Plagiarism and Lay Patronage of Ascetic Scholarship: Jerome, Ambrose, and Rufinus

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Jerome became embroiled in controversy with Ambrose and Rufinus over accusations of plagiarism. This essay aims to delineate a link between the plagiarism dispute and Jerome's ongoing effort to maintain the lay patronage vital to his program of scholarship. Jerome's definition of what constituted plagiarism and whom the offense victimized was determined by the rhetorical conventions of literary patronage. Against the foil of the plagiarist, Jerome promoted frankness and expertise as the chief authorial virtues. By contrast, Rufinus appealed to fidelity, gratitude and discretion, all traditional qualities of the literary protégé. The appeals of both Jerome and Rufinus to the embedded moral codes of patronage betray the subtle shifts in social institutions as well as possibilities for a new configuration of literary relationships in ascetic society. While the exchange of accusations effectively foreclosed reassessment of the meaning of authorial integrity and authenticity, the plagiarism dispute nevertheless reveals the anxieties of both readers and writers in ascetic literary society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)489-522
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Early Christian Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Religious studies


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