Byzantine Literature

Epistolary Poetry in Byzantium and Beyond. An Anthology with Critical Essays
Letters were an important medium of everyday communication in the ancient Mediterranean. Soon after its emergence, the epistolary form was adopted by educated elites and transformed into a literary genre, which developed distinctive markers and was used, for instance, to give political advice, to convey philosophical ideas, or to establish and foster ties with peers. A particular type of this genre is the letter cast in verse, or epistolary poem, which merges the form and function of the letter with stylistic elements of poetry. In Greek literature, epistolary poetry is first safely attested in the fourth century AD and would enjoy a lasting presence throughout the Byzantine and early modern periods.
The present volume introduces the reader to this hitherto unexplored chapter of post-classical Greek literature through an anthology of exemplary epistolary poems in the original Greek with facing English translation. This collection, which covers a broad chronological range from late antique epigrams of the Greek Anthology to the poetry of western humanists, is accompanied by exegetical commentaries on the anthologized texts and by critical essays discussing questions of genre, literary composition, and historical and social contexts of selected epistolary poems.
A Companion to Byzantine Epistolography
Riehle, Alexander, ed. 2020. A Companion to Byzantine Epistolography. Boston: Brill. Publisher's Version Abstract
A Companion to Byzantine Epistolography introduces and contextualizes the culture of Byzantine letter-writing from various socio-historical, material and literary angles. While this culture was long regarded as an ivory-tower pastime of intellectual elites, the eighteen essays in this volume, authored by leading experts in the field, show that epistolography had a vital presence in many areas of Byzantine society, literature and art. The chapters offer discussions of different types of letters and intersections with non-epistolary genres, their social functions as media of communication and performance, their representations in visual and narrative genres, and their uses in modern scholarship. The volume thus contributes to a more nuanced understanding of letter-writing in the Byzantine Empire and beyond.
John Duffy

John Duffy

Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Byzantine Philology and Literature, Emeritus

Research Interests: Byzantine literature; philosophy; medicine; the Cappadocian Fathers; palaeography; and text editing

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Verso una poetica rituale
Yatromanolakis, D., and P. Roilos. 2014. Verso una poetica rituale. Lecce, Italia: Argo. Publisher's Version Abstract

Il modello teorico di una poetica rituale proposta da D. Yatromanolakis e O. Roilos fonda una nuova problematica che si basa sulla inscrizione di forme rituali in più vasti sistemi d'espressione culturali e sociopolitici all'interno di varie tradizioni del mondo greco.
Il "caso greco", col suo materiale sterminato, contrassegnato da svariate continuità e discontinuità, spesso pieno di rimaneggiamenti ideologicamente ispirati nell'arco di tre millenni, offre un terreno certamente impegnativo ma fecondo per indagini comparative.
L'ipotesi è verificata in tre precisi ambiti di ricerca: Saffo e la lirica greca arcaica, il romanzo bizantino del XII secolo e l'opera poetica di Odysseas Elytis.

Towards a Ritual Poetics
Yatromanolakis, Dimitrios, and Panagiotis Roilos. 2003. Towards a Ritual Poetics. Athens: Foundation of the Hellenic World. Publisher's Version Abstract

The book Towards a Ritual Poetics by Dimitrios Yatromanolakis, Assistant Professor of Classical Studies at John Hopkins University, and Panagiotis Roilos, Assistant Professor of Modern Greek Studies at Harvard University, is an interdisciplinary study regarding the incorporation of the rituals in cultural expression at different moments of Hellenic history. Three representative and slightly researched cases are examined, in a wide time framework, through which a methodological model is proposed, the notion of ritual poetics, aiming at comparing different aspects between rituals and socio-political expression.

Medieval Greek Storytelling: Fictionality and Narrative in Byzantium
Roilos, Panagiotis, ed. 2014. Medieval Greek Storytelling: Fictionality and Narrative in Byzantium. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag. Publisher's Version Abstract

Written by eminent scholars in the field of Byzantine studies, the majority of the chapters included in Medieval Greek Storytelling: Fictionality and Narrative in Byzantium are revised versions of the papers that were presented at an international conference that Panagiotis Roilos organized at Harvard University in December 2009. The topics explored in the book cover an extensive chronological range of postclassical Greek culture(s) and literature, from early Christianity to early modern Greek literature, with a pronounced focus on the Byzantine period, as well as a variety of genres: hagiography, historiography, chronicles, “patriographic literature,” the novel, the epic, and philological commentary. One of the main aims of the book is to shift the focus of current scholarship on fictionality from those genres that are traditionally identified as “fictional,” such as the novel and the epic, to other literary discourses that lay claim to historical objectivity and veracity. By doing so, this volume as a whole sheds new light on the interpenetration of different, often apparently antithetical discursive categories and strategies and on the ensuing problematization of established demarcations between “historicity” and fictionality, as well as “objectivity” and imaginary arbitrariness, in diverse Byzantine literary and broader cultural contexts.