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Reassessing the Performative Context of Ephrem’s “Madrashe”

Jeffrey Wickes, Saint Louis University, Summer Fellow 2016–2017

I pursued two projects: the completion and submission of an article on Ephrem’s poetry, and the beginning of a larger book project on Syriac hagiographical poetry in the fourth through sixth centuries. The article on Ephrem dealt with the performance of Ephrem’s madrashe in the fourth century and the historical representation of that performative context in Syriac literature. I argued that while the Syriac literary tradition came to present Ephrem’s madrashe as a solely liturgical genre, Ephrem’s madrashe themselves present a more varied picture. Some appear to have functioned within solely liturgical contexts, while others are more akin to school texts. Having finished this article, I began to work on my next research project—a study of the Syriac hagiographical poetry attributed to Jacob of Sarug, treated in the context of Syriac literature and liturgy. When I began work on this project, I knew only that I wanted to engage in a diachronic study of Syriac poetry in late antiquity. The library collection provided the perfect resource to help me think through ways to narrow my ideas.