Monday, November 17, 2014

Voice, Signature, Mask: The Byzantine Author a VIDEO lecture by Stratis Papaioannou

A very interesting lecture by Stratis Papaioannou (Brown) at the American School of Classical Studies, Athens (October 2014).
Byzantine literature remains relatively exotic for modern readers, unlike its predecessor, Classical literature, or commensurate aspects of Byzantine culture, such as visual art.This lecture ventures a comprehensive view of Byzantine literature by examining notions and practices of authorship. Though neither classical nor medieval Greek have a single word that corresponds exactly to our “authorship,” Byzantine rhetoric and manuscript book culture reveal an intricate web of meanings for what an author is. Vacillating between authenticity and creative impersonation, Byzantine authors signal modernity.
You can watch the lecture here.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Colloquium: Managing emotion: passions, emotions, affects and imaginings in Byzantium

In December, Dumbarton Oaks Research Center for Byzantine Studies will host a new colloquium on Byzantine emotions and passions.
Byzantinists were early into the field of the study of emotion with Henry Maguire’s ground-breaking article on sorrow, published in 1977. But since then classicists and western medievalists have developed new ways of understanding how emotional communities work and where the ancients’ concepts of emotion differ from our own. It is time perhaps to celebrate Maguire’s work, but also to look at what is distinctive about Byzantine emotion. We should like to encourage speakers to focus on a single emotion and to use it as a vantage point to investigate central aspects of the Byzantine worldview. We want to look at emotions as both cognitive and relational processes. Our focus is not only the construction of emotions with respect to perception and cognition; we are also interested in how emotions were communicated and exchanged across broad (multi)linguistic, political and social boundaries. We expect to receive comment from classics, western medieval studies, philosophy and psychology. The comparative stance will help us disclose what is peculiar to the Byzantine ‘emotional constellation’. Priorities are twofold: to arrive at an understanding of what the Byzantines thought of as emotions and to comprehend how theory shaped their appraisal of reality.
See the program and the presentation here

Friday, November 14, 2014

Free ebook: The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World

Another free ebook on Crusades and Byzantium to download from Dumbarton Oaks edited by Angeliki Laiou:
The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World is the result of scholarly reassessments of the Crusades on the 900th anniversary of the appearance of crusading armies outside Nicaea. The views expressed here complement the considerable number of other examinations that focused on the internal, Western, aspects of the movement on the 900th anniversary of the Council of Clermont. 
The volume opens with an introduction to the historiography of the Crusades, followed by wide-ranging discussions covering four topics: holy war in Byzantium and Islam; the approaches and attitudes of the various peoples affected by and involved in the Crusades; the movement's effect on the economies of the eastern Mediterranean; and the influence of the Crusades on the art and architecture of the East. 
The essays in this volume demonstrate that there were, on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, rich, variegated, and important phenomena associated with the Crusades, and that a full understanding of the significance of the movement and its impact on both the East and West must take these phenomena into account.
Click here to read more 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ever wondered about the depths of Byzantine wisdom? Check out this project from King's College London!

Medieval Greek florilegia, collections of wise sayings, compendia, and excerpts, all in a dynamic library that make their study easier.
The SAWS Dynamic Library contains five main groups of texts. Elvira Wakelnig and colleagues in Vienna have made available two collections, Gnomological Material in Arabic and in Arabic-Spanish transmission, and Arabic Philosophical Compendia and Excerpts of Arabic and Latin Philosophical Texts; these include, among others, transcriptions of two abridgements of the Ṣiwān al-ḥikma, Ps.-ʿĀmirī’s Kitāb al-Saʿāda, the first editions of three unpublished Arabic compilations of philosophical material, together with further excerpts from relevant texts, from Greek sources and from the Spanish Bocados di Oro whch drew on this tradition. Apophthegmata et gnomae secundum alphabetum comprises the first full edition of an important tradition of Greek gnomologia, arranged in alphabetical order, and edited from 16 manuscripts by Denis Searby and colleagues in Uppsala. A collection of Greek florilegia: Pinakes, prepared by Roueché and Searby, presents the tables of contents from three previously published Greek gnomologia, to give a further sense of the concerns characteristic of such assemblages. Kekaumenos, Consilia et Narrationes, is a new edition, by Charlotte Roueché, of an 11th century Greek text which is profoundly influenced by the tradtion of gnomologia. See a map of the manuscripts which we are publishing.
See more

