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Leo the sakellarios and praipositos presenting his Bible to the Virgin (Vat. Reg.gr.B, f. 2v, 10th c.)

The Practice of Intertextuality in the Hagiographical Writing. A Literary-Study Approach to the Presence of the Bible in Middle Byzantine Hagiography (8th-10th c.) (Arbeitstitel)

As a Christian genre, Byzantine hagiography was deeply tied to the Bible with respect to both its content and its language, and at the same time contributed to the dissemination and recapitulation of Biblical teachings. Despite being acknowledged, this profound bond has not been yet systematically inquired. It should therefore not surprise that, when approaching (Middle) Byzantine Hagiography as a whole, one faces an almost complete absence of monographs and a rather limited number of studies about Biblical intertextuality. The analysis of Biblical intertextuality in Middle Byzantine Hagiography might be a partial response to Efthymiadis’ call back in 2014, when he encouraged scholars to redress the current monolithic picture of hagiography and enhance its literary complexity and flexibility.

Rather than being a unilateral and imitative process led by authors, intertextuality needs to be intended as a cooperative construction of meanings between authors and audiences, and, as such, susceptible to varied levels of interpretations (i.e., tracing of textual relations). From this perspective, the relational nature of (Byzantine) hagiographical texts can be questioned for information on the use and reception of the Bible in Middle Byzantium. Firstly, the study of the formal and literary dimension of Biblical intertextuality – that is to say typologies, functions and density of Biblical references – and secondly the evaluation of its social and cultural implications – inferences about the significance of the Bible for both authors and audiences – will compose an overall picture of Biblical intertextuality in Middle Byzantine Hagiography.

My overall goal in this project is to carry out the first comprehensive study of Biblical intertextuality in Middle Byzantine Hagiography (8th-10th c.). This study proceeds from, and will answer to, the question of the way in which Biblical imagery and quotations were both a means of literary expression and tools of communication with the audience(s). In order to achieve this main goal, I will investigate my research corpus (which consists of a selection of Middle Byzantine hagiographical works from between the 8th and the mid-10th centuries) according to a multi-layered approach: firstly, a formal and literary study of Biblical intertextuality (to describe the selection, distribution and frequency of Biblical references); secondly, a social and cultural study of Biblical intertextuality (to shed light on the relationship between the authors/audience(s) and the Bible), and thirdly I will focus on the aesthetics and hermeneutics of Biblical intertextuality, answering the question if defining the Byzantine Christians as a Scripture-saturated readership is correct and unravelling the set of ideas that determined the worthiness of the Biblical references found in the hagiographical works respectively.

Proceeding from this methodological design, my PhD research will lead to a monograph study that will contribute the following to the study of Byzantine Christianity and hagiography: (a) I will implement a methodological framework to analyse (Middle) Byzantine Hagiography’s interconnections with other texts (especially Scriptures); (b) I will look at the cultural dimension of the topic, considering intertextuality as a cognitive phenomenon which results in the cooperation between authors and audiences and, as a consequence, as a literary phenomenon from which we can infer information about the Biblical culture of authors and audiences and the cultural model that underlies the relationship between the Byzantines and the Christian sacred text; (c) I will offer an overall characterization of Biblical intertextuality in Middle Byzantine hagiography as part of the Byzantines’ language of communication.