Friday, 3 April 2015

Christoph Birkner: Hagiography and Autobiography in Cyril of Scythopolis

The hagiographical work of Cyril of Scythoplis (525-558) provides a combination of hagiographical and autobiographical elements, which constitute the author's profile amongst other monastic saint's Lives in Late Antiquity. Presenting himself as a monk and priest, whose literary work is dedicated to his spiritual father, the seven monastic biographies of the most important persons in the history of Palestinian desert monasticism contain theological profoundness. In terms of hagiographical narrative, this monastic self-presentation is spread over the hagiographical corpus and interweaved to its more hagiographical parts, that is, the monastic biographies. In addition, the author's monastic provenance and interest precedes the life-corpus in the shape of a prologue, which confirms the importance of this specific aspect of Cyril's monastic biographies.
Using a comparative approach, Cyril's monastic saint's Lives will be analysed in the context of other similar contemporary works, such as the anonymous Historia Monachorum in Aegypto (394), Palladius' Historia Lausiaca (419/420), Theodoret of Cyrus' Historia religiosa (393-466), and the Pratum spirituale of John Moschus (ca. 550-ca. 634), in order to elaborate the hagiographical profile of Cyril and its monastic tonality. Theological, philological and historical observations will be used to carve out the author's "hagiographical self-portrait".
The objective is to identify the hagiographical profile of Cyril as author and of his life-corpus, furthermore, to give insight into an aspect of Late Antique hagiography that has not received much scholarly attention, by means of considering an often neglected Christian author, who paradoxically wrote the most influential biographies of monastic saints in sixth century Palestine.

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