2004
Volume 126, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 0040-7518
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1163

Abstract

This article explores notions of medieval citizenship by examining the ‘uncivil’ behavior of withdrawal in the ascetic tradition of Western European intellectuals. Although those intellectuals explicitly defined their way of life as solitary, they considered themselves at the same time as belonging to a metaphorical city of kindred souls. By taking a key moment in the long-term cultural history of Europe as a case study, the article examines shifting discourses about the solitary life, moving from a social-anthropological explanation of the solitary life in the twelfth-century monastic reform program to a ‘psychological’ view of social behavior in thirteenth and fourteenth-century scholasticism. This shift can be explained in two complementary ways. First, against the backdrop of twelfth-century monastic reforms on the eve of the rise of universities and the increasing urbanization of the Parisian region, new ideas about individuality emerged. Second, Aristotle’s Politica made Parisian intellectuals more aware of a social and urban context in which ascetics could and should have their place. The conclusion ties the discourse of the solitary life, political performance, and freedom of thought to the enduring influence of asceticism up to the present day.

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2013-05-01
2021-12-08
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  • Article Type: Research Article
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