Chapter 1. Toward a Poetics of Amphoteroglōssia

The very small children in patched clothing,
Being smitten with an unusual wisdom,
Stopped in their play as she passed them
And cried out from their cobbles:
Guarda! Ahi, guarda! ch’ è be’a [*]
But three years after this
I heard the young Dante, whose last name I do not know—
For there are, in Sirmione, twenty-eight young Dantes and thirty-four Catulli;
And there had been a great catch of sardines
And his elders
Were packing them in the great wooden boxes
For the market in Brescia, and he
Leapt about, snatching at the bright fish
And getting in both of their ways;
And in vain they commanded him to sta fermo!
And when they would not let him arrange
The fish in the boxes
He stroked those which were already arranged,
Murmuring for his own satisfaction
This identical phrase:
Ch’ è be’a.
And at this I was mildly abashed.
Ezra Pound, The Study in Aesthetics
In what may be considered the founding act of Western aesthetics, Aristotle resolutely proclaims poetry’s superiority over history. Poetry, he contends, is more philosophical than historia. [1] If in our postmodern era Aristotle’s assertion does not sound like a mere rhetorical truism or a call for regression to a utopian aesthetic totality but retains some of its original theoretical value, then it may help us understand why more often than not poets tend indeed to penetrate the subtle textures and deep structures of aesthetic phenomena long before cultural or literary historians. Pound’s The Study in Aesthetics, or poems like Neruda’s Odes celebrate the aesthetic potential of ordinary or disdained objects that escape the attention of ordinary or high-brow viewers of everyday reality. The poetry of Cavafy and Yeats may be similarly credited with a comparably sensitive perspective on medieval Greek aesthetics that predates any systematic scholarly reevaluation of the literature and the art of Byzantium. Despite the appearance of several sensitive studies in recent years, medieval Greek literature has suffered considerably by long-lasting negative preconceptions concerning its aesthetics or its very literariness. [2]
Western European medieval literature also experienced a parallel transitional period before the systematic restoration of its aesthetics from different but ultimately complementary points of view by scholars such as Jauss, Zumthor, Eco, Dronke, or before them, Curtius, to mention a few. [3] Eco found it necessary to devote a considerable amount of his scholarly explorations to the very validity of the notion of medieval aesthetics. [4] Throughout his work Jauss has defended the aesthetic value of medieval literature despite, or rather on account of, its conspicuous alterity. [5] Zumthor has developed a generally insightful dialogue between medieval studies and modern theoretical approaches to poetics. [6]
Enigmatic allusiveness; homological and anagogical conceptualization of beauty; a pervasive accentuation of the marvelous at the expense of what post-baroque modernity has defined as “realism”; the defamiliarizing projection of contemporaneity into the glorious past of Greek antiquity; subtly modified inherited forms and modes of expression—these are some of the most critical characteristics of secular medieval Greek literature that may be held responsible for both the alterity and allure of its aesthetics.
This book explores the poetics of the so-called Komnenian novels written in twelfth-century Byzantium during the reign of the Komnenian Emperors (1081–1185). [7] There are four Komnenian novels: Rhodanthe and Dosikles by Theodoros Prodromos, Hysmine and Hysminias by Eumathios Makrembolites, Drosilla and Charikles by Niketas Eugeneianos, and Aristandros and Kallithea by Konstantinos Manasses. [8] The last novel has been preserved only in fragments and therefore will not be discussed in detail here. The Komnenian novels draw extensively from the ancient Greek examples of the genre but go beyond inherited conventions. [9]

The revival of the genre of the novel in twelfth-century Constantinople

The resurgence of the genre of the novel in the twelfth century is an intriguing issue. Although fictionality often constituted an important characteristic of major genres of medieval Greek literature (chronicles or hagiography, for example) the genre codification specifically of fictional romantic narrative in the form of the novel reappeared after eight centuries or so of interruption only in the twelfth century. [10] Was this a coincidence?
If genres may be viewed in terms of more or less institutionalized literary discourses interacting with—and often reflecting—broader synchronic sociocultural conditions, [11] an answer to this question should take into account the marked discursive and conceptual elements that the Komnenian novels reintroduced into or drew from their contemporary Byzantine culture. The most fundamental features of the Komnenian novels include: a notable concern for the depiction of individuality—no matter how stereotypical in terms of fictional characterization; a remarkable narrative self-referentiality; an unprecedented liberty in the depiction of romantic affairs; an emphasis on the perfection of love in the context of conjugality; and an experimentation with a number of inherited literary genres.
Pronounced traces of the formation of this revived interest in individualized or romantic literary discourse may be detected already in works of the eleventh century. [12] However, this formative process did not produce any distinct examples of romantic fiction before the Komnenian era. The Komnenian novels should be viewed, therefore, as the product specifically of the sociocultural fermentation of twelfth-century Byzantium. This effervescent cultural activity, which has been aptly described as a form of humanistic Renaissance comparable to its later Western counterpart, [13] was marked by an emphasis on the social and cultural value of “high-style” literacy and of the ancient Greek literary heritage. Even a conspicuously self-confident man like Ioannes Tzetzes, who would never hide his double ethnic ancestry or his ability to communicate in different “barbaric” languages, would not miss any opportunity to proudly exhibit his Hellenic pedigree. [14]
“High” literature and ancient Greek letters had been greatly appreciated throughout the Greek Middle Ages but the production and consumption of this literature as a cultural commodity, often commissioned by members of the Constantinopolitan elite, experienced uncommon flourishing in the twelfth century. [15] Often this cultural capital was exhibited in the context of “rhetorical theaters,” that is, literary gatherings at the homes or, rather, the “salons” of the aristocracy of the era. Ioannes Tzetzes himself and at least two of the Komnenian novelists, Theodoros Prodromos and Konstantinos Manasses, were among the most devoted frequenters of these “salons.” Clearly, this revived appreciation of “high” literature in the twelfth century may be associated both with the accentuation of the Hellenic heritage of Byzantine culture and with the aristocratization of Byzantine society in the same era. Such an emphasis on origins and the glorious Hellenic past contributed also to the cultivation of a refined asteiotēs (sophistication). Witty eloquence and deep familiarity with the prestigious Hellenic heritage were two of the most valuable sources of the cultural capital that an urbanite intellectual was expected to possess. [16]
The vibrant cultural activity in twelfth-century Constantinople—supported by significant flourishing of Byzantine economy in the Komnenian period— [17] fostered also remarkable, even unprecedented, literary experimentations. Old genres—Lucianic dialogues, drama, and, of course, the novel—were revived or parodied, while for the first time in the history of medieval Greek literature the vernacular was employed for the composition of extensive literary works.
Literary novelty and experimentation in this period may also have had something to do, I suggest, with the emergence and development of a new type of intelligentsia in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Kazhdan and Epstein have shown that in that era Byzantine literati begun to emerge as a distinct professional group, often working on the basis of relations of patronage. [18] We can easily envisage how this new kind of professional intellectual interaction was conducive to an antagonistic spirit and practice, which may have encouraged formal and genre experimentation by the competing authors. [19]
Another factor that most probably contributed to the development of the new moral and conceptual attitudes expressed in the Komnenian novels is, as has been aptly suggested, the emphasis on the sociopolitical effect of aristocratic marriages during the Komnenian period. [20] The increasing importance of marriage as an instrument for establishing dynastic alliances should be viewed in connection with the overall aristocratization of Byzantine society in the era and the renewed interest in the sociocultural implications of origins.


The problem of exact dates and sequence of the composition of the Komnenian novels has not been given a satisfactory solution yet. In the pages that follow I make a number of suggestions that I hope will contribute to the elucidation of several aspects of the issue.
