Current projects

Endangered Archives Programme 823: Digitisation and preservation of the manuscript collection at the Monastery of St Saviour in Old Jerusalem

Ewa Balicka-Witakowska

The project, organized in cooperation with the book conservators Jacek Tomaszewski and Weronika Liszewska amd affiliated to the Polish Institute of World Art Studies, is supported by the Arcadia Foundation and administered by the British Library. Its objective is to digitize and by this means preserve and make widely accessible an important collection of 553 manuscripts belonging to the Franciscan monastery in Jerusalem (Custodia di Terra Sancta). The collection consists of the codices and rotuli, dating from the 12th to the 20th century and written in Arabic (Islamic and Christian), Armenian, Ethiopic, Hebrew (also Samaritan and Arabic-Samaritan), Greek, Latin, Syriac, Turkish, Spanish, German, Italian and French. The manuscripts contain a great variety of texts: theological and philosophical treatises, biblical and liturgical books, dictionaries, profane and religious poetry, collections of sermons, pilgrim accounts, and also cooking recipes and magic prayers. A special group represents liturgical books of large size with musical notations, as well as precious volumes lavishly decorated and illuminated with miniatures, historiated initials and aniconic ornamentation. Also of particular value are several book covers made of wood, leather, textile, metal, decorative cardboards etc. and executed with the use of diverse binding techniques. As a whole, the collection presents a remarkably wide spectrum of Western and Eastern manuscript traditions: Christian, Islamic and Jewish.

The project runs from December 2015 to September 2017. The manuscripts are expected to be accessible online at the beginning of 2018.

Greek Manuscripts in Sweden

Barbara Crostini

Barbara Crostini has been collaborating since 2015 with the project of cataloguing Greek manuscripts in Sweden, and she is currently working part-time for this project. The process of describing manuscripts has developed according to new scholarly standards, so the word “cataloguing” must not be understood as a bibliographical activity, but is in fact a complex process of researching the history and provenance of a manuscript, besides describing its current characteristics according to new paleographical and codicological standards. Crostini has experience in cataloguing Greek manuscripts from two libraries, the Bodleian Library at Oxford and the library at Trinity College Dublin. Such experience helps both in the methodology and in the dating of the objects, and at times in the specific book at hand (for example, previous experience in cataloguing astrological material prepared her to an extent for the description of a manuscript of similar content in Uppsala). Nevertheless, each manuscript is a world of its own to be discovered by the cataloguer. The new catalogues of Greek manuscripts, achieved with modern standards of descriptions, together with the digital tools associated with them, both in terms of the availability of images and the creation of large databases, will have a huge impact on our knowledge of Greek book production and the circulation of texts in Byzantium. This is a phase of scholarship that advances our knowledge of Greek manuscript collections around the world. Through this catalogue, Sweden will make its contribution in a larger landscape.

Literary Theory and Criticism in the Middle Byzantine Period: Studies towards a History

Eric Cullhed

The aim of this four-year postdoctoral project is to advance the understanding of Byzantine literary theory and criticism and partially lay the foundation for a new synthetic history. It will do so by investigating six illustrative themes and sets of related concepts in metatextual discourse and historicize their development through a delimited chronological trajectory, the middle Byzantine period (843–1204). The preliminary themes of these studies are: intertextual dynamics, allegorism, fiction, significations of style, memory and imagination, figures and tropes. The project will also develop and test new approaches to the material based on textual philology, reception studies, conceptual and intellectual history, and comparative research.

The Life of St. Nicholas of Stoudios (BHG 1365)

Johan Heldt

The subject of this PhD thesis is a critical edition (with an English translation and notes) of the Life of St. Nicholas of Stoudios (BHG 1365). Nicholas lived 793–868 and his Life was probably written in the early 10th century by a monk at the Stoudios monastery in Constantinople.

