The Catholic University of America

Ralph Defense

Ms. Allison Ralph presented her dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy on Friday, December 4, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. Her dissertation is titled, “Metaphors of Sickness and the Social Body in the Constantinian Era.”

Final Examination of
Ms. Allison Ralph
for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Friday, December 4, 2015
11:00a.m., Caldwell Room 125
“Metaphors of Sickness and the Social Body in the Constantinian Era”
Director: Susan Wessel, Ph.D.
Social body concepts in late antiquity shaped community by (1) defining the ideal society and by (2) serving to justify coercive measures meant to create or preserve it. This dissertation asks whether Constantine I and Constantius II used the language and/or concept of the social body to decide who was dangerous or beneficial to their community, what the line between them was, and what to do about it.
This study first examines two common models of the social body in late antiquity. In the case of both models, the social body was commonly perceived as a real object. One was the Stoic model, in which the hierarchically organized, harmonious cosmos served as the ideal template for the social body. It was subject to the disease of social dissension. The other was the Pauline model of 1 Corinthians, in which the social body was subject to damage by the invasive disease of polluting guilt. Social disease was cured by social policy.
The two models’ different diseases had different effects on community policies. Those effects are examined in a case study of the third century Bishop Cyprian of Carthage and his Christian interlocutors. The case study distinguishes spreading guilt as a fear particular to the Pauline body from spreading talk as a fear of dissension.
This distinction is applied in the analysis of Constantine and Constantius’ letters and edicts. The analysis seeks to answer two questions of each of the emperors: “By what criteria did he judge what was good for or dangerous to the society which he ruled?” and, “How did he publicly justify the coercive steps he took to preserve his community?”
The study shows that, for Constantine the ideal of the Stoic social body served as both the criteria by which he judged what was good for his society, and frequently as the justification for his coercive policies. For Constantius, the ideal of the Stoic social body served only as the justification for his coercive policies, but did not form the criteria by which he judged what was good for his society.
About Allison:
Allison K. Ralph was raised on the edge of the brackish marshes of the Northeast Florida’s intracoastal waterway. With an abiding interest in history, especially in the history of religious violence, she attended the University of North Florida, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in History with a minor in Religious Studies, and graduated Magna cum laude in 2004. She continued her education at Peterhouse at Cambridge University, graduating with a Master of Philosophy in Religious Studies – Church History, and earning Distinction in 2006. Her thesis was entitled “A Vision of Justice: Augustine's concept of justice and coercion in his political writings,” and was directed by Dr. Chad C. Pecknold. It was Dr. Pecknold who later encouraged her to apply to the doctoral program here at CUA. She also received here her Certificate in Greek and Latin in 2012.
Ms. Ralph grounds both her research and teaching in “compassionate history,” and an interest in the history of coercion, faith, and forgiveness.
Along life’s path, Ms. Ralph has also had a decade-long career as a fine custom picture framer, rowed crew on the river Cam, taken life pit-stops working in Norway, Alaska, and North Carolina, and suffered the loss of her beloved father, Alan D. Ralph (1944-2015). She is grateful for the love of a large but close-knit extended family. She has kept mostly sane while dissertating by enjoying singing, running, baking, and eating in the company of good friends as often as possible. She has been attending All Souls Church, Unitarian since the fall of 2009, and has been a member of All Souls Choir from pretty much the moment she walked in the door.
Summary of Coursework:
GER       500         Reading for Comprehension
GR          509         Intensive Elementary Greek
GR          511         Greek Prose Composition
GR          516         Intensive Intermediate Greek I
GR          517         Intensive Intermediate Greek II
GR          705         Patristic Seminar: Clement of Alexandria
GR          705         Patristic Seminar: Gregory of Nazianzus
LAT        511         Latin Prose Composition
LAT        519         Intensive Intermediate Latin
LAT        642         Medieval Latin Seminar: Carolingian Education
LAT        733         Latin Paleography I
TRS        598         Doctoral Comps
TRS        599         Doctoral Comps
TRS        620A      The Writing of Church History
TRS        622         Ancient and Medieval Church History
TRS        720E      Augustine’s Constroversies
TRS        721A      Patristic Thought and Emotion
TRS        727         Introduction to Medieval Theology
TRS        727B      Formation of Orthodoxy
TRS        727D      Catholic Reformation 1400-1540
TRS        751A      Teaching & Learning: Relig. Ed. & Catechetics
TRS        780B      Hermeneutics and Religion
TRS        830E      Ethics and Politics in St. Augustine
TRS        996B      Dissertation – Doctoral
TRS        997         Dissertation – Doctoral