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Reading between the Limbs: Holy Week and Byzantine Bodies

Thomas Arentzen, University of Oslo, Fellow 2018–2019

We know little about Holy Week in early Byzantine Constantinople and how these days before Easter were celebrated. I argue that if we look at the homilies and hymns from the period, we find a striking focus on the dramas of corporeal Christian life, rather than foreshadowings of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection. During my time at Dumbarton Oaks, I completed an article on sex in Holy Week and one on the soundscape of late ancient hymnography. To present my findings, I gave the public lecture “Between Abjection and Seduction: Adventures in Late Ancient Holy Week” at Duke University and another talk at Catholic University. In the fall of 2018 I started a project with Erin G. Walsh to translate twenty kontakia and hopefully publish them in DOML. I also finished editing a book with Mary B. Cunningham, The Reception of the Virgin in Byzantium (Cambridge University Press, 2019). Inspired by the garden and other fellows as much as the library, I started preparing for my new research project, an exploration of Byzantine interactions with trees; I went to Syracuse University to give a paper on arboreal plants in the symposium “Trees and More.”