Theodoros Prodromos was born around 1100 and died either in the mid-1150s or not long after 1170. [21] His novel was thought to have been written in the 1140s. [22] However, a poem by Theodoros Prodromos, with which he dedicates Rhodanthe and Dosikles to a certain Caesar, suggests an earlier date. Elizabeth Jeffreys has recently shown that this poem is addressed to Caesar Nikephoros Bryennios, who died in 1138. This date therefore should be taken as a terminus ante quem for the composition of Rhodanthe and Dosikles. [23]
Eumathios Makrembolites remains a shadowy figure. Even his first name has been differently preserved as Eustathios or Eumathios (even Georgios!) in the manuscript tradition of his novel. He has been identified with the author of a collection of riddles and the addressee of a letter in the 1180s, but this identification is not indisputable. [24] A late twelfth-century or even early thirteenth-century date has been suggested for the composition of his novel on the ground of its alleged debts to Western European literature. [25] According to the adherents of this view, Hysmine and Hysminias is the last of the Komnenian novels.
An opposite view has been also suggested, according to which Makrembolites must have lived in the late eleventh century. However, this speculation is based on rather shaky arguments. [26] An early twelfth-century date for Hysmine and Hysminias has also been proposed on the basis of the similarities between this novel and other Byzantine and Western European texts. [27] More recently, Hunger argued that the author of Hysmine and Hysminias must be identified with the protoasēkrētis Makrembolites who signed the acts of the Synod of 1166. [28] Although hard evidence is lacking, I would propose a date between 1143 and the mid-1150s for the composition of Makrembolites’ novel. Such a date would account both for the allusions of this novel to the image of the Emperor Manuel I, which have been persuasively investigated by Paul Magdalino, and its possible connections with the intellectual activities of Neoplatonic circles in this period, which are identified and explored later in Chapter Three. [29]
Regarding Niketas Eugeneianos, only a few things are known and the authorship of some literary works recently attributed to him is not unquestionable. [30] As far as his novel is concerned, previous scholarship, following also the evidence of the manuscript tradition, [31] has treated it as a close imitation of Prodromos’ novel and accepted a later date for its composition. More specifically, some time during the late 1150s seems to have been the most probable date for the composition of Drosilla and Charikles. [32] Although the evidence is not conclusive, I find this dating very probable, all the more since Eugeneianos draws not only from Theodoros Prodromos but also from Eumathios Makrembolites, who, as I mentioned above, must have written his novel between 1143 and the mid-1150s. The description of the locus amoenus in the first book of Eugeneianos’ novel contains some details (1.93–99) that recall Makrembolites’ description of Sosthenes’ garden (1.5.1–2). In Eugeneianos, these details are rather hastily described, whereas in Makrembolites they constitute an organic part of the overall ekphrasis (description). These similarities could be interpreted as Eugeneianos’ borrowings from Makrembolites. This hypothesis is corroborated not only by the fact that in his novel Eugeneianos engages in a subtle intertextual dialogue with another contemporary novelist—that is, with his “master” Theodoros Prodromos—but also by an additional allusion later in his novel to an incident in Hysmine and Hysminias. In a melodramatic monologue, Charikles, the protagonist in Eugeneianos’ novel, expresses the fear that Drosilla, his beloved, may be forced by some barbarian master to wait on him (1.238–239). As a matter of fact, this is what had happened to Hysmine in Makrembolites’ novel (10.8.2), and it is probable that Eugeneianos borrowed this detail from her story. [33]
These similarities between Eugeneianos and Makrembolites have either escaped the attention of the majority of previous scholars or have been tacitly interpreted as literary debts of the latter to the former. [34] In the light of these parallels between Eugeneianos and Makrembolites and my dating of the latter’s novel, the sequence of the three texts discussed so far must have been: Prodromos, Makrembolites, Eugeneianos. [35]
Konstantinos Manasses was traditionally thought to have been born around 1130 and died while a bishop of Naupaktos in 1187. However, a recent article has established an earlier date for his birth and reasonably refuted his identification with the bishop of Naupaktos. [36] His novel has been dated to the 1160s, although an earlier date in the 1140s cannot be excluded either. In my view, the latter alternative is more probable since it would locate the composition of the novel within the context of an exceptionally active literary circle, the circle of the Sebastokratorissa Eirene, one member of which was also another novelist, that is, Theodoros Prodromos. [37]

The audience

The study of the original audience of the Komnenian novels is crucial for the reconstruction of the synchronic horizon of aesthetic expectations that conditioned the literary activity of the Komnenian novelists. Who comprised the “intended” audience of these writers? [38] A general answer can be elicited from the texts themselves. All the Komnenian novels are written in an archaizing and highly stylized diction, replete with allusions to ancient Greek and elevated Christian literature. Only an audience well versed in or, at least, familiar with this literature could have adequately appreciated the literary art of the Komnenian novelists. The intertextual dialogue among the Komnenian novelists, especially as this is exemplified in the case of Niketas Eugeneianos, as well as their experimentations with the thematic and formal conventions of the genre, [39] suggest that each novelist might have counted also his fellow literati among his expected audience.
The poem with which Theodoros Prodromos dedicates a copy of his novel to a certain Caesar indicates that his intended audience belonged also to the highest social elite of the time. If the identification of this Caesar with Nikephoros Bryennios proposed by Elizabeth Jeffreys is correct, then among Theodoros Prodromos’ audience we should count the highest literary elite of the time as well.
A similar conclusion may be drawn from an intriguing text by Niketas Eugeneianos. This is a letter addressed to an apparently well-cultivated and well-to-do lady (real? imagined?) who seems to have commissioned Eugeneianos to produce poetic compositions in various meters. Eugeneianos responds promptly to the request of his addressee, who is portrayed as a devoted fan of his work. She has even tried, Eugeneianos notes, to learn his novel by heart:
ἔχεις γὰρ οὐ μόνον τὸ καλλίμορφον ἐν τῷ σώματι, ἀλλά γε καὶ τὸ φιλολόγον ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ καὶ φιλόμετρον, ἥτις καὶ ἐπὶ δροσίλλῃ καὶ χαρικλεῖ συντεθειμένην ἐννεάλογον ἔμμετρον, ὡς ᾔκασταί μοι, μετεπεγράψω, παραταῦτα καὶ ἀποστοματίζεις, ὁπότε καὶ βούλοιο, πλαξὶ καρδίας τὰ ταύτης ἀνθηρότερα προεγγράψασα. [40]
For you have not only beauty in your body but also passion for belles lettres in your soul and fondness for metrical discourse; you who, it seems to me, have copied the nine books of the verse story of Drosilla and Charikles and recite it at once by memory whenever you wish, having already inscribed the most flowery parts of the story on the plaques of your heart. [41]
The relationship between Eugeneianos and his female addressee seems to be more complicated than a typical professional interaction between an artisan and his patroness. In his letter, Eugeneianos expresses his erotic feelings for his cultivated lady in rather explicit if not parodically exaggerated terms. [42] Be this as it may, and independently of the elusive identity of Eugeneianos’ “lady,” this piece of evidence corroborates, I contend, the argument that members of the original audience of the Komnenian novelists belonged to the social—and intellectual—elite of the time. Equally important, Eugeneianos’ letter suggests that women may have played an active role in the nexus of the extratextual relations that conditioned the production and reception of the Komnenian novels. [43]
Could these novels have been commissioned by specific literary patrons? Albeit providing no conclusive evidence, the texts discussed above seem to delineate or allude to a system of cultural and social interactions that may have fostered this possibility. In any case, as is amply indicated by a number of other contemporary literary texts, such a practice was not uncommon in twelfth-century Constantinople. [44] It could be further assumed that the novels, exactly like other products of “high” literature in twelfth-century Byzantium, were performed in the contexts of the “rhetorical theaters.” Viewed from this perspective, the performative aspects of some of these novels could be interpreted, I suggest, as possible allusions to such occasions. [45]

Previous scholarship on the Komnenian novel

Despite their great contribution to the production of fairly reliable critical editions, scholars of the nineteenth century neglected the literary aspects of the Komnenian novels. In his monumental work on the Greek novel, Rohde expressed his distaste for these texts in the most explicit way. [46] Krumbacher regarded these novels as the worst example of Byzantine literature. [47] These negative assessments had been preceded by Adamantios Koraes’s vehement attack on the Komnenian novels. Koraes, who edited Heliodoros’ Aithiopika in 1804 and urged his contemporary Greeks to cultivate the genre of the novel, accused Makrembolites of absolute lack of artistic taste. [48] According to him, Hysmine and Hysminias is characterized by a most “artless organization of the story.” It is “an unsuccessful imitation,” “a product of an ignorant and ill-bred young man,” replete with “uninhibited vulgarities.” [49] Similar was Koraes’s evaluation of Drosilla and Charikles. This novel, Koraes maintained, “was inspired not by Apollo, the god of light, but by some dark and subterranean demon.” [50]
Twentieth-century scholars have usually received the Komnenian novels with similar condescension. Cyril Mango, faithful to his overall attitude toward secular medieval Greek literature, finds them “unbelievably tedious,” [51] while Constantine Trypanis has called them “the nadir of Byzantine poetry.” [52] More graphic is the example of Cataudella, who in his editorial notes on Eugeneianos’ Drosilla and Charikles feels obliged to make clear that he has not even the slightest intention to rehabilitate this text and explains his decision to propose his emendations in a most dismissive way:
Ma … nel leggere, e nell’ emendare Niceta Eugeniano, non bisogna essere di stomaco παμφάγος da non rifiutare nulla. [53]
But in … reading and emending even Niketas Eugeneianos one should not have an omnivorous stomach so as to accept everything.
