Monday, November 24, 2014

Call for papers: late antique hagiography as literature

Colloquium at the University of Edinburgh, 20th-21st May 2015

Texts about Œholy¹ women and men grew to be a defining feature of the
culture of Late Antiquity. There is currently an increasing interest
scholars from different disciplines (history, theology, languages, and
literature) in these hagiographical writings. But more can be done to
ways to systematise our understanding of the literary affiliations,
strategies and goals of these extraordinarily varied texts, which range
the prosaic and anonymous narrations of the martyr passions to the
Classicising poems of Paulinus of Nola and the rhetorically accomplished
sermons of John Chrysostom.

This colloquium is designed to bring together students and scholars
on a range of aspects of literary hagiography, to share insights, and to
consider approaches for the future. We hope to situate late antique
biographical production in relation to Classical literary sensibilities,
well as considering non-classical influences, and thus to identify areas
continuity and gradual development as well as areas of abrupt change in
form and function of such literature. While our emphasis is deliberately
literary, historical and theological questions which feed into the
significance of these works should not be ignored.

We understand Œhagiography¹ in the non-technical sense of Œwritings
(the lives of) saints¹. The concept of Œsaints¹, likewise, is here taken
a broad way to mean remarkable and exemplary Christian figures (whether
or fictional); the field is not restricted to those who at some point
officially canonised by the Church. This colloquium is seeking to
issues like the following:

* The definition of sainthood, e.g. through comparisons with texts about
non-Christian saint-like figures (the Œpagan martyrs¹, Apollonius of

* The portrayal of a saint in different texts; how are saints portrayed
their own writings compared to those of other authors about them?

* Characterisation, e.g. individuality and stereotyping: to what extent
a reader empathise or identify with a saint?

* Life imitating hagiography and resulting problems.

* What can hagiography tell us about non-elite Œpopular¹ literary

* How have different genres given shape to hagiographical texts (from
Damasus¹ epigrams to the epic poems of Fortunatus and Paulinus of
as well as texts resisting generic categorisation? E.g. is the so called
Life of Malchus a vita or a diegesis?

* Intertextuality as an aesthetic and ideological strategy.

* The emergence of stable hagiographical conventions, whose influence
so powerful that it is often difficult to distinguish one saint from

* What, if anything, can hagiography learn from panegyric?

* Literary approaches to un-saintly behaviour (trickery, committing
etc.) of saints. 

* To what extent does a text¹s rhetorical purpose undermine the author¹s
credibility as an honest record-keeper?

* Assessing the historicity of hagiographical texts.

* Transmission and textual problems of hagiographical texts.

* Reception and changes in the perception of authority (e.g. saints who
wrote about saints, such as John Chrysostom and Augustine).

Proposals for 25-minute papers, in the form of abstracts between 200 and
words in length, should be submitted to Thomas Tsartsidis
January 2015. 

Postgraduate students are particularly encouraged to contribute to this

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