My dissertation examines the ways in which Sidonius Apollinaris, a fifth century bishop, articulates, performs, and engages with various structures of power and authority in his self-published letter collection. Sidonius’s letters preserve a glimpse into his life during a time of great political instability and violence. As the spiritual head of a city at the edge of Roman territory in what is modern-day France, he leveraged his position to attempt to lead, console, and protect his community over years of prolonged urban assault. Modern scholarship has, by and large, ignored or even downplayed Sidonius’s episcopal career, because he does not easily fit other widely-accepted paradigms for episcopal behavior and performance. Instead, Sidonius’s letters are mined for evidence for what “really” happened at the end of the western Roman Empire without much attention to why Sidonius preserves these details in the first place. By undertaking a close reading of his letters for the interplay of power and authority across epistolary relationships, I will demonstrate why Sidonius deserves to be taken seriously as a bishop. In his capacity as a bishop, Sidonius creates space for other examples of power and authority at the community level which I argue are just as important as those bishops who challenge or advise emperors and kings.
Ancient Mediterranean History, Digital Humanities, Social History, Critical Theory
Prof. Michele R. Salzman (chair)
Prof. Denver Graninger
Prof. M. Shane Bjornlie (Claremont McKenna College)
Outstanding Teaching Award, 2016