Call for Papers

The 2016 Annual Meeting of the North American Patristics Society will take place on May 26-28, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago. NAPS members may register for the conference and book a hotel room by clicking here. A draft of the conference program is now available, and it may be found by clicking here. The Paper Proposal Submission website is now closed.


Call for Papers

Individual abstracts of approximately 300 words (including submissions to be considered for one of the Open Call Sessions listed below) or proposals for Prearranged Sessions may now be submitted here.  Please note that individual abstracts earmarked for but not accepted into an Open Call Session will automatically be entered into the general pool.  Prearranged Sessions should be thematically consistent and will typically include three or four papers; an abstract for each paper should accompany the proposal submitted by the session’s organizer, except in cases of book panels, translation workshops, and the like.  Notification of acceptance of all papers and session proposals will be made by December 14, 2015.

Please note the following guidance for abstracts. They should: 1) offer a clear indication of the thesis to be argued; 2) indicate which primary sources will be discussed; 3) indicate the relevant methodological, historiographical, and/or philosophical context; and 4) deal with sources (including archaeology and material culture) that fall within the parameters of Late Ancient and Patristic studies.

Please note the following restrictions. 1) Only NAPS members in good standing may read papers.  2) NAPS graduate student members who are pre-ABD are invited to submit proposals through the Open Call session titled, “Pre-Dissertation Research Workshop” rather than making proposals through the general scheme. 3) Members are requested to submit no more than one abstract. 4) Due to the extreme complexity of scheduling such a large event, it is not possible to accommodate special scheduling requests. This means that if you are proposing a paper, you need to be available to speak at whatever time the paper is scheduled (i.e. on any of the three days).


NAPS Outstanding Student Paper Prizes

Graduate student members of NAPS whose papers are accepted for the 2016 Annual Meeting are invited to apply for a $250 “NAPS Outstanding Student Paper Prize.” Students should submit a complete text of their conference paper (no more than 2,500 words, not including footnotes/endnotes) to the Chair of the NAPS Board’s Awards and Prizes Committee, Robin Jensen (, by March 1, 2016. Up to five prizes will be given, and the winners will be announced in the NAPS conference program and at the 2016 NAPS Business Meeting.


Summary of Important Dates

October 14, 2015 – Paper Proposals Submission website opens. Submit your paper by clicking here.

November 22, 2015 – Paper Proposals Submission website closes

December 21, 2015 – Notification of acceptance

February 1, 2015 – Program published on the NAPS website. It is available by clicking here.

March 1, 2016 – Deadline to apply for Outstanding Student Paper Prizes. Please see above.

May 26-28, 2016 – Annual Meeting in Chicago


Questions? Please direct them to:

Kate Cooper

Professor of Ancient History, University of Manchester

Vice-President, NAPS


List of the 2016 Open Call Sessions

Pre-Dissertation Research Workshop

Sponsor: Kate Cooper, University of Manchester [UK]  

This session is intended to offer an opportunity for graduate students who have not yet embarked on dissertation research to offer short presentations (up to 10 minutes) and receive feedback from their peers and senior colleagues. Invited are papers that test a hypothesis against the evidence of one or more primary sources. If you would like to be considered as a presenter, please include in your proposal text a clear statement of the hypothesis you plan to test, the name(s) of the primary source(s) you will consider, what questions you will ask, what scholarly tools and techniques you will bring to bear in pursuit of an answer, and what original contribution you hope to offer as a result. Finally, please include an annotated bibliography of 4-8 items that have most influenced your thinking on the chosen topic.


