Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Jeanne-Nicole Saint-Laurent - Humor in Syriac Hagiography

Scholars of late-ancient Christian literature have shown how hagiographers wrote their stories to instruct and to amuse.  My communication will present moments of hagiographic humour in select Syriac Vitae from the fifth through seventh centuries.  Attention to the rhetoric, vocabulary, and mythic symbols of humorous episodes in sacred fictions offers a fresh lens for understanding Syriac religious culture and conflict of the late-ancient period.  Through my analysis of Syriac discourse of the “laughable,” I will argue that hagiographers used humour both to make sense out of moments of ecclesiastical crises and to idealize the religious habits of their heroes.  Humour depends upon shared senses of what is appropriate, miraculous, bizarre, or incongruous in descriptions of social relationships, religious practices, and natural phenomena.  Through analyzing what hagiographers intended to be humorous in their schematic presentations, I will show how story-tellers managed the memory of their past as they attended to the entertainment and refreshment of their audience.  I will focus on exempla from the hagiographies of John of Ephesus, the Book of Paradise, and the Syriac Life of Antony.  

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