The literary remains of Shenoute of Atripe

Coptic literature is an under-studied area for most of us.  But today I have been finding out that significant work has been done in the last decade on an important figure of the 4th century, Shenoute of Atripe, the leader of the White Monastery at Panopolis.

For this we have Stephen Emmel to thank.  It seems that he has undertaken the painstaking task of recovering the works of this central figure, and has revolutionised the field.  It is unfortunate that none of this is online; but this blurb to Stephen Emmel, Shenoute’s Literary Corpus, Peeters (2004), in 1006 pages (!) tells the story.

… Stephen Emmel’s reconstruction of the literary corpus of Shenoute, monastic leader in Upper Egypt from 385 until 465, and Coptic author par excellence, marks the beginning of a new era in Shenoute studies.

On the basis of about one hundred parchment codexes from the library of Shenoute’s monastery, pieced together from nearly two thousand fragments scattered among some two dozen collections, Emmel demonstrates that Shenoute’s corpus was transmitted in two multi-volume sets of collected works, nine volumes of Canons and eight volumes of Discourses.

At the core of his study is a description of each reconstructed codex, demonstrating the organization and coherence of the corpus as a whole, followed by a survey of its contents in which nearly 150 individual works are catalogued. A research-historical and methodological introduction, tables, concordances, and an extensive bibliography …

I can already see references to “volume 4 of the discourses”, etc, when sermons are referenced.  Effectively this acts as a clavis or index to Shenoute’s works.  The book is, unfortunately almost $200, so unaffordable to the rest of us.

It would be good, surely, to have a list of his works at least, online.

2 Responses to “The literary remains of Shenoute of Atripe”


  1. Anthony Alcock

    I agree that Emmel’s work, which he has done while being supported by public money (at least in Germany), should be made available online. I see no reason why work of this sort should not also be made available online. The only institutions that will have a print copy of this work will be libraries and the only people will be reviewers.

  2. Roger Pearse

    It makes no sense, I agree, for this to be offline.

    How does it serve the interests of the public, who pay for it, for the work to be inaccessible except to those few research libraries that purchase literature on Coptic. There are probably only a handful in the world who do.

    And how, indeed, does it serve the interest of Dr Emmel, that his work should not be used?

    Or the interests of coptologists?

    It must be bonkers to do this; and I can’t help feeling that in 10 years this sort of thing just won’t happen any more. This is, I think, a transitional period between the old, when no other means of publication existed, and the new, when any publication may be made accessible at no cost anywhere.



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