By Stephanos Efthymiadis
Paper given at 21st International Congress of Byzantine Studies (2006)
Introduction: Hagiography is one of the few literary genres, if not the only one, in our field which has over the past years undergone considerable renewal but still needs re-assessment. Renewal emerged as a result of its growing entanglement with more and more areas of scholarly research, whereas reassessment remains necessary in order to remove the remnants of bias, preconception and contempt that still haunt its study. Both renewal and re-assessment have affected the two ways hagiography has come to be understood: as a literature (or a way of expressing oneself) and as a discipline (with its particular methods). On the one hand, hagiography is a vast terrain of which it is still hard to give an overview, master its varieties and intricacies and define its character. On the other hand, its study has repeatedly intrigued all kinds of scholars, be they theologians, philologists, historians of all orientations, or folklorists. Having already been fruitfully explored by many social and art historians with a cultural or anthropological perspective, by the 1980s it incited interest also among literary scholars. Leaving aside some partial and short-lived efforts, the task involved scholars of such different backgrounds as Kazhdan and Rydén, who were the first to treat hagiography both as a way of expressing oneself and as a reflection of social realities.