Despite this stereotypical—at least until recently—negative attitude toward the Komnenian novel, some twentieth-century scholars attempted to elucidate several literary aspects of these texts. The first scholar to be credited with a systematic literary analysis of a Komnenian novel is Karel Svoboda, who as early as 1935 published a short article on the style of Niketas Eugeneianos. Almost thirty years later, in 1967, Alexander Kazhdan contributed several brief but insightful observations about the same novel, emphasizing its realism. In 1975, in a sensitive but not well-documented article, Stavros Deligiorgis tried to view the same work “in international perspective.” In his 1968 study on Komnenian literature, Herbert Hunger dealt also with the novels, placing special emphasis on what he calls Aktualisierungsversuche in these texts, that is, their allusiveness to their contemporary reality. [54] Twelve years later Hunger developed his insightful ideas about the Byzantine novel in his article entitled “Antiker und byzantinischer Roman.” [55]
It was Margaret Alexiou’s seminal “Critical Reappraisal of Eustathios Makrembolites,” published in 1977, that inaugurated a new epoch in the study of the Komnenian novel. Her study was the first thorough literary analysis of a specific Byzantine example of the genre. In 1978, Sofia Polyakova published an interesting study on the Komnenian novels in which, among other issues, she explored the possibility of reading Hysmine and Hysminias as an allegory of love. Hans-Georg Beck approached the Komnenian novels from a broader perspective and devoted some insightful studies on the interaction between Christianity and erotic literature in Byzantium. In his view, the official Church did not react to the composition of the Komnenian novels since their appropriation of a prestigious literary language and their unrealistic archaizing character functioned as a protective alibi. Furthermore, according to the same scholar, in the twelfth century the Church had to deal with more serious issues than the writing of these texts, the readership of which did not exceed the boundaries of a specific literary elite. [56] In 1989 Roderick Beaton devoted a book to the study of the Komnenian and the Palaeologan novels. Beaton’s work was the first important systematic attempt to view both the learned and the vernacular Byzantine novels as a developing genre. His analysis offers a number of insightful observations, although the broad scope of his subject has inevitably forced an occasionally schematic approach to the texts. [57] A recent study by Suzanne MacAlister offers a perceptive analysis of the motifs of dream and suicide in the Komnenian novel, providing at the same time several noteworthy insights regarding the aesthetics of the genre. [58]

Toward a poetics of the medieval Greek novel

What is missing in the majority of studies of the Komnenian novels is a systematic diachronic and synchronic exploration of the overall poetics of these texts. Most scholars tend to confine themselves either to a formalistic analysis of the texts, thus neglecting their cultural and literary context, or to a meticulous detection of possible ancient Greek sources of inspiration, thus evading the question of the specific aesthetic reappropriation of these elements by the Komnenian novelists. Others prefer to focus on specific themes of these texts, thus offering partial analyses, which, however, are often not devoid of valuable observations.
My analysis attempts to contribute a new Problematik on the overall poetics of these texts by focusing on the function of “genre modulations” in them. I use this concept in the sense of the incorporation of several elements from various literary genres into the genre of the novel. I prefer this notion to more familiar critical terms such as “mixture of genres” or “generic hybrid,” because the incorporation of these genre elements in the text of a specific novel leads neither to the creation of a “generic hybrid” nor necessarily to the formulation of a “generic mixture.” Rather, such components have the form of marked discursive modulations associated with more or less distinctive genre discourses. [59] The concept of genre modulation provides, therefore, a conveniently flexible analytical tool pertinent to the exploration of the multilayered interdiscursivity of the Komnenian novels.
This is not the place for a detailed discussion of genre in connection with medieval Greek literature. However, a few observations may be useful. Despite, or because of, established approaches to Byzantine literature in terms of immutable, fixed literary categories—approaches that go back to Krumbacher’s phenomenal founding of Byzantine literary studies and only very rarely have been challenged since then—the study of genre in medieval Greek literature remains a highly underexplored area. [60] There is no doubt that more often than not medieval Greek writers—perhaps more dutifully than their Western contemporaries— [61] adhered to a number of inherited, written, or new and unwritten genre prescriptions. A pertinent example is Ioannes Tzetzes’ discussion in the Verses on the Differences among Poets. Tzetzes’ approach reveals an antiquarian and antiquated attitude toward literary genres with only very little, if any, relevance to his contemporary literary production. [62] Obsolete genres such as tragedy, satyr drama, or comedy are analyzed in terms that reproduce ancient categorizations. [63] Occasionally discussions of rhetoric and specific rhetorical modes or genres are slightly more innovative. Sikeliotes is an interesting case of a medieval Greek rhetorician who now and then illustrates his commentaries on inherited rhetorical forms and tropes with examples relevant to his Christian cultural experience. [64] All in all, however, the Byzantines did not produce any specific theoretical systematization of their contemporary literary genres. In their treatises on literary issues, they tended to adhere to earlier, ancient Greek distinctions.
Not rarely, literary texts bespeak a pliability with respect to genre that overrides strict conventions inherited from antiquity and reproduced in archaizing medieval Greek rhetorical treatises. An intriguing twelfth-century text, an 165–verse poem that narrates “an unprecedented report and an ultra-tragic one” [65] —the story of a nun accused of murder and cannibalism—exemplifies a perplexing overlapping of several genres in the most graphic way. Is it a rhetorical lament composed in the manner of the traditional rhetorical genre of character study (ēthopoiia), an actual legal document, or a combination of both? The genre identity of the poem remains tantalizingly elusive.
On several occasions, Byzantine authors emphasize their innovative divergences from established literary conventions with a remarkable self-awareness. For instance, in his monody for Andronikos Komnenos, Michael Italikos in the twelfth century makes it explicit that he deliberately undermines the traditional rules of the genre with a view to paying the proper respect to the deceased:
ἀναπείθει γὰρ τὸ ποικίλον τῆς ἀρετῆς τοῦ ἀνδρὸς καὶ μακρότερον λέγειν καὶ τὸν τῆς μονῳδίας νόμον καινοτομεῖν καὶ προάγομαι περιττότερον φαίνεσθαι τοῦ προσήκοντος.
