Friday, 1 May 2015

Flavia Ruani: A Literary Approach to Edifying Stories in Syriac Hagiographical Collections

This paper deals with the hagiographical writings commonly known as "edifying stories", i.e. short narratives, mostly by anonymous authors, portraying Christian characters, generally meant to convey moral Christian values. In particular, it will focus on those stories which appear in Syriac hagiographical collections. The Story of a merchant at Constantinople, the Story of a widow of Jerusalem and her five children, the Story of a man in prison are just few examples of these widespread narratives which were copied among Saints' Lives and Acts of Martyrs in Syriac hagiographical manuscripts dating from the ninth century onwards (BL Add. 14649, BL Add. 12174, and Paris BnF syr. 234, for instance). These ancient "short stories", mostly unedited and untranslated, can interest scholars concerned with the literary production of Late Antiquity and the early Middle-Ages. Edification is in fact a common purpose of all hagiographical writings: stories about saints' lives, miracles and deaths are intended as examples of right behaviors for their Christian audience and readership. What, then, distinguishes these brief narrations from other hagiographical texts? This paper aims at giving a first general approach to this kind of texts, by 1) inventorying their presence and diffusion in the Syriac tradition (which are they? Where and when do they appear? Are they Syriac original narratives?); 2) studying their role in the main hagiographical collections they are inserted in; 3) mapping the literary features which characterize them, and exploring the literary influence, if any, of Greek and Latin novels on their composition.

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