The Invention of Monasticism

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University Club, Room 212
@ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Closely cropped portrait image of Albrecht Diem with grey hair and glasses

Monday Seminar:

Albrecht Diem

Solmsen Fellow (2010-2011)

History, Syracuse University


Albrecht will present an outline of his research project, which focuses on the process of monastic institution forming in the late antique and early medieval west. He is especially interested in the modes of shaping monastic identities and modes of communal life through the construction of an institutional past. Almost every step of the formation of monastic institutions (e.g. the invention of enclosure and constitution monastic boundaries, the beginning of collective intercessory prayer and the notion of collective sanctity, the integration in political structures or the use of rules and norms) is legitimated by claims of continuing or restoring a tradition and by constructing a past that suits the present. He will try out whether it works to write a history of early monasticism on the basis of these imaginations of the past.


Albrecht Diem is Assistant Professor in the Department of History, Syracuse University. His research focuses on the history of monasticism in the Early Middle Ages and the history of gender and sexuality. He published a monograph, Das Monastische Experiment. Die Rolle der Keuschheit bei der Entstehung des westlichen Klosterwesens, Vita Regularis, vol. 24, Münster: LIT-Verlag 2005. His recent articles include ‘A Classicising Friar at Work: John of Wales’ Breviloquium de virtutibus’, in: Alasdair A. MacDonald, Zweder von Martels and Jan Veenstra (eds), Christian Humanism. Essays in Honor of Arjo Vanderjagt, Studies in Medieval and Reformation Traditions, vol. 142, Leiden: Brill 2009, pp. 75-102; ‘Nu suln ouch wir gesellen sîn – Über Schönheit, Freundschaft und mann-männliche Liebe im Tristan Gottfrieds von Straßburg’, in: “Die sünde, der sich der tuivel schamet in der helle”. Homosexualität in der Kultur des Mittelalters und der frühen Neuzeit, Stuttgart: Thorbecke Verlag 2009, pp. 91-121; ‘Organisierte Keuschheit – organisierte Heiligkeit. Individuum und Institutionalisierung im frühen gallo-fränkischen Klosterwesen’, in: Pavlina Rychterova, Stefan Seit and Raphalea Veit (eds), Das Charisma. Funktionen und symbolische Repräsentation, Beiträge zu den Historischen Kulturwissenschaften, vol. 2, Berlin: Akademie Verlag 2008, pp. 323-345; ‘The rule of an Iro-Egyptian Monk in Gaul. Jonas of Bobbio’s Vita Iohannis and the construction of a monastic identity’, in: Revue Mabillon 80 (2008), pp. 5-50; ‘Monks, kings and the transformation of sanctity. Jonas of Bobbio and the end of the Holy Man’, in: Speculum 82 (2007), pp. 521-559. Albrecht Diem (M.A. Heinrich-Heine Universität Düsseldorf, Ph.D. Universiteit Utrecht) taught at the universities of Groningen and Utrecht and was a post-doctoral research fellow at the Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen and at the Institut für Mittelalterforschung, Austrian Academy of Science, Vienna. Since 2007 he is assistant professor at Syracuse University. He received a Mellon Fellowship of the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies Toronto in 2001/2002. The last three summers he spent as a guest fellow at the Institut für Mittelalterforschung, Vienna.