Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 4659
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  • Title: Cult and Competition: Textual Appropriation in the Fifth-Century "Life and Miracles of Thekla"
  • Source: Byzantine Studies Conference. Abstracts of Papers 28, ( 2002): Pages 21 - 22.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Byzantium Hagiography Miracles Thecla, Saint Women in Religion
  • Geographic Area: Eastern Mediterranean
  • Century: 5-Apr
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  • Abstract: In this paper I relate some preliminary conclusions from my D.Phil. research into the fifth-century "Life and Miracles of Thekla." Principally, I try to demonstrate that the portion of the work dedicated to the "Life" was composed as a unit with the "Miracles" and was designed to be read as such. In support of my argument I make a brief comparison between biographical elements of the "Life and Miracles" and the contemporary rewritings and translations of the second-century "Acts of Paul and Thekla." Even though Stephen Davis in "The Cult of St Thecla" (Oxford, 2001) has recently analyzed these texts in the context of pilgrimage activity in Seleucia and Egypt, no detailed study has yet been made on the way the "Acts" was received in the fourth and fifth centuries. I argue that the "Life and Miracles" reveals its author not only as competing for episcopal preeminence with the official ecclesiastical establishment of Seleucia--a fact emphasized by the text's editor Gilbert Dagron ("Vie et Miracles de Sainte Th├Ęcle," Brussels, 1978)--but also as competing textually with other lives of Thekla, whose cult was being appropriated a this time by a number of textual communities (in Syria, Egypt, and elsewhere in the East). By rewriting the story of Thekla's life and by situating her post-mortem miracles in Seleucia, the author of the "Life and Miracles" was claiming both textual and locative priority in the spectrum of texts and places decoted to Thekla. On the basis of this evidence I also venture some general conclusions on the reception of early-Christian apocryphal texts in Byzantine literature. This paper stems from a broader interest in miracle collections in late antiquity. There are nine such collections in Green which all concern a different saing and extend in date from the fifth to the eighth centuries. My D.Phil. thesis is an attepmpt to consider these catalogues as one dossier of texts, dependent upon one another for their individual textual evolution, but more importantly, dependent as a group upon certain social and religious assumptions about the importance of locality for the reception of the miraculous. In this paper I compare other, contemporary miracle-collecting activity by Christian writers in the East and West to further contextualize the "Life and Miracles of Thekla." The miracle collections of Augustine and Gregory of Tours, for example, both show similar tendencies toward emphasizing local details in order to legitimize the supernatural activity they record. While the paper described here is concerned primarily with the textual transmission of the lives of Thekla, I suggest further avenues of inquiry and comparison based upon my broader field of research. I hope to get feedback from Byzantinists working on saints' lives that contain stories of miracles within their narratives: such texts provide a necessary framework for looking at miracle collections as a literary phenomenon in their own right. [Reproduced by permission of the author.]
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  • Year of Publication: 2002.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 01473387
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