Geography and the Historiography of Christian Thought in Late Antiquity

Sponsor: Emanuel Fiano, Duke University

As early Christian studies as a field continues to scrutinize its own assumptions, there is a growing recognition that teleological narratives about the first centuries of Christian theological reflection have long been dominant, and that new interpretive categories are required. Whether explicitly or not, those narratives described the history of Christian thought as a meaningfully driven sequence of twists and turns culminating in synthetic moments of credal definition. With the aim of opening fissures in such seamless descriptions, this Open Call Session will foreground the question of geography, hosting papers utilizing a variety of methodological and theoretical approaches that propose innovative ways of conceptualizing variation and continuity of intellectual traditions across space from the second to the sixth century CE. Examples of broad relevant themes include—but are in no way limited to—the ways in which the coordinate of space has joined forces in modern historiography with that of time to produce what Peter Van Nuffelen has recently termed ‘geo-genealogies’; perduring scholarly accounts about geographically defined ‘schools’ (e.g. the ‘Alexandrian School,’ the ‘Antiochene School’) carrying an imputed set of traits from whose interaction, confrontation, and eventual recombination dogma is said to emerge over time; practical applications of the debated category of ‘influence’ that involve problems of transmission over wide geographic regions; narratives that assign particular characteristics to a geo-cultural brand of Christianity based on assumptions about linguistic, ethnic, or cultural markers; the exile of bishops as a determining factor in the advancement of theological discussion; and evidence for spatial reasoning and geographic awareness in the late ancient pursuit of intellectual exchanges.


Persecutions of Christians after Constantine: Polemic and Rhetorical Discourse Sponsor: Eric Fournier, West Chester University

It was among the traditional powers of Roman emperors to determine proper religious beliefs and to enforce them when necessary. In Latin, the original sense of “persecutio” could thus mean “to prosecute” (Cic. Orator 41.141). With Roman prosecutions of Christians, a slippage operated to understand “persecutio,” with negative connotations, to mean attacking a specific group for their religious beliefs. Hence the common understanding of the word “persecution” today, according to which all post-Constantinian emperors should be labeled as persecutors. Yet this is not the case in modern scholarship. One goal of this session is to question such use of this problematic terminology for “persecutions” of late antique Christians living under Christian rulers.

We invite analyses of case studies to test the proposition that such claims were driven by rhetoric and polemic. Indeed, it seems that when late antique Christians claimed to be victims of persecution, they deployed a literary context of polemic that cast the authors of unfavorable measures as the heirs of Decius and Diocletian. By contrast with earlier prosecutions centering on specific actions (rituals), late antique ones mainly oriented against beliefs. In turn, because beliefs were a matter of contested definition, later “persecutions” became more debatable than earlier Roman persecutions of Christians. Instead, Christian claims to be persecuted came to identify any act perceived as unfavorable to the Christian faction of the observer. Such claims, because based on a contested definition of “truth,” constituted a discourse, a rhetorical tool of empowerment for dispossessed and disempowered Christian groups who deployed the rhetoric of persecution as a means of resistance, as a political weapon against their ideological foes, in order to oppose their subjective claims to truth (e.g. Aug. Ep. 185.11).


The Roots of Hagiography

Sponsors: Christa Gray, University of Glasgow [UK] & James Corke-Webster University of Durham [UK]

In recent years, the field of hagiography has proved a superlative example of the interdisciplinary strengths of late antique studies. Most scholars are clear on the existence of a diverse hagiographic corpus from the fourth century on, but the early life of hagiography is much less clear. Hagiography emerges from a complex intercultural milieu and is influenced by both Christian and non-Christian texts, and the earlier one goes, the more blurred those boundaries become. Hagiography stands in a rich tradition of Christian biography stretching through the martyr acta of the second and third centuries back to the New Testament. But it also has an under-explored relationship with non-Christian literature, for example the ancient novel or philosophical biography.

These issues are illustrated for example in the case of Eusebius of Caesarea. His fourth century Life of Constantine is often described as a quasi-hagiography, and one of the earliest examples of the “genre”. But it is very different from later saints’ lives, and could equally well be viewed as an extension of the Ecclesiastical History, which is itself a series of mini-biographies of celebrated Christians. And the same author also wrote a lost Life of Pamphilus that some have claimed as the earliest saint’s life. Eusebius had inherited diverse early Christian literary traditions (apology, martyr acta etc.). But he was also reacting to trends in third century biography, as famously evidenced by Philostratus.

