Prof. Dr. Eric Fournier
September 2023 - December 2023
Research Project: Trauma and Memory in Early Christian North Africa
The project I will be pursuing during my residence at the RomanIslam Center is a book project that analyzes the history of early Christianity in North Africa (2nd to 7th centuries CE) through the concepts of trauma and memory. It focuses specifically on the various religious conflicts that pitted the different Christian communities of North Africa across these centuries (“Catholic” or Nicene, “Donatists,” “Arians,” “Chalcedonians” and Byzantine “Orthodox”), by analyzing how these various groups expressed their understanding of the conflicts they were engaged in as a repetition of previous persecutions of Christians. As such, early Roman (“pagan”) persecutions of Christians constituted the “primordial trauma” that early Christian martyrological literature memorialized through its various passion narratives and martyr acts (Acts of the Scilitan martyrs, Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas, Life of Cyprian, and the Acts of Cyprian were the foundational texts in North Africa). The book asserts that even after emperors Maxentius and Constantine ended the persecution of Christians in the early 4th century, Christians in North Africa continued to perceive their struggle with other Christian factions and secular authorities— when government decisions went against them—as continuing earlier persecutions, which they expressed through a martyrological discourse that utilized and amplified the same themes, notions, ideas and forms of expression as the earlier texts utilized. I will focus on the research and writing of a chapter analyzing this discourse in the texts related to the “Donatist” controversy.
Prof. Dr. Eric Fournier (born and raised in Quebec, Canada) completed his doctoral studies on ancient and late antique history in 2008, at the University of California – Santa Barbara. He has since been teaching ancient and medieval history at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, where he holds the rank of Professor of History. His research focuses on North Africa in the late antique period, particularly the Vandal era, Victor of Vita (the most important contemporary narrative source on the Vandals), and power struggles between bishops and state government. This led him to analyze the role of exile in the treatment of bishops by late antique rulers, from Constantine to the Vandals and beyond, and to compare the measures these rulers used against bishops with the discourse of persecution that victims of these measures deployed to attack these same rulers’ legitimacy. One result of these efforts was a collection of essays, Heirs of Roman Persecution (Routledge, 2019), that he co-edited with Wendy Mayer. He is also currently working on another collection of essays on women and gender in the post-Roman kingdoms of the Western Mediterranean, which he is co-editing with Maijastina Kahlos. Recently he also made a foray into the “Three Chapters Controversy,” another intra-Christian dispute that plagued North Africa during the reign of Emperor Justinian. Current research interests include the repetition of baptism in North Africa, from Cyprian, the Donatists, and the Vandals, as well as the re-use of earlier martyr accounts in post-Constantinian North African Christianity.
Fournier, Eric (2023), “Exegesis, Exempla, and Invective: The Use of Scripture in Facundus of Hermiane’s In Defense of the Three Chapters”, in: Anthony Dupont / Jonathan Yates, eds., The Bible in Christian North Africa, 2: Augustine’s Confessions to the Arab Conquest (ca. 400 C.E. to ca. 650 C.E.), Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
Fournier, Eric (2020), “‘The Battalions of Impiety’: Victor of Vita’s Rhetorical Strategies and Perspective on the Vandal Migration as a Religious Event”, Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum 63, 161-177.
Fournier, Eric / Mayer, Wendy, eds., (2019), Heirs of Roman Persecution: Studies on a Christian and para-Christian Discourse in Late Antiquity, New York: Routledge.
Fournier, Eric (2019), “Les « silences » d’Ammien Marcellin et de Victor de Vita: Témoins d’une polarisation religieuse dans l’antiquité tardive”, in: Corinne Jouanno, ed., Les silences de l’historien. Oublis, omissions, effets de censure dans l’historiographie antique et médiévale (Giornale Italiani di Filologia – Biblioteca, 20), Turnhout: Brepols, 201-236.
Fournier, Eric (2019), “Excluding Heretics: Intolerant Bishops and Tolerant Vandals”, in: Yaniv Fox / Erica Buchberger, eds., Inclusion and Exclusion in Mediterranean Christianities, 400-800 (Cultural Encounters in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, 25), Turnhout: Brepols, 147-166.
Fournier, Eric (2018), “Episcopal Banishment under Constantine’s Immediate Successors: Solidifying the Pattern”, in: Dirk Rohmann / Jörg Ulrich / Margarita Vallejo Girvés, eds., Mobility and Exile and the End of Antiquity (Early Christianity in the Context of Antiquity, 19), Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 51-67.
Fournier, Eric (2017-2018), “Constantin et la persécution présumée des donatistes”, Revue des Études Tardo-Antique, Supplément 5, 169-185.
Fournier, Eric (2017), “The Vandal Conquest of North Africa: Origins of a Historiographical Persona”, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 68.4, 687-718.
Fournier, Eric (2016-2017), “‘Conquis par l’Afrique’: L’importance des Donatistes pour comprendre l’Afrique vandale”, Karthago 30, 169-195.