Entering the Sacred Story: Performance and Participation in Early Byzantine liturgical texts

Uffe Holmsgaard Eriksen

The aim of his project is to demonstrate how early Byzantine preachers and poets from 4th-8th centuries used various narrative and rhetorical techniques to allow themselves and their listeners to enter and participate in the biblical stories through liturgical performances. Early Byzantine liturgical texts such as sermons, hymns, and hagiography show striking parallels to post modern literature and popular culture by blurring the lines between fiction and reality and by destabilizing the notions of authorship, text, and audience. As religious narratives embedded in song and speech, the early Byzantine liturgical texts defy the boundaries of conventional or natural story telling. Nevertheless, the story telling in these texts has not yet been studied in detail. This project will carry out such a study using modern narrative theory. As there is at the same time a conspicuous lack in the discipline known as diachronic narratology (studying the historical developments of narrative) in the period from the 4th to 8th centuries, this project will make substantial contributions not only to the subject of Byzantine literature, but also to narrative theory.

Origins of political philosophy in ancient Greece

Dimitrios Iordanoglou

Dimitrios Iordanoglou is currently active within the Origins of political philosophy in ancient Greece project, funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, The Swedish Foundation of the Humanities and Social Sciences. The project argues that that political philosophy originates with the discovery of a certain technique of argument fundamental to normative inquiry. The technique is labelled as internal critique – the attempt to criticise a position on the basis of the very principles that are intended to justify it. This is a Platonic mode of argument; the history of the development of such techniques of argument is yet to be written, however. The project studies early forms of internal critique in pre-Platonic texts, focussing especially on poetry, historiography, sophists and philosophy. A truly interdisciplinary enterprise, this project gathers scholars from the humanities and the social sciences.

Iordanoglou’s work within the project focuses on four different topics: i) the Dissoi logoi and its place in the history of argument; ii) the gendering of rationality in the Oresteia; iii) Protagorean antilogic and the impossibility of contradiction; iv) internal critique in the corpus Hippocraticum. As part of his work witin the project, Iordanoglou is also producing a translation of a selection of sophistic texts into Swedish, the first of its kind.

Herodotus and the Origins of Political Philosophy

Otto Linderborg

This PhD thesis is part of the project The Origins of Political Philosophy in Ancient Greece (RJ). The aim of the PhD is to examine the argumentative sections in the Histories of Herodotus from Halicarnassus. A particular focus will be directed towards the argumentative sections with normative and political content, as e.g. the famous constitutional debate set at the Persian court at 3.80-82. These sections will be examined with a view to the possible traces of ‘internal critique’ they contain, i.e. with a view to arguments purporting to refute or criticize interlocutors in terms which they themselves can agree to. This is a type of argumentation typical for the Platonic Socrates, but it was not invented by Plato. Outlining the rise of internal critique may offer us a key to understand the origins and the early development of political philosophy. The Histories is part and parcel of these early developments.

Text and narrative in Byzantium (Texte et récit à Byzance)

Ingela Nilsson

The collaborative research network Text and narrative in Byzantium offers a scholarly framework for a number of research projects in Uppsala and Paris, while also facilitating mobility and exchange for teachers, scholars and PhD students. The network, generously sponsored for three years (2015–17) by The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences (Riksbankens Jubileumsfond), includes philological, historical and art historical projects in Byzantine Studies, ranging from palaeography and textual criticism to narratological and iconographical analysis.

