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In this volume, Karin Krause examines conceptions of divine inspiration and authenticity in the religious literature and visual arts of Byzantium. During antiquity and the medieval era, “inspiration” encompassed a range of ideas regarding the divine contribution to the creation of holy texts, icons, and other material objects by human beings. Krause traces the origins of the notion of divine inspiration in the Jewish and polytheistic cultures of the ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds and their reception in Byzantine religious culture. Exploring how conceptions of authenticity are employed in Eastern Orthodox Christianity to claim religious authority, she analyzes texts in a range of genres, as well as images in different media, including manuscript illumination, icons, and mosaics. Her interdisciplinary study demonstrates the pivotal role that claims to the divine inspiration of religious literature and art played in the construction of Byzantine cultural identity.
Perhaps more than most ancient traditions, Thecla’s has been characterized by controversy, and yet little attention has been paid to the positive value of indeterminacy in the Thecla tradition. After offering an overview of approaches to the Acts of Paul and Thecla and related texts over the last half-century, we ask how the open qualities of Thecla as a protagonist may have enhanced her tradition’s ability to serve as the basis for successive re-imaginings. We conclude by suggesting that as ‘an ambiguous heroine in an unstable story’ Thecla exemplifies the value of indeterminacy and instability in hagiography.
This article explores the remaniement of three episodes current in the Perso-Arabic Alexander tradition—i.e., Eskandar's confrontation with the Indian king Fur; Eskandar's visit to Queen Qeydāfeh; and Eskandar's encounter with the Gymnosophists—in the anonymous Persian Eskandarnāmeh, a medieval epic narrative in prose (dāstān; ca. 12th–14th c.). Through extensive comparative evidence from other genres, primarily narrative poetry (Ferdowsi's Shāhnāmeh, Nezāmi's Sharafnāmeh and Eqbālnāmeh), mirabilia (ʿajāyeb), and exegetical works (qesas al-anbeyāʾ and tafsir), this study engages with how the modalities of the dāstān genre, with its strong leaning towards traditional oral storytelling, affect the narrative choices Eskandarnāmeh's author makes in treating these themes. In so doing, this article attempts to develop a more informed assessment of the strategies and devices which, activated both on the production and reception planes, generate competing interpretations of well-known plots recast in different narrative modes.
This chapter takes up the volume’s key notion of ‘dialogue’ by comparing – and thus bringing into dialogue – two periploi from the late Hellenistic and the imperial period, the description of the Red Sea in Diodorus’ Bibliotheke 3.38–48 and the island ecphrasis 2.17 in Philostratus’ Imagines. To the volume’s larger themes, the chapter adds the aspects of mediality and reader response. It shows how both texts employ a fairly similar ecphrastic technique characterised by contextualisation, historicisation and narrativisation, in order to afford their readers quite different experiences. The key element is their divergent strategies of mediality: the Bibliotheke is characterised by a marked ‘bookishness’, whereas the Imagines creates a feigned orality. Both strategies have their place in contemporary discourses and contexts. The Bibliotheke situates itself in the late Hellenistic debate on writing and reading history, and particularly in the discourse on the pleasures of reading historiographical texts, while the Imagines is part of a broader trend of enriching texts with structures and elements of oral communication in the imperial period.
The chapter looks at Wilhelm Grimm’s early conception of the philologist as a redeemer of the nation. Grimm was decisively influenced by the university teacher and mentor of both brothers, the law professor Friedrich Carl von Savigny, who was known for his belief that the historicist legal scholar served as the primary custodian of the national legal corpus. Following Savigny’s example, Wilhelm Grimm argued that the philologist must strive to retrieve, clarify, disseminate, and thereby guard the nation’s folk culture. The nation formed the only viable basis for rule, but the nation’s history was not generally known; rather, it had to be explored, preserved, and transmitted by publicly oriented scholarship. In this sense, there was a vital philological dimension to the modern conception of political legitimacy, and the philologist had to assume the important task of reconstructing and reintroducing politically crucial cultural materials for the contemporary world. Inspired by the folktales’ own imagery of resurrection and rejuvenation, Wilhelm Grimm even pictured the philologist as able to reawaken the nation from its slumber.