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Byzantine language: How should we define vernacular literature? by M. Hinterberger

Byzantine literature

An article by M. Hinterberger (Cyprus) on vernacular Byzantine language:
Since Antiquity the Byzantines had inherited the usage of classicizing Greek for a wide range of literary genres. In particular, for all kinds of rhetorical texts ancient and late antique authors served as models. Higher education aimed at providing a thorough familiarity with these models, firstly in order to understand them and secondly in order to compose texts by imitating the models. Since the range of recommended patterns extends from Homer to George of Pisidia (i.e. texts from the 8th c. B.C. to the 7th c. A.D.) and since authors were inevitably influenced, to a greater or lesser degree, by their everyday language, in most cases the textual product was a peculiar mixture with a specific Byzantine character, which however – and this has to be stressed – does not mean chaotic or arbitrary. The majority of less literary types of text however (such as theological treatises, hagiography, popular narratives) were composed in a less pretentious idiom, though also quite different from the spoken language, somewhat comparable to the late antique koine and hence termed “Schriftkoine”. Both classicizing Greek and the literary koine had to be learned in school. Simple forms of this Byzantine koine made considerable concessions to everyday language, but only from the 12th c. on, was an idiom close to the spoken language used for the composition of literary texts. The latter category of texts, written in a language fairly close to the spoken, we usually refer to as vernacular literature, whereas all other texts are called learned.
See more

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Resources for the study of Greek, Latin, Armenian, Georgian and Coptic cults of saints

The UK based project, Cult of Saints from its origins to circa AD 700, across the entire Christian world, has recently published a list of great resources for the students of medieval cults of saints in a variety of languages.

Click here to access the list and the project's website.

The aims of the project:
The project, which launched in January 2014, will map the cult of saints as a system of beliefs and practices in its earliest and most fluid form, from its origins until around AD 700 (by which date most cult practices were firmly established): the evolution from honouring the memory of martyrs, to their veneration as intercessors and miracle-workers; the different ways that saints were honoured and their help solicited; the devotion for relics, sacred sites and images; the miracles expected from the saints.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Byzantine Studies Conference, 40th edition, Vancouver, November 2014: Program and Participants

The Byzantine Studies Association of North America organizes the 40th Annual Conference in vancouver Canada at Simon Fraser University.

The Byzantine Studies Conference was founded in 1975 and is the premier venue for the presentation and discussion of papers embodying current research on all aspects of Byzantine history and culture in North America. The BSC meets in October or November in a different city every year. Roughly 75 papers are presented and discussed in a relaxed but professional atmosphere. Graduate students are strongly encouraged to attend and may compete for prizes for the best papers. The BSC is also the occasion for the annual BSANA business meeting. BSANA is incorporated in the state of Florida.
Click here to access the conference website 

Saturday, October 25, 2014


A. Kaldellis: The Hagiography of Doubt and Scepticism

A. Kaldellis' chapter from The Companion to Byzantine Hagiography (ed. S. Efthymiadis) is available online.
Scepticism in religious matters is not what comes to mind when we think of Byzantium. In fact, it is routinely asserted that there was no such thing, indeed that it could not have existed because a credulous religious mentality was allegedly pervasive and overpowering. To quote only one scholar, A.H.M. Jones: ‘Sceptics and rationalists, if they existed, have left no mark on history and literature’.1 This belief, however, is the result of a commitment to a particular view of the ‘essence’ of Byzantine culture that rests on modern needs and inventions. Ironically, the genre that testifies powerfully to the ubiquitous presence of scepticism is hagiography, the very corpus that is commonly cited to prove the opposite case. The recurring figure of the man who doubts the saint’s power and expresses scepticism at his alleged miracles, only to be struck down by God and eventually converted, has been taken as proof that Byzantium was a thoroughly saint-fearing society. But it can also be taken to prove the opposite. Thousands of miracles – allegedly witnessed, then celebrated and often retold – failed to overcome innate human incredulity, which had to be confronted anew in each text. The pervasive scepticism attested in the sources reflects the literary strategies through which hagiographers hoped to counter fully anticipated reactions. The expectation of credulity is modern; the Byzantine hagiographer knew that he had a much more critical readership. Literary strategies reveal, through anticipation, cognitive and social patterns of reaction to new exemplars of holiness.
Click here to read the article

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