We seek papers exploring these roots of hagiography (which we define in the non-technical sense of “writings about (the lives of) saints”) and how these origins influenced the development of saints’ lives, both in reality and literature. We welcome proposals that consider individual saints’ lives or collections of lives, as well as those that take a more theoretical or diachronic approach to hagiography. Potential themes include – but are not limited to:

  • the relationship of hagiography to canonical and non-canonical Christian literature
  • the relationships between hagiography and panegyric/the lives of the philosophers/the novel/Rabbinic Jewish literature etc.
  • the development of the “classic” saint’s life
  • the emergence of hagiography in more unusual forms (e.g. the poems of Paulinus of Nola or the sermons of John Chrysostom)
  • imitation (conscious or subconscious) in hagiography
  • theoretical discussions of hagiography as “genre” etc.


The Origins of a Christian Scripture

Sponsor: David Jorgensen, Colby College

The history of the Christian canon and the canonization processes are a long-studied area within patristics.  Less attention has been given to the attribution, by early Christian authors, of scriptural status per se to the apostolic texts. Harry Gamble has suggested that the concept of canon must presuppose the existence of scriptures. If this is correct, then the texts penned by or attributed to the apostles by the early church may have come to be thought of as scripture by at least some early Christian thinkers prior to any debates about their canonicity. To understand the processes of “sanctification,” whose origins would seem to precede those of canonization, we must examine the use of apostolic texts by second- and third-century Christian authors.  This panel invites papers on this topic, especially those which engage with the question of criteria for detecting an author’s attitude towards those texts.  For example: Is Tatian’s willingness to harmonize four gospels into a new one of his own making an indication that he did not consider them sacred texts – despite the fact that his sources were the very same four that would ultimately become canonical?  If Irenaeus’ fourfold gospel counts as a canon list, does this mean that he regarded these gospels as having a scriptural status higher than the letters of Paul – for whom he does not provide a corresponding canon list?  What other grounds might there be for identifying an early Christian author’s perception of an apostolic text’s sacrality?  Do answers to these questions force us to reevaluate the roles of the Marcionite, Valentinian, and Gnostic movements in the development of a Christian scripture?


Translations in Early Christianity

Sponsors: Joel Kalvesmaki, Dumbarton Oaks and Robin Darling Young, Catholic University of America

Late antiquity was characterized by numerous translations of Christian literature, including the Scriptures, sermons, theological treatises, hymnody, synodal documents, and non-Christian texts. Many of these went from Greek into Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Georgian, Gothic, and so forth, but many others traveled along surprising or unknown paths. This surge of translation activity, starting most noticeably from the fourth century, was not eclipsed until that of the Abbasids. Some of these translations are essential to restoring texts no longer extant in their original language. All of them are windows into how early Christian ideas were read and interpreted beyond their original milieux.

The field of translation studies emerged forcefully in the late twentieth century, with the ideal of treating translation activity throughout all human history, but with a practical emphasis on modern literature. By studying translations across disparate cultures, times, and genres, scholars in translation studies have developed numerous hypotheses and theories about translating and interpreting, and have pioneered important methods of study, such as corpus-based computational analysis.

Scholars in translation studies and early Christianity have not crossed paths as much as they should. On one hand, late antique translations might falsify or confirm hypothesized translation universals, and on the other, theories in translation studies might provide new insight into well-studied texts. This session attempts to help bridge that divide, by inviting papers that treat difficult or unusual cases of ancient translations in early Christianity that speak to broader notions of translating. Possible topics include the nature and scope of early Christian disputes over translation theory, the influence of translations in non-Greek circles, the original language of a disputed text, the possibilities and limits to what can be inferred from ancient translations, and computational methods for settling important questions in early Christian translations. Although primary sources will come from the period of early Christianity, they may be non-Christian texts. Proposers are encouraged to advance theses that not only contribute to the field of patristics but engage with and inform the field of translation studies.


Landscapes:  Context and Representation

Sponsors: Morwenna Ludlow, University of Exeter [UK] (, Scot Douglass, University of Colorado at Boulder (, and Thomas Hunt, Newman University [Birmingham, UK] (

Landscapes are used to set the scene for a particular narrative or conversation in many early Christian writings. Sometimes they appear to be a relatively minor framing device, or a short-hand means of indicating a particular mode of discourse (e.g., a desert for advice to a monk from his spiritual father, a garden for a philosophical dialogue). In other cases they are more clearly and specifically symbolic (trees in Augustine’s Confessions, gardens in commentaries on the Song of Songs).   At yet other times, the interaction of physical landscapes and mental landscapes (e.g., prisons, death beds, trials, a pagan shrine, the site of martyrdom) grant the setting something of a silent but dominant voice in the production of meaning.   Landscape also frames the study of early Christianity (e.g. Gibbon’s encounter with the ruins of Rome or the opening pages of Brown’s Augustine of Hippo).

