This course explores the world of literature and learning during the last centuries of the Byzantine empire, from the reconquest of Constantinople by Michael VIII Palaiologos in 1261 to the city’s fall to the Ottomans in 1453 and the reign of Sultan Mehmed II (1451–1481). The intricate political entanglements between Byzantines, Ottomans, and Latins during this period went hand in hand with cultural interactions that left their mark on the different literatures of the time. By concentrating on major literary genres such as imperial oratory and epistolography, by studying the oeuvre of leading Byzantine intellectuals, and by analyzing key texts of the time, this course explores a period of great cultural flourishing against the background of political tumult and territorial fragmentation. Specific themes to be addressed include: the (social) importance attached to learning and literature; connections between literature and politics; the new interest in Latin in Byzantium and in Greek in Italy; the rise of the Ottomans and its impact on Byzantine literature; intellectual attitudes towards ecclesiastical debates of the time. The syllabus includes the latest scholarship in the field to familiarize students with recent trends and critical approaches in the study of Late Byzantium. Each tutorial takes a closer look at a selected primary source (in English) to delve deeper into the theme of each session.
The core class (2 credits) can be taken without the tutorial.