REMgr22 Marvellous and Macabre Tales from Byzantium: Novels and Romances

Faculty of Arts
Spring 2021
Extent and Intensity
1/1/0. 5 credit(s). Type of Completion: k (colloquium).
Taught online.
Christodoulos Papavarnavas, Ph.D. (lecturer), doc. Mgr. et Mgr. Markéta Kulhánková, Ph.D. (deputy)
Christodoulos Papavarnavas, Dr. (lecturer)
doc. Mgr. et Mgr. Markéta Kulhánková, Ph.D. (assistant)
Guaranteed by
doc. Mgr. et Mgr. Markéta Kulhánková, Ph.D.
Department of Classical Studies - Faculty of Arts
Contact Person: Jitka Erlebachová
Supplier department: Department of Classical Studies - Faculty of Arts
each even Wednesday 12:00–15:40 A21
Course Enrolment Limitations
The course is also offered to the students of the fields other than those the course is directly associated with.
fields of study / plans the course is directly associated with
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Course objectives
Ancient novels were known in the Byzantine world and exerted influence on Byzantine storytelling in various degrees and fashions. Novelistic characteristics, namely particular thematic motifs and narrative techniques, appear already in early and middle Byzantine hagiographical texts, especially in martyrs’ Passions and saints’ Lives; they also had an impact on the scandalous Secret History of Prokopios in the sixth century and pervaded the romances from the Komnenian and Palaiologan periods. These texts and tales, derived from different literary genres, share among other things a thematic focus on depictions of sex, violence and power, love and human relations, dangers and adventures, heroes and antiheroes. The goal of this course is to introduce students to Byzantine novelistic literature by offering an overview of all these texts and genres and examining different functions and levels of novelisation and fiction, the intentions of the respective author and the contemporary audience’s reception of such texts. Each unit will concentrate on a different genre through a close reading of texts labelled by modern scholarship as “novels”: hagiographical novels, historical novels, and erotic novels/romances. The selected texts will be read in English translation.
Learning outcomes
By the end of the course, students will be familiar with the concept of Byzantine storytelling, be able to recognise the thematic features and structures as well as the narrative techniques of Byzantine novelistic literature, and have read and gained a better understanding of representative examples of Byzantine narratives (in English translation) through close reading, critical analysis and interpretation.
  • 1. Introduction to Byzantine Novelistic Literature
  • 2. Hagiographical Novels: Martyrs’ Passions
  • 3. Hagiographical Novels: Saints’ Lives
  • 4. Historical Novels: Prokopios’ Secret History
  • 5. Erotic Novels from the Komnenian Period
  • 6. Erotic Novels from the Palaiologan Period
  • E. JEFFREYS, Four Byzantine Novels: Theodore Prodromos, Rhodanthe and Dosikles; Eumathios Makrembolites, Hysmine and Hysminias; Constantine Manasses, Aristandros and Kallithea; Niketas Eugenianos, Drosilla and Charikles, Liverpool 2012.
  • S. CONSTANTINOU, “Violence in the Palace: Rituals of Imperial Punishment in Prokopios's Secret History”, in: A. BEIHAMMERet al. (eds.), Court Ceremonies and Rituals of Power in Byzantium and the Medieval Mediterranean, Leiden - Boston 2013, 375-387.
  • C. MESSIS, “Fiction and/or Novelisation in Byzantine Hagiography”, in: S. EFTHYMIADIS (ed.), The Ashgate Research Companion to Byzantine Hagiography, vol. 2: Genres and Contexts (= Ashgate Research Companions), Farnham – Burlington 2014.
  • G. BETTS, Three medieval Greek romances: Livistros and Rodamni, Kallimachos and Chrysorroi, Velthandros and Chrysandza (= Garland Library of Medieval Literature, 98.B), New York 1995.
  • S. PAPAIOANNOU, Christian Novels from the Menologion of Symeon Metaphrastes (= Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, 45), Cambridge, MA 2017.
Teaching methods
Communication of background knowledge and scientific tools.
Examination of texts related to the subject.
Lecture and discussion with the students.
Assessment methods
40% Participation in the discussion on the basis of preparatory readings. Each session includes mandatory readings that will be discussed and analysed in the class. All sessions will be held virtually.
60% Final written examination. The participants are expected to answer questions related to the topics discussed during the course. First examination date: May 2021.
Language of instruction
Further Comments
Study Materials
The course is taught only once.

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