The variety of the virtues of the deceased makes me change my mind and speak longer and introduce innovations to the laws of monody and I opt to give the impression that I am more loquacious than what is appropriate. [66]
In an encomium for Ioannes Komnenos, the same author proudly underlines the inventive character of his speech that goes beyond the established rhetorical conventions:
ἐγὼ δὲ σοί, βασιλεῦ, καινοτομῶν ὥσπερ ἐνταῦθα τὸ εὐφημητήριον καὶ παραδοξότερόν τι ποιῶν ἢ κατὰ τοὺς πολλοὺς τῶν ῥητόρων.
For you, my Emperor, I now reform encomiastic speech and introduce some unfamiliar changes contrary to the practice of the majority of the orators. [67]
In an encomiastic poem addressed to the Emperor Manuel Komnenos, Manganeios Prodromos, also in the twelfth century, indulges in a notable self-referentiality. [68] The poet calls upon all the ranks of “wise men” and asks them to go beyond established genre boundaries to praise the Emperor, suggesting that instead of adhering to stereotypical discursive formulae, they should compose an “unstructured” hymn. In other words, the specific performative occasion must define the artistic compositions of the authors:
δεῦτε σοφοὶ καὶ ῥήτορες τριχῶς διαιρεθέντες·
οἱ μὲν σοφοὶ κενώσαντες τὴν ὀστρακίνην κόνιν
μηκέτι νῦν ὁρίζετε τὸν ὕμνον ἐν τοῖς ὅροις
μηδὲ τὸν αὐταπόδεικτον σοφὸν τὰ πρὸς τὴν μάχην
συνήθως συλλογίζεσθε προτάσεις προτιθέντες,
ἀλλ’ ὕμνον ἀσυλλόγιστον τῷ βασιλεῖ κροτεῖτε.
Come here, wise men and rhetors, in your three divisions.
Philosophers, use up earthenware dust,
and no longer confine the hymn within bounds,
nor, when someone is self-evidently wise in connection with battle,
do you counsel him as usual, putting forward proposals,
but you perform an unstructured hymn to the Emperor. [69]
The poet continues his metapoetic commentary in a manner that seems to legitimize a subtle conflation of topoi drawn from different genres, mainly rhetoric and historiography:
ῥήτορες δὲ τὸν ἔπαινον οἱ μὲν τὸν ἐκ τῆς τέχνης,
οἱ δὲ λοιποὶ προσάγετε τὸν ἐκ τῆς ἱστορίας.
Rhetors, some of you bring praise by rhetoric,
the rest bring praise by historiography. [70]
Far from indicating the absence of the concept (or practice!) of genres in twelfth-century Greek literature, these examples, at any rate, point to the possibility of genre flexibility often legitimized or dictated by performative conditions. This is something that does not always come to the fore in traditional approaches to medieval Greek literature, which prefer to underscore the rigidity of inherited patterns. Manganeios Prodromos’ self-referential comments do not constitute a mere rhetorical topos. In their urgent enthusiasm, they seem to suggest that genre in Byzantium may, in certain cases, have been viewed in terms of intersecting and intercrossing boundaries. Indeed, Manganeios’ call for a transgression of established bounds could be read in connection with Lotman’s useful concept of “boundary.” Because of its emphasis on ambivalence and mediating interconnections, this notion helps us realize the mechanism by means of which novelty takes place in literary discourse. Innovation occurs at the point where texts of one genre cross discursive boundaries and enter the territory of another genre. [71]
Going one step further, I would argue that genre innovations and variations occur not only on the level of textual structures but also on the level of discursive textures. In other words, emphasis should rather be placed on the ways in which not only structural genre laws but also certain discursive textures and modalities are assimilated into the discursive textures of other texts. [72] Such is the case of the Komnenian novels. Rather than an inclusion of several distinct genres within the “super-genre” of the novel, [73] I prefer to speak of a subtle interweaving of different discursive textures drawn from a number of genres.
In this book I analyze the rhetorical, allegorical, and comic modulations in the Komnenian novels with a view to reconstructing and exploring the intricate system of their poetics. In Chapter Two, I investigate the ways in which the traditional conventions of the rhetorical genres of ēthopoiia and lament are employed by the Komnenian novelists. This analysis is preceded by a discussion of the overall role of rhetoric in the composition of these novels. Rhetorical theory and practice, I argue, defined the overarching horizon of aesthetic expectations in the context of which these texts were created and received in the Komnenian era. In Chapter Three, I examine the allegorical modulations in the works of Eumathios Makrembolites and Niketas Eugeneianos, focusing on the functions of personification and the allegorical use of Neoplatonic philosophy in Hysmine and Hysminias and on the appropriation of biblical imagery in Drosilla and Charikles. In the last chapter, I investigate the role of comic elements, parody and satire, and the dynamics of their performative contexts in Rhodanthe and Dosikles and Drosilla and Charikles. These, I argue, are the most important genre modulations that differentiate the Komnenian novels from their ancient Greek models and the subsequent Palaeologan novels. [74]
My analysis of these genre modulations shows that the creative reappropriation of the established genre characteristics of the ancient Greek novel by the Komnenian novelists has invested their works with a dialogic referentiality. [75] This referentiality, I suggest, functions on two basic axes: first, on what I would call the paradigmatic axis of the prior, sanctioned ancient Greek and—less evidently but equally significantly—Christian literary and cultural exempla, and, second, on what I would call the syntagmatic axis of the broader contemporary Byzantine literary and cultural context of the Komnenian novels. The dialogic character of the semantic referentiality of these works necessitates their study from a simultaneously synchronic and diachronic perspective.
As basic theoretical concept and methodological tool for the exploration in this book of the poetics of the Komnenian novels and of secular medieval Greek literature in general, I propose the indigenous synchronic Byzantine rhetorical notion of amphoteroglōssia (‘double-tonguedness’, ‘ambivalence’). Amphoteroglōssia is the concept that Ioannes Tzetzes employs to describe the ambivalence of rhetoric. According to Tzetzes, the rhetor who expresses different, even contradictory, ideas by employing the same words is amphoteroglōssos (‘double-tongued’). [76]
The Komnenian novels are often characterized by a similar ambivalence. Several allusions in them work on both the syntagmatic and the paradigmatic axes, and manipulate elements drawn from different discursive domains at the same time. Dominant among these diverse spheres of cultural experience are the seemingly antithetical but ultimately complementary discourses of the pagan Greek past, on the one hand, and the Christian tradition, on the other. This amphoteroglōssia invests the Komnenian novels with a complex semantic allusiveness or, occasionally, even elusiveness, which might have been responsible for their marginalization in traditional criticism.
Amphoteroglōssia contributes to the multivocality of the Komnenian novels and articulates a web of aesthetic and discursive correlations in a manner that I find similar to the effect of “the distorting mirror” that Cyril Mango delineated in his overview of Byzantine literature in a much discussed and highly controversial paper. However, far from rendering Byzantine literature static, as Mango’s biased and rather impressionistic perspective indicates, [77] such an aesthetic effect invests it, I contend, with a discursive dynamism that allows the coexistence of diverse and, not rarely, antithetical elements. It was exactly this amphoteroglōssia that enabled the Komnenian novelists to explore and develop the potential of their models and produce works of considerable artistic and intellectual value.