Konstantinos Manasses, Literary Craftsman: A Byzantine Author at Work

Ingela Nilsson

The aim of this project is to finish a monograph on authorship in twelfth-century Constantinople. Greek literature flourished in the twelfth century, especially at the court of the capital Constantinople. Aspiring intellectuals and civil servants to be were trained in the Greek tradition that had been kept alive since late antiquity, which resulted in a large production of classicising rhetoric and poetry. An adminsitrative career often started with teaching, which could result in extensive and enduring networks with future colleagues and patrons. A large amount of commissioned works has come down to us and offer scholars the opportunity to map relations between authors and patrons as well as rhetorical and literary strategies. Even if this has allowed scholars to make great progress in recent years, we still miss a detailed study of an individual twelfth-century author and his entire production. Such an investigation would uncover not only individual strategies, but also the authorial relation to education, genre, patronage, audience and society. I wish to fill this gap with a case study of one of the central teachers and writers on command of the twelfth century: Konstantinos Manasses. By applying a narratological method on various levels I will analyse not just the preserved works by Manasses, but also his authorshop as a whole. The narrative I wish to map is the one that Manasses himself transmits through literary choices and self-referentiality.

A literary study of Christos Paschon (12th c.)

Terése Nilsson

The aim of this PhD project is to examine Christos Paschon, ‘The Suffering Christ’, in the manuscript tradition unanimously attributed to Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 330–c. 390), but nowadays considered to be of a much later date, probably composed in the twelfth century. The work has been referred to both as an Euripidean cento, with approximately one third of the amount of text borrowed from various tragedies of the ancient playwright, and as a Christian drama, telling the story of the arrest, death, entombment and resurrection of Christ. No full-length literary study has been made of the 2600 verses, written in the Byzantine dodecasyllables, a verse form consisting of twelve syllables and sprung from the iambic trimetre used in ancient tragedy. Therefore, an analysis of both structure and content of Christos Paschon will be carried out, in the hope of answering questions concerning what kind of text it is (tragedy? cento? both? something else?), and, as a consequence, also shed more light on which period such a work could have been written in.

Erotic language and literary representations of gender in Philostratus’ Erotic Epistles

Antonios Pontoropoulos

The aim of this PhD project is to consider Philostratus’ erotic language in his so-called Erotic Letters. The letters are characterized by a seductive language, explicit references to sexual acts, and an extended  use  of  previous  literature.  In  all  these respects, the letters resemble and interact with contemporary literature of the same and related genres (e.g. Alciphron, the ancient Greek novels). This case, however, is particularly interesting as it provides an opportunity to consider a potentially gendered articulation of sexual desire, that is to say, is female and male desire expressed in different ways in the letters? Is it the gender of the receiver or the sender that determines the erotic discourse? How does the anonymity of the addressees affect the level of explicit sexuality in the letters? These are some of the questions that I will address in my PhD project. As indicated by the title, a gendered articulation of sexual desire is therefore to be considered.

Arche, kratos and the Greek understanding of power

Fredrik Sixtensson

This dissertation work focuses on the words arche and kratos. Both words are used by the Greeks as general terms for political rule, a fact which is reflected in derived words that are familiar even in our times, such as monarchia, demokratia, aristokratia etc. The aim of the project is to find out how these words have become political terms, and what functional differences are at hand between the words. By understanding these words, which become central in the Greek political language, we may learn something about how the Greeks understood political power.

The project covers the earliest Greek (in practice, this amounts to Homeric times, when we have the first textual instances of the words) up until the end of the Classical era. This demarcation is due to the fact that the words are more interesting and dynamic before the political language is “disciplined”, so to speak, and becomes technical, which arguably is the case at the end of the Classical era. Because of this, Greek political theories are not of primary interest, since theoretical constructions do not necessarily say much about how the common Greek understood political power. Instead, the thesis builds on a linguistic, functionalist perspective, which puts priority on a more every-day and less theoretical use of language.

Byzantine Literary ‘Lived Spaces’ through the Study of Hagiographical Texts (4rd-12th c.)

Myrto Veikou

This PhD project aims to investigate spatiality in Byzantine culture by means of analysing and interpreting the representations of everyday life spatial experiences, found in Byzantine texts. Research will focus on Byzantine hagiographical sources which offer a generous colourful palette of spatially and socially defined human agency as well as information on the rhetorical context in which these texts were used. The main aim is to find ways in which the historical transformation in the social dimensions of spatiality of everyday life is both reflected in literature and used as part of specific literary strategies. A principal aspiration behind this task is to help filling a substantial gap in Medieval Studies, which particularly refers to the investigation of different dimensions and meanings of spatiality in Byzantine culture.

