10/15: Modern Greek Seminar with Panagiotis Agapitos

Thursday, October 15, 2015 - 6:00pm
413 Kent Hall

The Modern Greek Seminar at the University Seminars Program
& The Program in Hellenic Studies at Columbia University
invite you to a talk by

Panagiotis A. Agapitos
Professor of Byzantine Literature, University of Cyprus
Contesting Conceptual Boundaries: Byzantine Literature and its History

The talk is co-sponsored by the Department of History, the Heyman Center, and the Department of Classics.


Contesting conceptual boundaries: Byzantine literature and its history

The talk presents the problems of writing a history of Byzantine literature that derive from the peculiar “middle state” allotted to the production of texts in Byzantium. Why “middle state”? Because, on the one hand, Byzantine literature is viewed as a continuation or appendix to Ancient Greek literature, while, on the other, it is divided into “learned” and “vernacular.” The latter categorization defines what we, since the middle of the nineteenth century, call Modern Greek literature. This complex nature, projected onto Byzantine literature (the result of cultural and ideological politics within Greek Studies broadly defined) has prevented an approach that would read Byzantine texts on their own historical, socio-cultural and aesthetic terms. The talk proposes two new ways through which the Byzantine literature escapes this scientific and ideological impasse.


Panagiotis Agapitos is Professor of Byzantine Literature at the University of Cyprus. He has taught as visiting professor at the Freie Universität Berlin, the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and Stanford University. He has published the Narrative Structure in the Byzantine Vernacular Romances (Munich 1991), The Study of Medieval Greek Romance (Copenhagen 1992), Theodoros Metochites on Greek Philosophy and Ancient History (Gothenburg 1996), the first critical edition of the thirteenth-century verse romance Livistros and Rhodamne (Athens 2006), a volume with translations into modern Greek of Byzantine descriptions of works of art (Athens 2006), as well as a small book on medieval erotic fiction around the Mediterranean (Athens 2008).

Some sixty articles in international journals and collective volumes cover subjects such as the critical edition of Byzantine texts and the theory of editorial method, the history of manuscripts and education in Byzantium, the literary interpretation of Byzantine literature, Byzantine rhetoric and poetics, issues of methodology in the application of literary theory to medieval texts, the representation and literary function of death in Byzantine literature, as well as the image of Byzantium in Modern Greek literature. His most recent publication is an edited volume on Medieval Narratives between History and Fiction: From the Centre to the Periphery of Europe, 1100-1400 (Copenhagen 2012, together with Lars Mortensen). He is currently working on an English translation with introduction and notes of Livistros and Rodamnefor “Translated Texts for Byzantinists” (Liverpool University Press), and a book-length study on the periodization of Byzantine literature. Parallel to his scholarly activities, he is a writer of historical crime fiction (The Ebony Lute, The Copper Eye and Enamel Medusa).