For my analysis I have found particularly congenial the theoretical discussions of Hans Robert Jauss. In place of the traditional naturalistic notion of genre, Jauss proposes a historical concept of continuity according to which “the relationship between the individual text and the series of texts formative of a genre presents itself as a process of the continual founding and altering of horizons.” [78] This diachronic approach to a particular genre is complemented by its synchronic study in the context of “the reciprocal relations that make up the literary system of a given historical moment.” [79]
In this book, by drawing on the synchronic literary and broader sociocultural Byzantine context, and tracing the diachronic reception and development of the genre conventions of the ancient Greek novel, I propose ways to investigate the intricate amphoteroglossic aesthetics of the Komnenian novels. One of my main aims is to reconstruct the aesthetic parameters that conditioned the production and reception of these texts in the specific historical and cultural context of twelfth-century Constantinople. At the same time, my application of the indigenous rhetorical concept of amphoteroglōssia to this particular group of twelfth-century texts aspires to offer an overarching methodological model for the study of the complexity of Byzantine secular literature as a whole. This analysis may contribute to a methodological reevaluation of secular medieval Greek literature to the extent that underscores the urgency of the study of this literature in terms of the “worldliness” of its aesthetics. [80]
An effective study of the poetics of Byzantine literature should be developed, I propose, in terms of historical anthropology, as Aaron Gurevich defines it in his discussion of the Western Middle Ages. The primary objective of historical anthropology is the reconstruction of an old society mainly by uncovering the meanings and the “functions” of past sociocultural phenomena that are inevitably distant and different from those of our time. [81] By dealing with this “pathos of distance,” historical anthropology helps the researcher first to eschew the danger of projecting modern cultural categories onto old societies and, second, to communicate the alterity of the past to the experience of the present. In other words, rather than approaching ancient cultural discourses in formalistic or nonhistorical terms, and consequently assessing them on the basis of modern criteria, we should examine these discourses within their original contexts. It is in these contexts that categories such as aesthetics, beauty, literature, or literariness must be perceived, reconstructed, and, if necessary, evaluated. The method that this scholarly endeavor involves resembles that of the anthropologist who tries to penetrate—and interpret—the sociocultural phenomena of a foreign society.
This method is especially important for the study of medieval Greek literature, which has so far suffered from exceedingly formalistic or overly historicizing approaches. As any other cultural product, literature may be studied from an anthropological perspective as a cultural discourse embedded within a nexus of other sociocultural phenomena. If we may perceive culture in terms of a “text” subjected to interpretation, [82] in its turn a literary text, especially a literary text of the past, should be viewed, I contend, as the aesthetic encoding of different, now distant but not necessarily unrecoverable, cultural textures.
Of principal importance for our reading of any kind of literary expression but in particular of an unfamiliar or past literature like the medieval Greek literature is the “ethnography of the vehicles of meaning,” the study, that is, of the codes and modes of signification that define the production and reception of literature and of any other cultural discourse in a certain society in a specific period. [83] Thus, throughout this book I place particular emphasis on the multilayered interactions of the Komnenian novels with their broader contemporary modes of thought and expression—to the extent that these can be reconstructed.
The anthropological approach to medieval Greek literature that I propose here dictates the study of a text and its cultural context in terms of a continuous interplay where “vehicles of meaning” are activated, negotiated, or modified. Meaning must be understood here in the sense not only of verbal or more specifically literary communication but also of sociocultural discourses. The exploration of the poetics of the Komnenian novels should be undertaken at three different but ultimately complementary levels at the same time: at the level of textual/narrative signification; at the level of allusions to past or contemporary Byzantine (inter)texts; and at the level of the specific social and cultural context of these novels. For instance, the functions of allegorical modulations in Makrembolites’ and Eugeneianos’ works cannot be adequately studied and appreciated if not viewed in relation to the long tradition of allegorical exegesis in Greek literature—especially the revival of this tradition in twelfth-century Constantinople—as well as to the overall mystical attitude of the Byzantines to the universe. The overarching discursive principle that conditions the functions of the majority of genre modulations in the Komnenian novels is the rhetorical concept of amphoteroglōssia.


[ back ] * bella
[ back ] 1. Φιλοσοφώτερον καὶ σπουδαιότερον ποίησις ἱστορίας ἐστίν (Poetics 1451b).
[ back ] 2. The aesthetics of Byzantine art became the subject of systematic study long before Byzantine literature. Micheles 1955 and Mathew 1963 remain important for the study of the aesthetics of Byzantine art. See also more recently Maguire 1981, 1999; V. Bychkov 1999; Iacobini and Zanini 1995. Considerably valuable for the exploration of the aesthetics of medieval Greek literature I have found Averintsev 1988; Beck 1969, 1974; Hunger 1968a; 1969/70; 1972a; Kustas 1973. Cf. the more recent discussions collected in Symbolae Osloenses 73, especially Ljubarskij 1998. See also the volume 53 of Dumbarton Oaks Papers (1999), which is dedicated to the aesthetics of Byzantine art and literature, and Agapitos 2002, with several sensitive general observations. The belatedness of a systematic revision of the aesthetics of Byzantine literature is characteristically indicated by the title of the interesting volume Originality in Byzantine Literature, Art and Music that appeared as late as 1995 (Littlewood 1995; see especially Kazhdan 1995). See also the discussion of the importance of rhetoric for medieval Greek literature in Chapter Two, where further bibliography.
[ back ] 3. Curtius 1953.
[ back ] 4. Eco 1986; 1987; 1988
[ back ] 5. See especially Jauss 1979.
[ back ] 6. Zumthor 1992.
[ back ] 7. The issue of their exact dating is discussed below in this Chapter.
[ back ] 8. Theodoros Prodromos’ novel has been preserved in four manuscripts: Heidelbergensis Palatinus Graecus 43 (H; 14th c.); Vaticanus Graecus 121 (V; 13th c.); Vaticanus Urbinas Graecus 134 (U; 15th c.); Laurentianus Acquisti e Doni 341 (L; 16th c.). An additional manuscript (Marcianus Graecus 452; 14th c.) preserves fragments of the novel as part of an anthology compiled by Makarios Chrysokephalos (see Marcovich’s edition). Niketas Eugeneianos’ novel has been preserved in four manuscripts too: Marcianus Graecus 412 (M; 13th c.); Parisinus Graecus 2908 (P; 15th c.); Vaticanus Urbinas Graecus 134 (U; 15th c.); Mediceus Laurentianus Acquisti e Doni 341 (L; 16th c.; see Conca’s edition). Eumathios Makrembolites’ novel has been preserved in no less than forty-three manuscripts (see Cataldi Palau 1980). From Konstantinos Manasses’ Aristandros and Kallithea we have only some passages preserved in the anthology of Makarios Chrysokephalos in Marcianus Graecus 452 and in a later collection of precepts from the novel in Vindobonensis Philologicus Graecus 306 (14th c.) and Monacensis Graecus 281 (16th c.). Prose paraphrases of passages from the same novel are also found in Maximos Planoudes’ Συναγωγή (see Mazal 1967:12–61). In this book, I use Marcovich’s edition of Rhodanthe and Dosikles, Conca’s edition of Drosilla and Charikles, Marcovich’s edition of Hysmine and Hysminias, and Mazal’s edition of Aristandros and Kallithea. For the manuscript tradition of these novels I employ the sigla of these editions.
[ back ] 9. For a general discussion of the connections of the Komnenian novels with their ancient Greek models, see Hunger 1980.
[ back ] 10. Hagiographic texts share some thematic and narratological characteristics with secular narratives to such an extent that Hunger rightly calls hagiography a “Bindeglied zwischen den spätantike Romanen und jenen der Komnenenzeit” (Hunger 1980:10; cf. also Beck 1978:122–123). Kazhdan speaks of particular eighth- and ninth-century hagiographies in terms of “perverse romances” (Kazhdan 1999:188; 302–308). In this respect, it should be noted that the reappearance of the genre of the novel in the twelfth century is accompanied by a decline of hagiographic literature (on hagiography in the twelfth century, see Magdalino 1981; cf. Kazhdan 1982:257). One of the very few twelfth-century authors who wrote a hagiographic text was a novelist, Theodoros Prodromos. Prodromos composed a Life of St Meletios (Vasilevskii 1886). Roueché has detected romantic elements in eleventh-century historiography (Roueché 1988). Kazhdan and Epstein, too, place emphasis on “the romance-like plot” of Nikephoros Bryennios’ Memoirs (Kazhdan and Epstein 1985:202).