Chapter 6 picks up on several threads that run throughout the previous chapters, including community and performance, refrains and collective memory, the mobility or mouvance of refrains, and the question of place and locality for the performance and dissemination of Latin refrain songs, and puts them into a broader cultural and historical context. Chapter 6 also points to further contexts for the refrain song outside the scope of the book, as well as possible avenues of interpretation and research for songs and refrains that were not discussed, such as secular refrains. The chapter also briefly discusses the afterlives of Latin refrain songs, from the late medieval carol and the rise of print culture to modern recording practices.
The House of Slaves at Gorée Island was listed as a World Heritage site in 1978, one year before Auschwitz concentration camp. This chapter examines the process of heritagization of the House of Slaves as one of the African sites for the commemoration of the slave trade. Adopting Michael Rothberg’s perspective on multidirectional memory, it demonstrates how the project of the House of Slaves was indebted to the recognition of the Holocaust as a global trauma: the commemoration of the slave trade is in several ways entangled with the commemoration of the Holocaust. But from Senegal’s independence onwards, the House of Slaves was also inflected by a vision of Negritude. The first curator of the House of Slaves, Joseph Ndiaye, gave it a global significance through his performances as ‘witness’ to the slave trade. By giving testimony, Joseph Ndiaye claimed an epistemic space for the articulation of Blackness. He simultaneously introduced the figure of the witness to the genre of the memorial museum and reclaimed the African legacy of orality against the Occidental epistemology of history. As embodiment of a legacy of the project for human rights, Joseph Ndiaye also claimed this museum as an African project of emancipation.
This article examines the relationship between oral traditions of cursing and the oldest Greek curse tablets from Selinous and Himera in western Sicily. As much early Greek writing is thought to record or reflect the spoken word, it is perhaps unexpected that these early Sicilian texts carry few signs of orality or speech. There are no verbs of speaking, incanting, cursing, singing, binding; no deictic language; no metre. Rather, the oldest curse tablets in the Greek world show clear signs of written literacy. Sicilian curse tablets from 500–450 bce employ verbs of writing to curse their victims (ἐνγράφω, ‘I inscribe’; καταγράφω, ‘I write down’; ἀπογράφω, ‘I enrol’), and exhibit textual distortion, scribal symbols, abbreviations, and columnar lists of names – features that ground these texts in the realm of writing. It is suggested that Greek curse practice developed alongside and in response to the spread of legal writing in the late sixth-century law courts of western Sicily.
This article examines how Zeyā al-Din Barani may have imagined that contemporary audiences would consume his Tārikh-e Firuz Shāhi. Would it only be read visually or also read aloud (directed at the ear rather than the eye), and thus be received aurally, or would it even be performed in front of a larger audience? The plot and protagonists of Barani's story on Moʿezz al-Din Keyqobād present a tragedy that develops around a sultan doomed to fail. An examination of the set-up of Barani's narrative reveals that it contains numerous textual devices that would enable a storyteller to perform the story, using the text as a kind of tumār. As tragedies are written for the stage, not the study, these features of the text indicate that matters of orality, which are crucial for many genres of premodern Persianate courtly literature, are also relevant to the Tārikh-e Firuz Shāhi.
