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Gregory of Nazianzus and Christian Festival Rhetoric

Byron MacDougall, Brown University, Junior Fellow 2014–2015

My fellowship was primarily devoted to my dissertation, which studies the festival orations of Gregory of Nazianzus against a wider background of classical and late ancient literature produced for and about festivals. I show how Gregory’s orations for Christmas and Easter belong to a literary tradition that characterizes festivals as spaces for the performance of philosophy. Finally, I trace the Byzantine reception of Gregory’s “festival rhetoric” in a variety of texts representing several genres, including theological treatises, festal homilies, and liturgical poetry. Thanks to the incomparable completeness of the library’s collections, I was able to trace, for example, chains of theological language stretching from Dio Chrysostom at Olympia through Gregory’s Christmas Oration to Maximos the Confessor in the seventh century. I completed the dissertation over the fall and the beginning of the spring terms, and successfully defended it in April.

The fellowship also afforded me the opportunity to conduct research in new directions. As an informal talk for the Byzantine community here, I presented a paper on the depiction of the Festival of St. Demetrios in the Timarion, which will be appearing in Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies. In the fall term, I completed revisions of an article on Michael Choniates’ inaugural oration in Athens that has since appeared in Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies. I also presented papers at three conferences, including the Byzantine Studies Conference in Vancouver. Finally, I wrote three articles in the spring based on new research conducted here, which I hope to see through publication soon.