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Apostolic Memories: Religious Differentiation and the Construction of Orthodoxy in Syriac Missionary Literature

Jeanne-Nicole Saint-Laurent, Brown University, Junior Fellow 2008/09

As a Junior Fellow in Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, I completed and defended my dissertation entitled Apostolic Memories: Religious Differentiation and the Construction of Orthodoxy in Syriac Missionary Literature.

The support of the scholars at Dumbarton Oaks as well as the resources of the library’s collection made it an ideal place for me to complete this project. In this diachronic study, I argued that Syriac missionary narratives traced the gradual religious differentiation of the Syriac-speaking Churches in the sixth, seventh and eighth centuries (Byzantine Chalcedonian, Persian “Nestorian” Church of the East, and Non-Chalcedonian Miaphysite).

My project examined literary strategies of religious differentiation in Syriac missionary literature as a whole: 1) apostolic legends; 2) historicized portraits; and 3) embellished missionary hagiographies. The sources that I analyzed demonstrated how Syriac missionary texts work together as a system that authors used to represent their history. I also found poems, homilies, and liturgical sources that featured the missionary saints whom I studied, and I will be able to incorporate these texts in the larger expanded book version of my dissertation. My research was enhanced through dialogue with other Byzantinists whom I met this year at Dumbarton Oaks, both fellows and visiting scholars. I am grateful for this productive year of study and research, and as I begin my career as a professor at St. Michael’s College, the growth from this fellowship year will nourish me as a teacher and emerging scholar.

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