The Catholic University of America


Philip Rousseau's Teaching

General Observations

My graduate seminar courses adhere for the most part to the same pattern.  Those enrolled

  • develop and maintain a personal bibliography, a significant proportion of it annotated in relation to central argument, scholarly dialogue, academic genealogy, and current impact;
  • prepare an oral presentation relative to a developing theme of their choice (within the boundaries of the course), providing them with practice in creating short conference papers;
  • complete a final research paper, which may be entirely fresh or discuss more fully the theme of their oral presentation, providing them with practice in writing journal articles.

Most of these courses range across the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries (reaching roughly from Constantine to the rise of Islam), exploring the social, economic, political, and ideological circumstances in which the gradual Christianization of the later Roman Empire took place, and attempting to define the ways in which a new body politic, a respublica Christiana, was shiftingly conceived and its ideal "citizen" envisaged.


Spring 2018

ECST 650 (graduate seminar course with research paper): "History of Early Christian Thought."  Instructor: Philip Rousseau.  Time: TTh 11:10 - 12:25.  Place: McMahon Hall 211.  Note: place may be subject to change.

The course, compulsory for students enrolled in the “Early Christian Studies” Program, is designed to appeal to as wide a graduate body as possible, enrolled in any number of other Programs.  Those in Medieval and Byzantine Studies, Church History, Historical Theology, Greek and Latin, Semitics, History, and Philosophy should in particular find links with their own fields of inquiry, as well as those in "Early Christian Studies."

For, by the "history of early Christian thought," I mean the intellectual traditions - both the manner and content of religious reflection - that Christian thinkers inherited and adapted through Late Antiquity and beyond from those that came before them.  I have therefore divided the course into a number of different sections, maintaining its focus and coherence as a whole but allowing each individual student to pursue interests relevant to his or her particular course of study.  It is crucial that you recognize the broad opportunity being offered here.

The overriding theme of the course, therefore, is the interaction between the intellectual traditions that early Christianity inherited and then developed to suit its own purposes.  Although other traditions were involved (and they will also be open to study), two stand out, of course: the Jewish and the classical.  The interaction between them was an essential force in Christian development.  A short series of introductory lectures will therefore explore the emergence of this situation and the changes of emphasis that then ensued.

Each student will be required to write two papers - one (the shorter) devoted to analysis of a primary source or group of sources (and English translations will be available and accepted); the other (longer) a more reflective paper devoted to a theme or a modern debate.  The shorter paper will be circulated and discussed by the class as a whole.

I shall invite you all to study closely two books: Susanna Elm, Sons of Hellenism, Fathers of the Church (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012), and Moulie Vidas, Tradition and the Formation of the Talmud (Princeton University Press, 2014).  Both are E-books available to CUA students.

I shall, at a later stage of the course, explore a more limited theme that nevertheless fits into the general area of debate.  The theme in 2018 will be “Jerome and ‘translation’.”  I am not thinking of Jerome’s translation work in a more familiar and literal sense, but of the way in which he adapted his classical and biblical heritage to the Christian society of his own day.  This will allow a degree of comparison with contemporaries who wrote on the same theme: Basil of Caesarea in his Address to Young Men, and Augustine of Hippo in his De doctrina Christiana.  But I shall start with analysis of Jerome’s Letter 57 to his friend Pammachius.

A syllabus should available by Christmas this year.


Fall 2018

HIST 3xx (undergraduate lecture course): "Rethinking 'Rome' in the Sixth-Century West."  Instructors Jennifer Davis and Philip Rousseau.  Probable time: TTh 11:10 - 12:25 (to be confirmed).  Place TBA.

The political structure of the Roman empire in the West ended in the year 476. But Rome, as a city, as an idea, as a way of being, remained. This course will examine the fate of “Rome” in the West in the long sixth century after the end of the imperial government, stretching from 476 to the death of Pope Gregory the Great in 604. We will visit such places as Vandal Africa, the Gaul of the upstart Merovingian dynasty, and the Roman-style court of the Ostrogoth Theoderic in Ravenna. Themes addressed will include the development of episcopal authority, particularly that of the bishop of Rome, the emergence of kingship, and shifting conceptions of identity. Drawing on primary sources from the period, the course will examine the changing meaning of Rome after the end of the Roman Empire in the West.




Remember: I am always available for Directed Reading or Independent Study enrollments.

Check with the Director of Graduate Studies within your Unit before approaching me.