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Eustathios of Thessalonike: A Literary Profile Based on a New Edition, Translation, and Commentary of Five Opuscula

Emmanuel C. Bourbouhakis, Harvard University, Junior Fellow 2004–2005

My anticipated goal during my junior fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks was to revise parts of my dissertation drafted while at the Byzantinisch-Neugriechisches Institut in Berlin last year, and to finish the remaining sections of the work in time for Spring 2005 graduation at Harvard University. This project has been multifaceted from the start, involving textual criticism, translation of a text replete with involved rhetorical idiom, and a joint philological-historical commentary designed to render the text accessible to advanced students of Byzantine literature and language, as well as informative for scholars wishing to exploit one part of the rich cultural and literary legacy bequeathed by the remarkable figure of Eustathius of Thessalonike. As such, work on the dissertation advanced on many fronts simultaneously, with each part shedding light on otherwise obscure and inscrutable material in other parts. Since I expect to submit the work for publication next year, it has been important all along to aim at thoroughness and fastidious handling of textual questions in order to have a camera-ready copy soon after submission for graduation.

While my area of research, strictly speaking, is philology and palaeography, the nature of this project required the unrivaled resources of Dumbarton Oaks in Byzantine history, rare nineteenth-century monographs, recent publications on Constantinopolitan monastic foundations, and even some coins. Textual criticism and interpretation may call on any number of sources for help and guidance. The composite nature of the work, drawing on research as diverse as theological scholarship and literary theory, reflects the persistently composite or interdisciplinary nature of Byzantine studies.

At least one interesting outcome of the research I have conducted while here has been a renewed appreciation at what remains to be done in the still nascent field of the study of Byzantine literature. The text I am editing, long considered unimaginative and ridden with clichés and commonplaces, has revealed itself upon closer scrutiny to be an outstanding example of twelfth-century literary culture, with all its foibles, no doubt, but also possessed of an aesthetic of oral-aural poetics so far little mentioned and even less well understood. This work should help bring the study of Byzantine literature closer to the fold of literary studies more broadly and the humanities, where its unique perspective of language and the ties between art, spirit, and society is likely to be appreciated as distinctly instructive.