"In the context of belligerently hedonistic North American society, a society reduced to waging war to support our lifestyle, Richard Valantasis's The Making of the Self has never been more relevant. Valantasis proposes that past and present can best be compared, not through ideas, but through analysis of practices and what they produce. This book asks, What did historical people seek to achieve through the ascetic disciplines they practiced? What do we seek? Could some of the ascetic repertoire of historical people be of practical use toward our goals? Valantasis describes a theory and practice of asceticism for secular twenty-first-century society. Both informative and inspirational, The Making of the Self should be required reading for everyone who seeks to make intentional choices that shape the self."
--Margaret R. Miles, Professor Emerita of Historical Theology, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, and author of A Complex Delight: The Secularization of the Breast, 1350-1750
"A tour-de-force through the theory and practice of asceticism in late antiquity. Valatansis's insightful focus on the transformative power of ascetic performance permits one to see asceticism through the ascetic's eyes. His work compels us to reflect anew on the nature and role of asceticism in antiquity, and, in the process, to consider its meaning and relevance today."
--James E. Goehring, Professor of Religion, University of Mary Washington and author of Ascetics, Society, and The Desert
"The Making of the Self: Ancient and Modern Asceticism opens up traditional Christian and Roman sources to a new kind of close reading, showing us what difference it makes to recast asceticism in a theoretically rich and provocative way. In undertaking this task, Richard Valantasis invites his readers to rethink the historical texture of ancient Mediterranean asceticism as well as the ongoing legacies of asceticism's hardwiring of human society in any time and place where people resist the current order of things and dream of a new and better reality."
--Elizabeth A. Castelli, Professor of Religion, Barnard College at Columbia University and author of Martyrdom and Memory: Early Christian Culture Making
"This wide-ranging collection of essays is a remarkably coherent and compelling presentation of Valantasis's mature theorizing about a complex and fascinating phenomenon. Through his writings and through our conversations and collaborations over the years, Valantasis had already taught me much about asceticism. But this book I read as the capstone of his musings, playfulness, and hard work. It is Valantasis at his best--articulate, creative, witty, feisty, provocative, brilliant. All students of religion and culture will be enlightened and delighted and challenged by this book."
--Vincent L. Wimbush, Professor of Religion, Claremont Graduate University and editor of Ascetic Behavior in Greco-Roman Antiquity: A Sourcebook