This call for papers seeks to explore the variety of ways landscapes frame texts, guide or subvert readers’ expectations, introduce theological or philosophical symbolism and hark back to other textual landscapes. These landscapes might be biblical or classical, ancient or modern, savage or cultivated, rural or urban, pristine or ruined.  Possible questions for investigation include:

  • What is Christian about Christian landscapes?
  • How is landscape gendered?
  • What is the connection between Christian textual landscapes and the space of the Roman Empire?
  • How is God present in textual landscapes?
  • What role does geographical imagination play in the intellectual life of early Christian thinkers?
  • In what ways do early Christian writers expect readers of their texts to exercise geographical imagination?
  • To what extent is the interaction between the landscape and the narrative or conversation explicit or implicit?
  • Can the landscape-setting of a text subvert the ostensible focus of the text?
  • How do biblical or classical landscapes relate to each other?


Nature before and after the Fall

Sponsor: Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe, King’s College London

This open call invites papers on any aspect of early Christian thinking about nature, understood as the natural world or environment, and including the earth, climate and animals. According to a range of early Christian thinkers, ‘the fall’ of Adam and Eve had catastrophic consequences for the mortality and morality of all their descendants, as well as for the possible kinds of relationships – social, political, sexual – between humans. But how did the fall change the natural environment in which humans lived and their relationships with it? What was distinctive about the post-lapsarian state and laws of nature? Furthermore, was human sin in Eden really thought to be the first or most major disturbance of creation? What about the effects and consequences for the world of the fall of Satan and his demons? Looking at ideas of the longue durée, how was the natural world thought to be changing over the course of Christian history, from creation to end times, and how were the resources, bounty and catastrophes of nature thought to reflect and relate to human activities in this period? In all periods, what kinds of miraculous event were conceived of as disrupting or surpassing ‘nature’, and how did the laws of nature change? Paper proposers are invited to make use of the insights and approaches of scholars working in the burgeoning field of ecotheology, and to think imaginatively about the connotations of ‘nature’ – metaphysical, legal, and other – in late antiquity. It is hoped that the papers and discussion at this session will refine our understanding of early Christian ideas about the natural world and the unseen processes which governed it, as well as the place of humans in that world, and their relationships with it.


Religion and Medicine, Disability, and Health in Late Antiquity

Sponsors: Heidi Marx-Wolf, University of Manitoba and Kristi Upson-Saia, Occidental College

Research on the intersection between religion and illness, injury, disease, disability, health, healing and medicine is a growing subfield within Religious Studies.  For the past several years, the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature have sponsored program units (Religions, Medicines, and Healing and Religion and Disabilities Group; Healthcare and Disability in the Ancient World), as well as numerous individual papers.  While much of the historical scholarship has focused primarily on biblical materials, there is a rapidly expanding area of scholarship focused on late antique sources and there is a growing community of scholars collaborating on this research (see the ReMeDHe website).

We invite paper proposals that investigate: (1) the religious meanings assigned to illness, ailments, afflictions, disabilities, and suffering; (2) the religious status of sick, deformed, or disabled individuals; (3) the use of medical, health, or sickness metaphors to articulate or motivate religious ideas, attitudes, or practices; (4) healthcare systems and institutions run by religious individuals or groups; (5) any other interaction of religion and health, healing, medicine, sickness, injury, disease, and/or disability.


