figures - Essay

Vincent Desprez (essay date March 1990)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Desprez, Vincent. “The Origins of Western Monasticism.” The American Benedictine Review 41, no. 1 (March 1990): 99-112.

[In the following essay, Desprez discusses some of the personalities who shaped western monasticism, including St. Athanasius, St. Jerome, St. Martin, Honoratus, and John Cassian.]


Western monasticism stems, on the one hand, from the old asceticism practiced in the Church in the first three centuries, and to a greater extent, from Oriental ideals. Thus it is important to be aware of the continuity with the older asceticism where this exists, and also of the external influences. But in the...

(The entire section is 5162 words.)

Vincent Desprez (essay date June 1990)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Desprez, Vincent. “The Origins of Western Monasticism II: Africa and Spain.” The American Benedictine Review 41, no. 2 (June 1990): 167-91.

[In the following essay, Desprez examines how St. Augustine and St. Fulgentius influenced monasticism in Africa and surveys monasticism in Spain.]


African monasticism1 owes the form it maintained until the Arab conquest principally to St. Augustine. The idea of consecrated virginity had found in Africa one of its proper homes, as Tertullian's On the veil of virgins and St. Cyprian's On the conduct of virgins eloquently witness....

(The entire section is 9377 words.)

Thomas Renna (essay date September 1993)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Renna, Thomas. “Bernard and Bede.” The American Benedictine Review 44, no. 3 (September 1993): 223-35.

[In the following essay, Renna compares and contrasts the ideas of Bede and Bernard.]

Bede and Bernard. The one, the great monastic illuminary from Anglo-Saxon England; the other, from twelfth-century France. They lived at two important junctures in the development of Western monasticism. Modern historians have generally emphasized Bede's place in the Northumbrian renaissance, and Bernard's role in the monastic reforms after 1100. Bernard is sometimes contrasted with Benedict of Nursia, Benedict of Aniane, Cluniacs, or thirteenth-century Franciscans in...

(The entire section is 4399 words.)

Thomas F. Martin (essay date January 1998)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Martin, Thomas F. “‘An Abundant Supply of Discourse’: Augustine and the Rhetoric of Monasticism.” Downside Review 402, no. 116 (January 1998): 7-25.

[In the following essay, Martin examines Augustine's writings in praise of the monastic way of life.]

What is it therefore to speak not only eloquently but also wisely, unless to apply sufficient words in the subdued style, elegant words in the moderate style, powerful words in the grand style, all the while speaking only true things which ought to be heard. But if someone is not able to do both [speak eloquently and wisely], let him say wisely what he does not say eloquently,...

(The entire section is 7074 words.)

Mary Alberi (essay date October 2001)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Alberi, Mary. “‘The Better Paths of Wisdom’: Alcuin's Monastic ‘True Philosophy’ and the Worldly Court.” Speculum 76, no. 4 (October 2001): 896-910.

[In the following essay, Alberi discusses how Alcuin attempted to follow his “true philosophy” as a monk while serving in the court of Charlemagne.]

During his years in the Frankish kingdom Alcuin often experienced conflict between his desire for a monastic life and the obligations of service to Charlemagne. In 802-3, when Arno of Salzburg complained that the duties of an imperial missus interfered with his pastoral responsibilities, Alcuin could not find a satisfactory solution to his...

(The entire section is 8049 words.)