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‘Total Devotion – Passions and Plots in Radical Religion in the Ancient World’ 19-01-23
Lecture by Laura Feldt and Klazina Staat for the Extreme Beliefs project, at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam on 19-01-23, titled: ‘Total Devotion – Passions and Plots in Radical Religion in the Ancient World’.
This lecture discusses the research field of radical religion and identify some major trends that have focused on radical beliefs, marginalization, and societal relations. While these are important aspects, Feldt suggests that the focus on radical beliefs and exterior relations should be supplemented by a broader perspective that places more emphasis on group-internal ideals of devotion and the role of emotionality and narrativity. She argues that these aspects are important for the formation and continued pull of radical religion, for enduring forms of total devotion that enable identity fusion and motivate costly sacrifice. Feldt presents the concept of total devotion and a theoretical framework for addressing and analysing shared ideals of devotion and the role of emotionality and narrativity. The lecture also discusses a historicization of the study of radical religion that takes it beyond the focus on Islam and on the contemporary era. To that end, Feldt presents the Total Devotion project (www.sdu.dk/radrel), funded by the Danish Research Fund for Independent Research in the Humanities and discusses some examples drawn from Judaism and Christianity in the ancient world.
Post.doc. of the Total Devotion project and Assistant Professor at VU, Klazina Staat, presents a case study from the project, of total devotion in Latin late antique Lives of secret saints. It argues that total devotion is narrativised according to a standardised plot structure or ‘masterplot’, with key functions for secrecy, fame, rumours and imitation in the constitution of total devotion.