In Late Antiquity, as today, modes of expression varied in different places; to
get one’s message through, it was necessary to find the expression appropriate to the place in question, and a single person may well have had to alter his or her speech considerably depending on location. This was also a time which saw the rise and development of a specifically Christian discourse, a theme which has received much scholarly attention during the last decades.
A common supposition, though gradually qualified in current research is that the monastic domain is rural, dominated by the lower classes and literary unadorned, whereas the sophistic domain is urban, upper-class and rhetorically embellished. An aim of the research programme is to throw some light on the interaction between these two geographical and mental spaces and the ways in which modes of expression and entire literary genres have been distributed between them.
By viewing monastic texts as consciously crafted pieces of literature (even if the author tries to hide it or even denies that this is the case), it becomes possible to analyse how they relate to contemporary rhetorical education and theory with regard to style, formation of argument and rhetorical exercises on various levels, in order to chart the relationship of monastic literature from the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries to the heritage of Graeco-Roman rhetoric.