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Scenting SalvationAncient Christianity and the Olfactory Imagination$
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Susan Ashbrook Harvey

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780520241473

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520241473.001.0001

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Redeeming Scents

Redeeming Scents

Ascetic Models

(p.156) 4 Redeeming Scents
Scenting Salvation

Susan Ashbrook Harvey

University of California Press

Christian olfactory piety emerged and was displayed at a particular moment in Christian history. Its appearance marked a crucial turning point in the religion's social and political location. Christians' pride in the Roman Empire brought with it an intensified significance for all things physical. Christianity inherited an ancient discourse familiar throughout the Mediterranean world, in which the senses were deplored as sources of moral danger. Christian thinkers made use of this tradition of moral psychology from their earliest writings; in late antiquity, they increased its tenor. Explorations of the prevalence and diversity of ascetic rhetoric and practice in the late antique period have focused on deliberation of asceticism in relation to the formation of the self. Negative discourse about the senses became shriller at the very moment that the deliberate engagement of sensory experience became prominent in Christian worship, devotional piety, and domestic, civic, and monastic practices.

Keywords:   psychology, late antiquity, asceticism

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