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Volume Editor: Alexander Riehle
A Companion to Byzantine Epistolography introduces and contextualizes the culture of Byzantine letter-writing from various socio-historical, material and literary angles. While this culture was long regarded as an ivory-tower pastime of intellectual elites, the eighteen essays in this volume, authored by leading experts in the field, show that epistolography had a vital presence in many areas of Byzantine society, literature and art. The chapters offer discussions of different types of letters and intersections with non-epistolary genres, their social functions as media of communication and performance, their representations in visual and narrative genres, and their uses in modern scholarship. The volume thus contributes to a more nuanced understanding of letter-writing in the Byzantine Empire and beyond.

Contributors are: Thomas Johann Bauer, Alexander Beihammer, Floris Bernard, Emmanuel C. Bourbouhakis, Carolina Cupane, Niels Gaul, Cecily J. Hilsdale, Sofia Kotzabassi, Florin Leonte, Divna Manolova, Stratis Papaioannou, Johannes Preiser-Kapeller, Alexander Riehle, Jack Tannous, Lena Wahlgren-Smith.

Abstract

This introductory essay raises general questions about the nature of Byzantine letters and provides some preliminary definitions for the purpose of the present volume. The second part sketches recent trends in scholarship on Byzantine epistolography and formulates suggestions for future research.

In: A Companion to Byzantine Epistolography
In: A Companion to Byzantine Epistolography
In: A Companion to Byzantine Epistolography

Abstract

Essentially all Greek letters from the Middle Ages have come down to us not as originals but as manuscript copies, most often as part of collections. This specific form of transmission involves interpretive issues that for Byzantine epistolography have hardly been addressed. Scholarship on letter-writing commonly treats the individual letters transmitted in collections as documents of written communication while ignoring the issue that these collections provide a selective and most often deliberately manipulated image of original correspondence. This essay proposes that we turn our attention to the realities of epistolary manuscripts and that we take the historical collections seriously as coherent works of literature. The “New Philology”, it is argued, can serve as a useful guide for such an endeavor. While this philological movement, which emerged from currents of postmodern theory in the late 1980s, lacks a coherent conceptual framework or consistent methodology, its focus on the phenomenon of textual fluidity in medieval manuscript cultures and on concomitant problems of presentation in critical editions are highly relevant to the suggested reconsideration of Byzantine letter-collections.

In: A Companion to Byzantine Epistolography
In: A Companion to Byzantine Epistolography
In: A Companion to Byzantine Epistolography