A combination of academic methodologies and approaches drawn from literary, historical and cultural studies will encourage a comparative investigation of representations of socially-constructed spatial aspects of Byzantine everyday life; literary spaces reflecting social reality; and ways in which these spaces determine the aesthetics of the texts. This work will stretch along two main axes: i) an investigation of Byzantine literary spaces as representations of diverse spatial perceptions, conceptions, uses, functions, and experiences as well as their diachronic transformation, through the study of hagiographical texts, and ii) an investigation and reconstruction of diachronic uses of space as narrative device, its function and effects in the texts.

The Narrative of Medieval Empire on the Frontier: Byzantine and Armenian Literatures in the 10th-11th Centuries

Anna Linden Weller

This project will produce a cultural and literary history of the liminal space of the Byzantine Eastern frontier in the 10th and 11th centuries. It will show how literary texts (e.g. epistolography, poetry, hagiography, and encyclopaedic ‘collections’, as well as historiography viewed through the lenses of narratology and authorial self-fashioning) produced by Byzantine and non-Byzantine actors in this space can be used to explore Byzantine imperial Realpolitik in Armenian and Arabic cultural zones. These sources, usually thought to be too recursive, elusive, and self-referential to shed much light on Byzantine social and political ‘realities’, can, when examined comparatively and in context with prosopography (the study of persons and names through lead seals, lists of officials, colophons, inscriptions, etc.), yield radically new insights into the nature of Byzantine governance. The project will use both literary analysis and network theory to construct a cultural conception of medieval empire.

While recent studies of the Byzantine eastern frontier have profitably explored the administrative structure and military capability of the Byzantine presence in this area , this project aims to focus instead on the internal experience of ‘pre-modern empire’ – i.e. the mentality of medieval persons, both Byzantine and non-Byzantine, encountering the Byzantine imperial project, and how this mentality shapes the formation of cultural identities within a frontier zone. Producing a narrative based in literary sources (as opposed a to political or social history) emerges from the idea of  ‘practical empire’. Byzantine imperialism, despite the claims of its agents in text and the universalizing narrative of Byzantine power visible in historiographical sources, was composite; it required the negotiation of authority between a central political power and many differentiated entities. Imagined imperial narrative at the borders of empire is essentially both uneven and unstable, particularly far away from the metropole. An imperial agent encounters multiplicity, and must respond with multiplicity;  while he may write that his authority derives from a universal emperor, in practice he would necessarily have to encounter and deal with disparate situations along all of its varied borderlands. This project seeks to contextualize the authoritative claims of Byzantines outside of Constantinople with their actual experiences, and to contrast them with the experiences and authoritative claims of non-Byzantine locals. It thus aims at producing a cultural conception of the capabilities of medieval empire.

Stoisk retorik (Vetenskapsrådet)

David Westberg

Stoicism, being one of the fundamental philosophical legacies in Western intellectual history, is best known for its contribution to logic, ethical theory, and, partly, its literary criticism. We lack, however, an integral study of Stoic rhetorical theory. The aim of the project Stoic Rhetoric is to explicate the role that Stoic rhetorical theory played, especially within Stoic philosophy itself (c. 300 BC–AD 200) but also with regard to the reception of Stoic rhetoric in later rhetorical theory up to c. 300 AD. The main issues that the project will throw light on are: What role did rhetorical theory play within Stoic philosophy? How did the Stoics handle rhetoric in practice? In what way were subsequent rhetorical traditions informed by Stoic rhetoric? Rhetoric, by the Stoics conceptualised as a sub-species of logic and parallel to dialectic, shares subjects and methods with these branches. How, when, and why are they differentiated? What are the relations of rhetoric to other Stoic theories about human expression, such as musical theory, poetics and linguistics?