The Life and Miracles of Thekla: A Literary Study

  Johnson, Scott Fitzgerald. 2006. The Life and Miracles of Thekla: A Literary Study. Hellenic Studies Series 13. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

A Note on Terminology and Transliteration

By way of explanation rather than apology, I should clarify what I mean by the term “literary” in the title of this book. I do not mean to claim that the Life and Miracles is high literature on the level of Homer, the tragedians, or the ideal Greek Romances. However, I would suggest that the difference between the Life and Miracles and the canon of classical literature is one of degree rather than kind. In other words, from a literary critic’s point of view the same tools of close analysis commonly employed to interpret high Greek literature should also be applied to the Life and Miracles. In addition, I think it a reasonable claim that Late Antiquity has not yet seen very much of this type of scholarship—no doubt due to the period’s relative youth as a field of study in its own right. On this basis I am prepared to admit that this study is, like the Life and Miracles itself, something of an experiment. If this book can therefore stimulate more interest in late antique texts as worthy of close analysis and contextualization, then it has achieved its primary goal.

It will be immediately clear from the Table of Contents that this study is something of a double-headed Byzantine eagle. I attempt in it to do both literary analysis and literary history, two scholarly practices that do not normally appear side by side. Yet, if the literary analysis in this book has anything important to contribute, that contribution directly concerns the reception of literary form in late antiquity, that is, a literary historical question which has been unduly neglected by classicists. The continuity of classical forms of literature—in this case marginal forms—and their adoption by Jewish and Christian writers of the Roman and post-classical periods is, I contend, one of the most important interpretive clues to the fascinating hinge period that we now reverentially call Late Antiquity. Literary theorists have made it abundantly clear that content and form belong together, so I have tried in this study to highlight the diachronic resonance of paraphrase (μετάφρασις) and collection (συλλογή) while at the same time being more or less New Critical in my treatment of the Life and Miracles on its own terms.

In transliterating ancient names from Greek I have generally tried to adhere to the spelling that I consider to be the most widely used: thus Severus of Antioch and not Severos or Sebêros. However, in transliterating names from the Life and Miracles of Thekla, I have strayed from this practice and sought to adhere more closely to the literal Greek: thus, Thekla, Seleukeia, Tryphaina, Aulerios, etc. Exceptions include Paul, Onesiphorus, Alexander, Basil, and a few others. When a historical character in the Miracles is better known by a Latin name, such as Satornilos (Saturninus) in Mir. 13, I have made note of it. My hope is that the Hellenic aesthetic of the Life and Miracles will be more prominent through this method of transliteration and that my choices in presentation will encourage readers to consider the literary nature of that work’s composition.