These studies look at general problems of reading Byzantine literature, at literacy practices and the literary process, but also at individual texts. The past thirty years have seen a revolution in the way Byzantine literature has been viewed: no longer is it considered a decadent form of classical literature or a turgid precursor of modern Greek literature. There are still prejudices to overcome: that there was no literary public, or that Byzantium had no drama or humour, but Byzantine texts are now read as literature in the social context of literacy and book culture. One genre is treated here more fully: the letter (Derrida said that letters represent all literature). In these studies epistolography is examined from the point of view of genre, of originality, of communication and as evidence for political history. Other genres touched on include the novel, historiography, parainesis, panegyric, and hagiography. The section on literary process includes essays on genre, patronage and rhetoric, and the section on literacy practices deals with both writing and reading. The collection includes one unpublished lecture which acts as introduction, and additional notes and comments.
Professor Margaret Mullett is Director of the Institute of Byzantine Studies, and of the AHRB Centre for Byzantine Cultural History, at the Queen's University Belfast, UK.
Contents: Preface; 25 years of Byzantine letters, literacy and literature. Part 1 Letters: The classical tradition in the Byzantine letter; The language of diplomacy; Originality in the Byzantine letter: the case of exile; 1098 and all that: Theophylact bishop of Semnea and the Alexian reconquest of Anatolia. Part 2 Literary Practices: Writing in early medieval Byzantium; Food for the spirit and a light for the road: reading the Bible in the Life of Cyril Phileotes. Part 3 The Literary Process: Aristocracy and patronage in the literary circles of Comnenian Constantinople;The madness of genre; Rhetoric, theory and the imperative of performance: Byzantium and now; Novelisation in Byzantium: narrative after the revival of fiction. Part 4 Literary Texts: Alexios I Komnenos and imperial renewal; The imperial vocabulary of Alexios I Komnenos; In peril on the sea: travel genres and the unexpected; Literary biography and historical genre in the Life of Cyril Phileotes by Nicholas Kataskepenos. Part 5 Literature: Dancing with deconstructionists in the gardens of the Muses: new literary history vs ?; New literary history and the history of Byzantine literature: a worthwhile endeavour?; Additional notes and comments; Errata; Index.