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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Classics General

Undergraduate Course: Topics in Byzantine Literary History (CLGE10008)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course investigates the Greek ('Byzantine') literature of the Middle Ages and the medieval fate and transmission of Ancient Greek literature, with which Byzantine rhetorical production found itself in a constant and productive dialogue. Covering some eleven hundred and fifty years from the second sophistic movement and late antiquity to the end of the Byzantine empire in the early Renaissance period, the course offers a chronological survey of changing literary practices and tastes by throwing five spot-lights on seminal 'threshold periods of Byzantine literary production, followed by five sessions devoted to current debates in scholarship. All source texts will be provided in English translation.
Course description Greek ('Byzantine') literature of the Middle Ages, which used to enjoy a rather bad press, is now becoming an increasingly popular and innovative field of scholarship. While until recently it was often characterised as a literature 'without any literary merit, without a public, without a drama, without historical accuracy, without a point' and indeed perceived as 'escapist', 'fantastic', and 'always at least one stage removed from reality', this was based on a gross misunderstanding of the historical and cultural circumstances in which this literature was produced. Over the past two decades, a younger generation of scholars has begun to assert their voices more confidently, moving beyond the modern dictate of 'originality' and promoting the appreciation of Byzantine literature, and its intricate relation with Ancient Greek literature that ranged from imitation to emulation, variation and sometimes outright innovation, on its own terms.
In the first part, the focus will be on the production of rhetorical texts of various genres in changing socio-historical settings: defining deuterosophistic rhetoric -- and its Attic models -- and patristic writings as the 'archive' of Byzantine literature, the course surveys the introduction of Christianity into public discourse; the construction and deconstruction of Christian imperial ideology; as well as issues of canonisation (who decides what is written, read, performed, preserved), propaganda (who sings the emperor's praises for which reasons?) and learning: how did Byzantine students become accomplished rhetoricians, and why would they have wanted to compose rhetoric in an 'artificial' sociolect (i.e, a socially conditioned form of language, as, e.,g., opposed to a dialect) imitating the ancient Attic dialect?
In the second part, the focus will move to recent and current debates in the field. Particpants will be asked to read select pieces of recent and/or seminal research that introduce cutting-edge work currently done in the field. At the beginning of every session, the course organiser will provide a kick-off lecture summarising the topic of the session, and present ideas for the following discussion on the basis of the assigned readings.

1. Introduction. 'The archive': the sophists & the fathers
I. Chronological Sessions: Trends & Developments
2. 'Later' late antiquity, c.500-c.800
3. The revival of paideia, c.800-c.950
4. 'Changing of the guard', c.950-c.1080
5. Byzantium's 'epic age', c.1080-c.1250
6. New models of identification, c.1250-1453
II. Topical Sessions: Current Debates & Approaches
7. Manuscripts & writing culture
8. Authors & (self-)performance
9. Mimesis & memory
10. Genres & genre-modulation
11. How to write Byzantine literary history?
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass or passes in 40 credits of first level History or Classics courses or equivalent and a pass or passes in 40 credits of second level History or Classics courses or equivalent.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should usually have at least 3 courses in Classics related subject matter (at least 2 of which should be in Ancient or Classical Literature) at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this) for entry to this course. We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate, by way of coursework and examination as required, command of the late antique and medieval texts, and their socio-historical contexts, considered in the course;
  2. demonstrate, by way of coursework and examination as required, an ability to read, analyse and reflect critically upon relevant scholarship;
  3. demonstrate, by way of coursework and examination as required, an ability to understand, evaluate and utilise a variety of different genres of Byzantine literature from different periods of Byzantine history;
  4. demonstrate, by way of coursework and examination as required, the ability to develop and sustain scholarly arguments in oral and written form, by formulating appropriate questions and utilising relevant evidence and demonstrate independence of mind and initiative; intellectual integrity and maturity; an ability to evaluate the work of others, including peers;
  5. demonstrate in a research-led, argument-driven coursework essay the ability to conduct a sustained individual enquiry into a particular aspect of the topic.
Reading List
1. Gregory of Nazianzus, Autobiographical Poems, tr. C. White (Cambridge, 1996)
2. Michael Psellus: Fourteen Byzantine Rulers, tr. E. R. A. Sewter (London, 1966)
3. Anna Comnena: The Alexiad, tr. E. R. A. Sewter, rev. edn, P. Frankopan (London, 2009)
4. O City of Byzantium: Annals of Niketas Choniates, tr. H. J. Magoulias (Detroit, 1984)
5. Digenis Akritas, tr. E M. Jeffreys (Cambridge, 1998)
6. Four Byzantine Novels: Theodore Prodromos, Rhodanthe and Dosikles - Eumathios Makrembolites, Hysmine and Hysminias -Constantine Manasses, Aristandros and Kallithea - Niketas Eugenianos, Drosilla and Charikles, tr. with introd. and comm. by Elizabeth Jeffreys (Liverpool, 2012)
7. Theodore Metochites on Ancient Authors and Philosophy: Semeioseis Gnomikai 1- 26 & 71, ed. and tr. K. Hult (Göteborg, 2002)
8. Av. Cameron, Christianity and the Rhetoric of Empire: The Development of Christian Discourse (Berkeley, Calif., 1991)
9. P. Brown, Power and Persuasion: Towards a Christian Empire (Madison, Wisc., 1992)
10. S. Papaioannou, Michael Psellos: Rhetoric and Authorship in Byzantium (Cambridge, 2013)
11. F. Bernard, Writing and Reading Byzantine Secular Poetry, 1025-1081 (Oxford, 2014)
12. A. Pizzone (ed.), The Author in Middle Byzantine Literature: Modes, Functions, and Identities (Berlin-New York, 2014)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Course organiserProf Niels Gaul
Tel: (0131 6)50 3776
Course secretaryMrs Summer Wight
Tel: (0131 6)50 4580
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