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Paradigms of Knowledge in Nikephoros Gregoras’s Epistolary Collection

Divna Manolova, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary, Junior Fellow 2011–2012

The project I undertook during my eight months at Dumbarton Oaks forms the first of two parts of my doctoral dissertation entitled “Philosophical Argumentation and Dialogicity in Nikephoros Gregoras’s Epistolary Collection.” My inquiry focuses on the letter collection of Nikephoros Gregoras (d. ca. 1359), a prominent figure on the fourteenth-century Byzantine intellectual scene, renowned for his knowledge of philosophy and astronomy. What I am exploring on a larger scale is the interplay between science (mathematics, astronomy, and music), philosophy, and rhetoric as presented in Gregoras’s letters.

Around forty of Gregoras’s letters discuss a variety of philosophical and scientific problems, which reflect and complement his wider scholarly interests as exemplified in a number of scientific and philosophical treatises. While at Dumbarton Oaks, I finalized the first part of my dissertation, which analyzes the philosophical argumentation Gregoras incorporated into his letters and the ways he “translated,” reorganized, and modified the otherwise specialized technical material for the purposes of a highly rhetoricized genre such as epistolography. I also drafted the second part of my doctoral project, which deals specifically with Gregoras’s mathematical and astronomical missives. Thanks to the access to Professor Ihor Ševčenko’s microfilm collection provided by the Dumbarton Oaks Library, I was able to examine microfilms of two manuscripts important for the transmission of Gregoras’s letters, namely Vat. gr. 116 and 1086. Consequently, I acquired an entirely new understanding of the way Gregoras’s epistolary collection was designed and circulated.