[ back ] 11. Todorov 1976.
[ back ] 12. Zumthor offers an interesting discussion of the process of “formation” that precedes the “manifestation” of distinctive kinds of literary texts (Zumthor 1992:35–39). The interest in fictional narrative exemplified by the Komnenian novels was not, of course, unprecedented in Byzantine literature. We should not forget, for example, the cases of the oriental fictional works Barlaam and Iosaph, perhaps translated from a Syriac original by Ioannes of Damaskos in the eighth century; the Arabic Kalilah va Damnah, translated into Greek as Stephanites and Ichnelates by Symeon Seth at the end of the eleventh century; and Syntipas, translated from Syriac by Michael Andreopoulos at the same time (Beck 1971:35–48; Kechagioglou 1988; cf. Kazhdan 1988). Digenes Akrites, probably composed in the early twelfth century, offers another significant example of a fictional narrative of distinctive romantic character (on this work, see Beck 1971:63–97; Beaton 1996a:30–51, where Digenes is aptly presented as a “proto-romance”; see also Beaton and Ricks 1993 and Jeffreys 1998a, where more recent bibliography).
[ back ] 13. Magdalino 1993:382–412.
[ back ] 14. Tzetzes says that his great-grandmother was of Georgian origins (Leone 1968:5.17; Gautier 1970). For Tzetzes’ knowledge of the rudiments of foreign languages, see his own account in Hunger 1953. For his Hellenic ancestry, see e.g. his claims in Leone 1972:10; also in Leone 1968:5.17.627–628.
[ back ] 15. On the function of “high” literature in twelfth-century Byzantium, see the excellent analysis in Magdalino 1993:335–356. For the importance of rhetoric as a status symbol and the contribution of twelfth-century writers to the creation of what has been called the “Comnenian aristocratic mystique,” see also Magdalino 1984:69. On “rhetorical theaters” in Byzantium, see Hunger 1978:1.210–211; Mullett 1984; Magdalino 1993:336–356. The latter contends that “theatre is in fact the key to understanding both the aesthetic and the social function of high-style literacy in twelfth-century Byzantine society” (Magdalino 1993:339). For an important study of the so-called twelfth-century Byzantine renaissance and its cultural manifestations, see again Magdalino 1993:382–412. Among other things, Magdalino emphasizes Hellenism as a key constituent of the twelfth-century Byzantine “humanism” and seems to endorse Beaton’s view about the relevance of the emergence of a form of “nationalism” in the era for the resurgence of the genre of the novel (Magdalino 1993:400–401; cf. Magdalino 1993:396–397; see also the most insightful discussion of the reappraisal of Hellenism in twelfth-century Byzantium in Macrides and Magdalino 1992; also Beaton 1996a:9–13). Agapitos and Smith dismiss Beaton’s view without, however, proposing any alternative explanation for the reemergence of the genre in this particular historical moment (Agapitos and Smith 1992:15–21). For possible connections between aristocratization of Byzantine society and the reemergence of the novel in the twelfth century, cf. Kazhdan 1982:258. On aristocracy and aristocratic elements in eleventh- and twelfth-century Byzantium, see Kazhdan and Epstein 1985:62–70; 99–116.
[ back ] 16. On these aspects of asteiotēs in twelfth-century Byzantium, see Chapter Four.
[ back ] 17. For the economic expansion during the Komnenian rule, see Hendy 1970. Especially for the reign of Manuel I Komnenos, see Magdalino 1993:140–171.
[ back ] 18. Kazhdan and Epstein 1985:130–133.
[ back ] 19. The examples of such an explicit or implicit intellectual antagonism in the twelfth century are many. Nikephoros Basilakes was bragging that his personal style of schedographia (educational compositions) was so popular that people referred to it with the coined term basilakizein (Garzya 1971:58). Not rarely Ioannes Tzetzes manifested an inflated confidence in his own literary and intellectual skills as compared with both past and present men (or women!) of letters (see, for instance, Tzetzes’ criticisms in Leone 1972:60–63; Gaisford 1820:10–11; Hunger 1956:254.28–34; Leone 1972:100). In a rather affected self-effacing manner, Ptochoprodromos compares his humble art (the art of “an ant”) to the high style of his contemporary powerful (“lions”) literatti (Hesseling and Pernot 1910: III.18–30). On intellectual antagonism in the twelfth century, see also the next Chapter.
[ back ] 20. Jeffreys 1998b:195; cf. Laiou 1992:94–96.
[ back ] 21. Hörandner 1974:23; 32; Kazhdan and Franklin 1984:92–100.
[ back ] 22. Jeffreys 1980:476; Beaton 1996a:70.
[ back ] 23. This piece was first edited by Welz in 1910; since then, however, it had escaped the attention of the scholars of the Komnenian novel. The rediscovery of this text is to be credited to Elizabeth Jeffreys: at a symposium on the Komnenian novel held in Berlin in April 1998, Jeffreys convincingly made the case for 1138 as a terminus ante quem for the composition of Theodoros Prodromos’ novel (see now E. Jeffreys 2000; cf. Jeffreys 1998b:196–199; Agapitos 2000; despite his questionable hypothesis about the chronological relation between Makrembolites and Prodromos, Agapitos is right in proposing a division of this piece into three parts).
[ back ] 24. Rohde 1914:557; Krumbacher 1897:765. On the problems raised by this suggestion, see E. Jeffreys 1980:477. The riddles attributed to Makrembolites have been edited by Hilberg 1876 and Treu 1893; on their authorship, cf. Horna 1903:208.
[ back ] 25. Cupane first expressed this view in her 1974a article on the image of Eros in Hysmine and Hysminias. In 1989, in the first edition of his book on the medieval Greek romance, Beaton adopted Cupane’s suggestion, although with some reservations (Beaton 1989:78–79). In the revised edition of his book, Beaton, based on the recent studies of MacAlister 1991 and Magadlino 1992, accepts that all four novels, Hysmine and Hysminias included, must have been composed between 1140 and 1160 (1996a:212). Conca adheres to Cupane’s and Beaton’s original dating (Conca 1994a:22–3).
[ back ] 26. This view has been put forward by Plepelits, who has interpreted the name of Hysminias’ fictional addressee as a coded name for Caesar Ioannes Doukas, brother of Konstantinos X, who died around 1080. Furthermore, Plepelits contends that Makrembolites is a pseudonym for this specific Ioannes Doukas (Plepelits 1989:3–6). For a discussion of Plepelits’ overall approach to Makrembolites, see also Chapter Three.
[ back ] 27. According to Polyakova Makrembolites’ novel was the source of Theodoros Prodromos’ novel, of Nikephoros Basilakes’ progumnasmata, and of the Old French Roman de la Rose (Polyakova 1969; 1971a; 1979:84–124). Her view has been received positively by Kazhdan and Epstein (1985:202) and by MacAlister (1991).
[ back ] 28. Hunger 1998:4–8. Hunger’s suggestion, too, remains in the sphere of hypothesis, especially since we do not know what the first name of the protoasēkrētis Makrembolites was.