This article discusses asyndetic verb-late clauses in Otfrid’s Evangelienbuch, which has long been considered a problematic text within the Old High German corpus in part because of clauses like these. Clauses with a dependent clause’s verbal syntax and no complementizer have been characterized as ungrammatical and/or rare (Behaghel 1932, Schrodt 2004, Axel 2007) and thus have not been included in accounts of early German syntax. I argue that asyndetic verb-late clauses are grammatical and that they can function as main or dependent clauses. Crucially, they demonstrate that main verb fronting was not obligatory in 9th-century German. Although Otfrid marked the main-subordinate asymmetry by various grammatical means, including verbal syntax, I demonstrate that verbal prosody also influenced syntax: Heavy verbs are more frequent in clause-late or -initial position and light verbs in clause-second position, regardless of the main–dependent distinction. I suggest that prosodically-sensitive verbal syntax is characteristic of Otfrid’s exclusively oral vernacular. In contrast, Otfrid imports the concept of differentiating main and dependent clauses grammatically from Latin. The Evangelienbuch, then, represents an attempt to transform an oral vernacular into a written language by imposing, however imperfectly, the norm of grammatically distinct main and dependent clauses onto a prosodically-sensitive verbal syntax.*
In Masoch’s novel Venus in Furs, three ‘Negresses’ magically appear at the moment that the speaker signs away his legal rights to life. This fantasy is an example of how actual bondage and historical slavery shape the sadomasochistic imagination. This chapter traces that imagination through poems by Algernon Charles Swinburne and Gerard Manley Hopkins, written at the height of Victorian sexology. It looks at the metaphor of the plough or the ploughman in relation to bondage and Hopkins’s class politics, and at the flagellation fantasies in Swinburne’s poetry (including his juvenile compositions), and the way that those poems fetishise the foot, mouth and ‘bum’. It discusses the theatricality and suspension of agency involved in masochism in relation to specific examples of colonial violence, to challenge the idea that the voluntary submission to constraint in radical sex practices can undermine forms of social domination.
Scholars of early Christian literature acknowledge that oral traditions lie behind the New Testament gospels. While the concept of orality is widely accepted, it has not resulted in a corresponding effort to understand the reception of the gospels within their oral milieu. In this book, Kelly Iverson reconsiders the experiential context in which early Christian literature was received and interpreted. He argues that reading and performance are distinguishable media events, and, significantly, that they produce distinctive interpretive experiences for readers and audiences alike. Iverson marshals an array of methodological perspectives demonstrating how performance generates a unique experiential context that shapes and informs the interpretive process. Iverson's study explores the dynamic oral environment in which ancient audiences experienced the gospel stories. He shows why an understanding of oral performance has important implications for the study of the NT, as well as for several issues that are largely unquestioned by biblical scholars.
Chapter 1 interrogates a referential frame that happened to inform a cultural milieu and legitimize the use of the term “Arabian Nightism” in discussions that relate to presumed sumptuousness and lavish spending. The phrasing shows, however, how the Nights permeates a consciousness and how it inhabits the European and American culture in multifarious ways and contexts that justify addressing it as a knowledge consortium, an epistemic inception that continued to direct or challenge regimes of thought. Its trajectory in these cultures demonstrate constants and variables in reception and appropriation, and invite us to draw a comparison with its native culture in relation to issues of literacy and orality.
This essay introduces Brecht’s oft-neglected interviews. First, it reviews efforts to incorporate these interviews in (or exclude them from) his body of work, before outlining Brecht’s own interest in the form as a both a source of material and a platform for his views. At the center of the article is an examination of Brecht’s interview with Die literarische Welt in 1926. Archival material is used to illuminate the process of construction behind the conversation, which contains Brecht’s first discussion of epic theater. Finally, the article sketches two key influences on the development of his interviews: his embrace of radio as a new medium and his commitment to Marxist media tactics.
In considering the uses of the lectionary by readers, this chapter focuses on the effect that the sound and acoustics of the readings’ chanting had in the space of a church like Hagia Sophia. By looking not only at ritual but also the architecture and decoration of the church, the chapter argues that the decoration of churches and the uses of the Gospel lectionaries responded to one another. Focusing on the plaque above the Imperial Doorway, for example, we see a place where an abridged lectionary is depicted, citing Gospel readings and also omitting key words, which the manuscripts show us were to be given sonic emphasis by chanters. Therefore, the argument is that architectural decorations in the church played with the impact and delivery of the chanted Gospels in order to reflect on the salvation that the readings conveyed and guaranteed to the faithful.
This article reconsiders the similarities between Aphrodite's ascent to Olympus and Ishtar's ascent to heaven in Iliad Book 5 and the Standard Babylonian Gilgamesh Tablet VI respectively. The widely accepted hypothesis of an Iliadic reception of the Mesopotamian poem is questioned, and the consonance explained as part of a vast stream of tradition encompassing ancient Near Eastern and early Greek narrative poetry. Compositional and conceptual patterns common to the two scenes are first analyzed in a broader early Greek context, and then across further Sumerian, Akkadian, Ugaritic and Hurro-Hittite sources. The shared compositional techniques at work in Mesopotamia and the Eastern Mediterranean can be seen as a function of the largely performative nature of narrative poetry. This contributes to explaining literary transmission within the Near East and onto Greece.
