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Vernacular Byzantine Translations and the Medieval European Romance, 1350–1550

Kostas Yiavis, Cornell University, Fellow 2010/11

In 2010–11 I worked on two books seeking to rethink the transition from Byzantine to Early Modern. Both are part of an incipient literary history of the Greek Renaissance.

First, I concluded my critical edition of the rhymed romance Imperios and Margarona which was wildly popular throughout Europe (c.300 versions were traced from the twelfth-century French original to the 1970s German adaptations, including Hebrew and Armenian). Imperios was inscribed within the tradition not only of the West, but also crucially of the East.

The other project was the first assessment of the earliest adaptations of Western works into vernacular Greek in the 14th–16th centuries. These adaptations, often dismissed as unoriginal, are reclaimed as fiercely important-not least for their decisive enhancement of vernacular authority. The study involves comparisons with, inter alia, Boccaccio, Chaucer and Gower, and aims to reconfigure vernacular Greek literature as part of the total European field.

Diversion came in the form of an article that establishes the topos of external attacks on courtly feasts. The essay covers the period from the inception of the motif in Gilgameš, and its reinvention by Homer and Virgil, until the medieval and the composite production of the sixteenth century in a range of languages including Hebrew, Old French, Anglo-Norman, Middle English, Scottish, Middle High German, Italian, Old Norse, Medieval Greek, Middle Persian and Japanese.

Later in the year, I started thinking on a book on satire featuring the Cretan poet Sachlikis for the Byzantine section of the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library edited by Alice-Mary Talbot.

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