Ordering Monastic Space in the Late Antique and Early Medieval West

Sponsors: Tina Sessa, Ohio State University and Jamie Wood, University of Lincoln [UK]

This session will encourage participants to reflect on the spatiality of late antique and early medieval monastic communities in the West. We seek to explore the differing ways by which monasteries were organized, both internally and in terms of their relationships to the ‘world’. Topics that presenters might wish to address include, but are not limited to:

  • Conceptualizing monastic space: how texts describe, define and delimit the spatial organization of monasteries.
  • Bounded monastic space: the borders and boundaries of monasteries, as represented textually and archaeologically.
  • Formative spaces: the educative and disciplinary functions of monastic space, how people learned to live in monasteries.
  • Practicing in monastic space: the relationship between the theory and practice of living in monastic spaces.
  • Controlling monastic space: the issue of authority – who exercises authority over the monastery, and how is such authority organized and articulated? How does such authority relate to other sources of social, economic and political power (landed elites; bishops; royal and/or imperial power)?
  • Monastic and other spaces: the connection between the geographical distribution of monasteries, the settlement and control of territory, and the formation and maintenance of frontiers.

We are especially interested in receiving papers that address the intersection between the material and textual evidence for monasticism in our period


Religious Economics in Late Antiquity

Sponsor: Zachary Smith, Creighton University

The recent encyclical from Pope Francis advocates a particular Catholic Christian approach to economic activity.  This document comes on the heels of recent scholarly interest in early Christian economics, resulting in several monographs that examine (in whole or in part) late antique economics and its relationship to Christian notions of wealth, poverty, and leadership.  Both the popular and scholarly examination of Christian economics have entered the discourse at a time of worldwide unrest based on questions of wealth, poverty, and power.  This proposed Open Call Session on “Religious Economics in Late Antiquity” seeks to further these conversations by calling for papers that examine early Christianity through modern economic theories, explore economic ideas of late antiquity and early Christianity, and critique approaches to modern conceptions of power and economics through applying ideas from late antique and early Christian thought.


Object, Text, and Image: Making Meaning

Sponsor: Dennis Trout, University of Missouri

The Sponsor solicits papers that explore the meaningful interdependency of objects and the images or texts that are depicted or inscribed on them. Suitable objects include, but are not limited to, pilgrim souvenirs, ivory panels, sculpted sarcophagi, decorated villa floors, church walls, and baptisteries. Papers (1) should aim at demonstrating the ways in which the materiality of artifacts collaborates with their related visual and textual fields to make meaning and (2) should relate their conclusions to broader themes in the study of late ancient culture. Presenters should be explicit about the assumptions that inform their approach and the difficulties as well as opportunities that such explorations entail. Above all, the Sponsor seeks a group of papers that illustrate the value of multi-media and cross-disciplinary inquiry to the study of patristics and the patristic age. Paper delivery time should not exceed twenty minutes. Please submit an abstract of 500 words and indicate AV requirements.


Afterlife Traditions in Early Christianity

Sponsor: Jeffrey Trumbower, St Michael’s College

This session will explore beliefs about the afterlife: heaven, hell, Hades, resurrection, judgment, intermediate state, from a wide variety of angles. Papers on death rituals, burial practices, and tombs could also fit insofar as they shed light on beliefs about the afterlife.  So many of our sessions focus on a single author or a particular location or time period, all to the good, but I think a thematic approach like this one would bring together scholars who are working on diverse afterlife topics but who have very different kens to bring to the table.


Verse Exegesis in Syriac and Greek

Sponsor: Erin Galgay Walsh, Duke University

Liturgical poetry has offered scholars of Late Antiquity a glimpse into the texts that formed the biblical imaginations of Christians across the social spectrum. This literature, particularly among Syriac- and Greek-speaking Christians, expanded the biblical narrative through imagined speech, building psychological complexity into familiar characters. The field of Syriac studies has a rich tradition of research in this area due to the popularity of this genre among early Syriac writers working from the 4th through the 6th century. The literary corpora of authors such as Ephrem, Jacob of Sarug, and Narsai continue to offer scholars a rich source of material to investigate. Comparative work between Syriac authors and the Greek poet Romanos demonstrate the interpenetration of literary cultures in the Eastern Mediterranean as well. The contentious issue as to whether these pieces are properly called verse homilies or liturgical poetry underscores the need for further research and debate about these pieces of Christian artistic production.

By bringing together papers dealing with exegesis in the poetic register, this session will provide a fruitful opportunity for discussing the dynamic relationship between content and form. How does the interpretation of biblical passages in these poetic texts compare with the treatment of these same scriptural texts in the commentary genre? What are the emotive responses evoked by such works? Furthermore, how are these texts forming religious subjectivity?