The parallel and intersecting relationships among the written and oral literatures, folklore, musics, performative arts, and orature of the Anglophone Caribbean have been well documented, giving rise to a large body of critical work in literary and cultural studies by scholars such as Mervyn Morris, Kamau Brathwaite, Gordon Rohlehr, and Funso Ayejina. Sustained treatments such as Carolyn Cooper’s Noises in the Blood: Orality, Gender and the “Vulgar” Body of Jamaican Popular Culture (1993), Kwame Dawes’ Natural Mysticism: Towards a New Reggae Aesthetic in Caribbean Writing (1999), and special issues of academic journals illustrate the growing acknowledgement of these oral–scribal intersections. With a steady growth from the 1920s onward, these cross-genre, cross-media fertilizations reached a high point in the 1970s with the rise and globalization of new forms/expressions of urban music, against the background of major local, regional, and global shifts such as the escalation of nationalist contentions; the Black Power movement; and in Jamaica, the ‘official’ recognition of Rastafari, and the emergence of new dub poetry and other newer genres. The consolidation and recognition of the synergies between orature and literature have in turn fashioned a substantial body of theorizations and scholarly contemplations out of which have emerged terms such as oraliterature, novelylspo, reggae aesthetic, among others.
An overview of various kinds of sources shows the extent of script usage during the Old Kingdom well into the fifteenth century BC to have been relatively modest. There is evidence for some monumental and administrative use as well as for texts as aide-mémoire. The existence of an extensive chancellery with an organized tablet storage system cannot be proven. With the shift to writing in Hittite, however, came the recording of foundational texts (e.g., Anitta Text, Zalpa Tale, indigenous Anatolian myths), bolstering a sense of common identity of the young kingdom. In the same period the old so-called Palace Chronicles may have developed into the Hittite Law collection. On the whole, the Central Anatolian Hittite kingdom was still very much an oral society.
This article offers a new perspective on the anonymous Liber beati et laudabilis viri Gregorii. The oldest extant life of Pope Gregory the Great, the Liber was composed at the double monastery of Strænæshalch, conventionally known as Whitby, under Abbess Ælfflæd probably between ca. 704 and 714. A principal concern of my article is the function, within the Liber, of its report of Gregory's encounter with a group of Deiran Angles in Rome, and that story's relation to the emphasis throughout the Liber on orality: the transmission of knowledge miraculously from heaven and through earthly channels by means of speech and other sounds. The Liber survives in an early ninth-century redaction, part of St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. 567 (pp. 75–110). After discussing some issues that pertain to the modern edition and translation made by Bertram Colgrave from this manuscript, I compare the legend of Gregory and the Deirans in the Liber with the version in Bede's Ecclesiastical History. I then review the larger hagiographical narrative in which the Whitby author frames this episode, and I examine the story and other distinctive thematic as well as stylistic aspects of the Liber in the light of the following circumstances: seventh- to eighth-century regional developments that affected Whitby; conditions of teaching at this monastery, a major early English educational center; the documented interest at Whitby under Ælfflæd, as under her predecessor Hild, in heaven-inspired or miraculous forms of oratory; and liturgy and commemoration of the dead. Of interest for analyzing all these topics, but especially the last two mentioned, is Whitby's status as a female-led institution.
African authors have been skeptical of the term ‘magical realism’, as it suggests that their texts are derivative of Latin American writing. This chapter proposes that such concerns over categorization underestimate the shaping force that African magical realist texts have on the concept of magical realism. Further, criticism of magical realism often suggests that the ‘magic’ in magical realism comes from irrational indigenous belief systems and the ‘real’ from the rational West. However, this suggests that Western capitalist modernity is more rational than it really is. Through an analysis of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s Wizard of the Crow (2006) and Mia Couto’s Sleepwalking Land (2006), this chapter argues that these texts use a combination of written and oral forms to question the rationality of capitalism and in so doing reshape our understanding of magical realism.