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Project A3

Hagiography as Heroization: Transformations and Syncretisms During the French, English and German Early Middle Ages

Dr. Lenka Jirousková

Department of History
Department of Medieval Latin Philology

until January 2013:

Stephan Bruhn

Department of History, Kiel University

Situated in the fields of Medieval Latin and medieval history, this project will use hagiographic texts of the Early Middle Ages to examine how the semantics and various ways of representing saints and heroes are intertwined. In contrast to previous research approaches, this project does not presume an opposition between the lay and clerical, or the pagan and Christian spheres, i.e. a dualism of a vernacular-oral noble culture and a Latin-written clerical culture with their respective models, the hero and the saint. Contrary to the prevailing theory today which understands these cultures as antithetical, during the Early Middle Ages, especially in the 10th and 11th centuries, there was no reconciliation necessary between them. In fact, the concepts of ‘hero’ and ‘saint’ were inextricably connected. Accentuations in one direction or the other remained possible; however, they were carried out by clerical authors within the Latin written culture who orientated themselves on the rules of the contemporary hagiographic discursive forms. Through their narrative and performative strategies in using the models ‘hero’ and ‘saint’ they pursued specific intentions: They focused on producing certain effects and strengthening the appeal of the cult of the saints. They did not intend to compensate for assumed deficits, mediate between two cultures thought to be separate or deliver to a certain lay readership. In light of this an analysis of the medialization, the re-writing, the poetic techniques and strategies as well as the narrative, visual and performative constructions are central to this project. In this way the variations and modes of ascribing and transcribing holiness and heroism between 800 and 1150 will be identified. Furthermore, the transfers of the concepts and the productive assimilation of those models passed on from generation to generation are investigated in new contexts, especially in the transformation phase of the 10th and 11th centuries in central Europe, because the genesis of the concepts can most appropriately be explained through the analysis of the exchange processes. This had a lasting impact on European culture considering that no heroic construction without the use of these models was conceivable at least until secularization. The two intentions of this project address the textual corpora which are especially enlightening for the intended research: For the historical intent heroizations in Latin biographies and hagiographies will be examined, i.e. vitas, reports of relic translation and miracle narratives. The study is to be embedded into a comparative and historical analytical framework, in which the hagiographic production in France, England and the East Frankish-German Empire are placed in relation to one another.

In dialogue with the historical intent, the Medieval Latin intent addresses heroizations in poetic conversions of hagiographic material for the liturgical veneration of saints (trope, sequence, hymn, office poetry). In the scope of the study regarding these phenomena of liturgical functionalization the southwest German-speaking area will be of interest in addition to the spaces investigated in the historical scope of the project.