[ back ] 29. On the contrary, I cannot see any compelling reason for viewing Makrembolites’ novel as a product of his early youth and, therefore, for dating it to the period before 1135. The argumentation for this date is mainly based on the title of the novel in one early manuscript, where an abbreviated title seems to suggest that the author of the novel was a notarios (Hunger 1998:4–8). Cupane contends that the correct reading is nōbelissimos (Cupane 2000:54). On the basis of this reading, she prefers a date for the composition of Hysmine and Hysminias after 1166, after the year, that is, for which we have evidence that a certain Makrembolites—identified by Hunger, who follows Horna (Horna 1903:207), with the author of Hysmine and Hysminias—was a protoasēkrētis (Hunger 1998:6). My main objections to this late date are two. First, it is not necessary to accept that the use of a certain title in a manuscript—in this case nōbelissimos, according to Cupane’s reading—reflects the real status of the author in the period when his work was composed. The possibility cannot be excluded that this title refers not to the administrative position that Makrembolites held specifically in the year when Hysmine and Hysminias was completed but, rather, to the highest title that he acquired in his career. Second, even if we concede that this title may be of some significance for the chronology of Makrembolites’ novel, we should keep in mind that, as Cupane herself rightly points out in her argumentation against the earlier date proposed by Hunger, administrative appointments in Byzantium last for a significant number of years. In the absence of any conclusive evidence to suggest either that the author of the novel was the same Makrembolites who signed the acts of the Synod of 1166 or, in case one wishes to accept this identification, that Makrembolites was appointed to that position exactly in 1166, a date before 1166 cannot be precluded. Agapitos’s speculation that in his dedicatory piece Theodoros Prodromos alludes to Makrembolites’ use of ekphrasis and that by implication Rhodanthe and Dosikles was written after Hysmine and Hysminias is unconvincing (Agapitos 2000:182–184).
[ back ] 30. Eugeneianos survived Theodoros Prodromos, as his verse and prose monodies on the latter’s death indicate (for these texts, see Petit 1902 and Galavotti 1935). Eugeneianos himself acknowledges his intellectual debts to Prodromos (Petit 1902). Chrestides attributes the anonymous works in Marcianus Graecus XI 22, 129r-143v to Eugeneianos (Chrestides 1984:78–92). Eugeneianos’ authorship of these texts has been disputed, but not persuasively, by Kazhdan (Kazhdan 1985). Eugeneianos was also an author of schedographiai (educational compositions); see Polemis 1995:278; 293–296.
[ back ] 31. Venetus Marcianus Graecus 412 attributes the novel to Prodromos, whereas the inscription in Parisinus Graecus 2908 points very clearly to Eugeneianos’ literary debts to Prodromos, noting that Drosilla and Charikles has been written κατὰ μίμησιν τοῦ μακαρίτου φιλοσόφου τοῦ Προδρόμου (see Conca’s edition, 7, 30). This title, though, does not necessarily substantiate Beaton’s conclusion that Eugeneianos composed his novel “in homage to Prodromos shortly after his death” (1996a:76). This comment may very well have been a later addition. It is worth noting that some scholars have treated Drosilla and Charikles as a slavish imitation of Prodromos’ novel. This has led them to underestimate the innovative character of Eugeneianos’ own novel. Lévesque was the first to speak of a slavish dependence of Eugeneianos’ novel on its model (Lévesque 1800/1:225). Cf. also Krumbacher 1897:763f and Rodhe 1914:566f.
[ back ] 32.
[ back ] 33. I discuss Eugeneianos’ allusions to both Theodoros Prodromos and Eumathios Makrembolites in Chapter Two, pp. 107–109.
[ back ] 34. Conca’s edition of Drosilla and Charikles notes the similarities between the ekphrasis of the locus amoenus in Eugeneianos and the description of the garden in Makrembolites. However, Conca pays no particular attention to these common elements or tacitly interprets them as borrowings of Makrembolites from Eugeneianos. In the Introduction to his Italian translation of the Komnenian novels, Conca adheres to Cupane’s view that Hysmine and Hysminias is the last work in the chronological sequence of the Komnenian novels. Eight years after Conca, Agapitos also referred to this particular similarity between Eugeneianos and Makrembolites rightly interpreting it as a borrowing of the former from the latter (Agapitos 1998:152; Agapitos does not discuss Conca).
[ back ] 35. Basing her arguments on the use of the motif of dreams in the Komnenian novel, MacAlister (MacAlister 1991) believes that all the romances were written during the 1130s or 1140s in the following sequence: Hysmine and Hysminias, Rhodanthe and Dosikles, Drosilla and Dosikles. Her argument, however, for the dependence of Prodromos’ novel on Hysmine and Hysminias is not persuasive.
[ back ] 36. For the traditional views on Manasses’ life, see Bees 1928/9; also Horna 1904; these views have been questioned by Lampsidis (Lampsidis 1988).
[ back ] 37. The date in the 1160s has been favored by Mazal on the basis of some rather scarce textual evidence (Mazal 1967:32); the alternative dating in the 1140s has been suggested by Jeffreys (1980:477). For Eirene and her literary circle, see Jeffreys 1980:472–481; Jeffreys 1982.
[ back ] 38. Here I am using the term introduced by Wolff in his study on the “intended reader,” that is, the reader that an author envisages when he composes his work. As I shall show later in discussion, the “intended audience” of the Komnenian novels was not merely a “fictional inhabitant of the text” (Wolff 1971:160) but a very specific historical presence. In any case, Wolff’s notion can accommodate a historical approach to the issue of the audience of old literature by contrast to other modern theoretical models such as Iser’s theory of the “implied reader” (Iser 1978:34–38).
[ back ] 39. For instance, two of the four Komnenian novels are composed in the Byzantine twelve-syllable iambic meter (Rhodanthe and Dosikles and Drosilla and Charikles), one in the fifteen-syllable political meter (Aristandros and Kallithea), while only one adhered to the conventional prose form (Hysmine and Hysminias).
[ back ] 40. Boissonade 1819:2.7.
[ back ] 41. All translations in this book are mine unless otherwise indicated. I have tried to render the style of the original texts as literally as possible with a view to conveying the aesthetic effect of their convoluted diction and syntax.
[ back ] 42. The title of the text notes that the letter is addressed πρὸς ἐρωμένην γραμματικήν (Boissonade 1919:2.6); cf. also, for example, the author’s confession: ὡς γὰρ Ἡρακλῆς τῇ Ὀμφάλῃ ἐκδουλεύειν σοι τέταγμαι, καὶ ὑπείκω σοι πρὸς ἅπαν ἐπίταγμα· σὺ δὲ ἀλλὰ πότε καὶ ὑποκείσῃ … ἐραστὴς γὰρ αἰδήμων οὐ μέχρι τέλους εἶναι δεδύνημαι (Boissonade 1919:10). For a brief presentation of the text, cf. Helfer 1972:43, who describes this text as a letter written by Eugeneianos to a young lady. In contrast, I see no reason why the young lady in this text should be interpreted as a personification of Grammar (Harder 2003:368). Nothing in the text compels such an unnecessarily marked hypothesis.
[ back ] 43. It is important to emphasize that in the same period women played an important role in the commission and consumption of literary works in Byzantium; on this, see the following footnote. In this respect, the role of women in the production and reception of the genre of the novel in the Komnenian era may be compared to the much-discussed issue of a probable female audience for the ancient Greek novel, on which, see Egger 1988; cf. also Hägg 1983:96; Bowie 1994.
[ back ] 44. For the issue of patrons and patronesses in twelfth-century Byzantium, see Magdalino 1993:335–356; Jeffreys 1982; E. and M. Jeffreys 1994; Mullett 1984.
[ back ] 45. These aspects are explored in detail in Chapter Four of this book. Here I would like to mention only the frequency of lyrical passages in the novel of Niketas Eugeneianos, a frequency that was unprecedented in the tradition of the Greek novel. His example finds intriguing parallels in the later vernacular romances; for these parallels, see the interesting observations in Agapitos 1991:211–212; 217–222. Achilleus Tatios refers to and describes parallel performative contexts of singing (1.5; 2.1).
[ back ] 46. Rohde 1914:560.
[ back ] 47. Krumbacher 1897:641.
