The Catholic University of America


Philip Rousseau's Current Research

Collaborative Research
Some years ago, my colleague Dr Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe (Peterhouse, Cambridge) and I tried to set up what we called an "international consortium for collaborative research."  In no way was this intended to be a full-blown institution involving complex and burdensome management.  We decided eventually to shelve the project, since groups of that sort were (we quickly discovered) appearing all over the world, and there didn't seem much point in just adding another one, when scholars were doing what we had in mind anyway.  I am still firmly wedded to the basic idea, however, and I suspect that such networks will gradually constitute the main forums of productive research, in our field as in many others.  Although I am no longer Director of the Center, the current Director has given me the responsibility of fostering the inclination locally.
So, CUA's Center for the Study of Early Christianity is gradually moving more consistently towards a broad network of faculty and graduate students interested in an arc of Christian development - the "Tempora Christiana" - from Antiquity to the Renaissance.  This would never be a monolithic enterprise but would, rather, consist of a range of independent but chronologically sequential research and publication projects set within the arc itself.  We are fortunate to have enthusiastic and productive faculty all along this axis of specialization; but we have yet to decide how best to articulate our shared identity and scholarly focus.
In the service of this venture, we have at least set up regular meetings of faculty and senior graduate students, encouraging open-ended conversation, which has already stimulated unexpected liaisons of interest and inquiry.
Jerome, Cassian, and Contemporaries

In this connection I have two sets of interests.
The first concerns what we might call a mapping of commitment.  Many of those involved - Jerome and Cassian included - were very much on the move, but in search of what (and at whose behest) is not always clear.  Two questions present themselves: what were the connections between Gaul, Italy, Asia Minor, Palestine, and Egypt; and what were the motives at work in those who followed the paths between them?  There are, in other words, both spatial and  personal aspects to be explored.
The second interest is perhaps focused more on Jerome himself.  I am not confident that I have yet been able to decide in what ways he remains important to us despite his faults of character.  I have made several efforts over the years to identify what we might think of as his significant virtues; and my more recent attempts have lighted on the theme of "Jerome the Translator of Culture," which I hope to make clearer to myself and others over the next couple of years.
Gregory the Great
My immediate interest here is in interpreting (at first as a teaching project) Gregory's Pastoral Care as an essay in healing as much as in rhetoric and government.  He was concerned (and perceptive) about catering to psychological abilities and needs, as well as about ordering believers' lives and converting those who did not believe.  He exemplified sympathy as much as authority.
Beyond that beckons a broader topic, "Gregory the Great and the Italian Culture of his Time," to recall (with some trepidation and humility) Momigliano's famous study of Cassiodorus.
The two books I mention on the previous page I have tentatively called The Late Roman Ascetic, Yesterday and Today (although I don't think that's quite right yet), and The Inner Landscape of Some Late Antique Texts: An Exercise in Reading.
The first asks what, in the Christian legacy of early ascetic thought and practice, we might usefully resurrect or reinforce in our contemporary religious lives.  This would intertwine, I think, with my developing interests in the reinvention, as it were (after the Reformation), of rigorous devotio in general and the monastic life in particular.
The second (which will come after the first) is still difficult for me to explain clearly.  It has something to do with how late antique authors - especially when describing things: concrete objects, places, events, actions - beguiled their readers into the scene they described, often by a sleight of hand that disguised how the trick was played.  That's why I used in the page above the phrase "hermeneutic techniques"; but I find that there's often something more subtle going on that hints at a cleverly hidden deceit, which is nevertheless very far from being false: it's a game more than a trap, or can be.