[ back ] 48. For Koraes’s contribution to the revival of the genre of the novel in nineteenth-century Greece, see Roilos 2003. For Koraes’s approach to the ancient Greek novel, see Rotolo 1966.
[ back ] 49. Koraes 1986:13.
[ back ] 50. Koraes 1986:15–16.
[ back ] 51. Mango 1980:237.
[ back ] 52. Trypanis 1981:488.
[ back ] 53. Cataudella 1972/3:27.
[ back ] 54. Hunger 1968:72.
[ back ] 55. Hunger 1980.
[ back ] 56. Beck 1986a:153–157. Cf. also his 1968 and 1986b studies.
[ back ] 57. For a detailed but sometimes unjustly vehement criticism of Beaton’s book, see Agapitos and Smith 1992. More balanced is Kechagioglou’s review of the same book (Kechagioglou 1990). Beaton has replied to aspects of Agapitos’s and Smith’s criticism in the “Afterword” of the second edition of his book. For a review of Agapitos and Smith 1992 and of Agapitos 1991, see Kechagioglou 1994.
[ back ] 58. MacAlister 1996. For a more recent narratological analysis of one of the Komnenian novels, Makrembolites’ Hysmine and Hysminias, see also Nilsson 2002.
[ back ] 59. I should stress that the concept of “modulation” should not be confused with such notions as “motifs” and “features,” which suggest specific or even rigid thematic units.
[ back ] 60. In an interesting article, Margaret Mullett examines some aspects of the problem, rightly placing emphasis on form and performative types in terms of content as possible criteria for the construction of a system of Byzantine genres (Mullett 1992:235–236). Despite its somewhat rigid use of the second criterion, her provisional systematization offers valuable insights.
[ back ] 61. A lack of a specific theory and systematization of literary genres in medieval European literature has been noticed by a number of scholars; see e.g. Zumthor 1992:118–140, who advocates the idea of discourses rather than fixed genres. Zumthor’s views on medieval literary genres have been criticized by Jauss, who proposes a rather rigid genre classification (Jauss 1979; cf. Zumthor’s response in Zumthor 1979); cf. also Kelly 1993:101–103.
[ back ] 62. Cramer 1836:334–349.
[ back ] 63. This is what happens also in the treatise on tragedy attributed to Psellos (Browning 1963). As for the novel, the Byzantines, like their ancient Greek predecessors, did not have any concrete term to define this specific genre, although they tended to prefer the words δρᾶμα or δραματικόν. The term δρᾶμα, which could denote both the adventurous story of the two lovers and the narrative that recounts it, was preferred by both the Patriarch Photios and Eumathios Makrembolites. The latter calls his story τὸ καθ’ Ὑσμίνην δρᾶμα καὶ τὸν Ὑσμινίαν (11.23.3). On ancient Greek and Byzantine terms of the novel, see Martini 1991, especially 236f; cf. Agapitos 1998:128–131; also Müller 1976; Kuch 1985; Holzberg 1996 gives a good account of the difficulties that the classification of ancient Greek novels involves.
[ back ] 64. Walz 6.56–504 (see for instance 67; 191; 196–199; 211; 212–214 and passim).
[ back ] 65. This is the very first line of the poem as translated by Macrides (ἄκουσμα καινὸν καὶ πέρα τραγῳδίας; Macrides 1985). Macrides, who has edited the text, offers an excellent commentary on it.
[ back ] 66. Criscuolo 1971:160.
[ back ] 67. Fusco 1969–1970:153.
[ back ] 68. This is the first poem in E. and M. Jeffreys, forth.
[ back ] 69. E. and M. Jeffreys, forth.:1.31–36.
[ back ] 70. E. and M. Jeffreys, forth.:1.37–38; Jeffreys’ translation is slightly adapted here.
[ back ] 71. For an insightful discussion of the concept of boundary and its value for a semiotic approach to cultural phenomena, see Lotman 1990:131–142. Specifically on the relevance of this notion for the study of genre innovations, the following observation of Lotman is revealing: “innovation comes about when the principles of one genre are structured according to the laws of another, and this ‘other’ genre organically enters the new structure and at the same time preserves a memory of its other system of encoding” (Lotman 1990:137).
[ back ] 72. For discursive textures in literature, see Yatromanolakis and Roilos 2003a, where this notion is also discussed in connection with the concept of “ritual poetics” proposed and developed in that book.
[ back ] 73. For a view of the novel as a “super-genre,” see Hoy 1992:765.
[ back ] 74. These are the pivotal genre modulations in the Komnenian novels. Other minor modulations, rhetorical as well as lyrical and epigrammatic, may be also discerned. I intend to explore these modulations along with their development in the later vernacular novels and Meliteniotes’ Εἰς τὴν Σωφροσύνην in another study. Fowler’s description of “generic modulations” is very helpful. “Generic mixtures,” he argues, “need not be full-blown hybrids. In fact, it is more usual for one of the genres to be only a modal abstraction with a token repertoire. We shall call such mixture modulation. In modulation, the proportions of the modal ingredient may vary widely, which leads to correspondingly various effects, from overall tones to touches of local color” (Fowler 1982:191). I use the word “genre” rather than “generic” to modify the concept of “modulation” as well as in other contexts throughout this book. For the Palaeologan novels in general, see Beck 1971:117–147; Beaton 1996a:101–145; for an interesting formalistic analysis of the narrative techniques in the vernacular novels, see Agapitos 1991. Meliteniotes’ work has been unjustly neglected by modern scholarship. Until recently Dölger’s 1919 dissertation remained the most extensive study on it. See also Dölger 1934; Beaton 1996a:192–195. Cupane has studied the motif of castle (Cupane 1978b) and the iconography of Tyche, Bios, and Thanatos in Meliteniotes’ poem (Cupane 1979). More recently, a study and a critical edition of the stone catalogue of the poem appeared (Schönauer 1996). Athanasios Kambylis is preparing a critical edition of the work.
[ back ] 75. The notion of dialogism that pervades the theoretical work of Bakhtin, especially his discussion of the novel, is closely associated with his idea of heteroglossia. Dialogism refers to the constant interaction among meanings as these are potentially conditioned by each other. Heteroglossia refers to the multiple conditions that define the semantic value of a specific utterance at a specific moment, in a specific place (see especially Bakthin 1981:259–422).
[ back ] 76. Leone 1968:7.295–301; see the discussion of Tzetzes’ text in Chapter Two, p. 29–30.
[ back ] 77. Mango’s dismissive view of this feature of Byzantine literature is summarized as follows: “to put it more simply, Byzantine literature was static, locked within the bounds of its inherited conventions” (Mango 1975:16–17; my emphasis). At another point in his paper, Mango describes belletristic Byzantine literature as “the least interesting part” of Byzantine literary production (1975:4). Authors such as Manganeios Prodromos or Michael Italikos make it clear that Mango falls here into the methodological fallacy of projecting his own modern aesthetic criteria and preferences onto Byzantine literature.
[ back ] 78. Jauss 1982b:88. This creative interaction of a literary work with a given horizon of literary expectations is also encompassed in the notion and practice of mimesis in Byzantine literature. On mimesis in Byzantium, see Hunger 1969/70.
[ back ] 79. Jauss 1982b:105; cf. his more succinct statement that “the historicity of literature comes to light at the intersections of diachrony and synchrony” (1982a:37).
[ back ] 80. Edward Said describes this concept as follows: “texts have ways of existing that even in their most rarefied form are always enmeshed in circumstance, time, place, and society—in short, they are in the world, and hence worldly” (Said 1983:33–35).
[ back ] 81. Gurevich 1992, especially 3–49.
[ back ] 82. For such an interpretive approach to culture, see Geertz 1973:412–453.
[ back ] 83. Geertz 1983:94–120, especially 118–119.