ATRS Greek: Byzantine Liturgical Poetry: The Early Hymnographers

Course Description: 

In this seminar, we will read some of the early medieval (6th to 8th century) poems that formed (and form) the core of Christian religious chant in the Eastern Mediterranean. We will read some of the famous kontakia ascribed to Romanos Melodos; but also the Great Kanon of Andrew of Crete, poems of Sophronios of Jerusalem, and other influential liturgical poetry.

The reading of the original Greek will form the basis for a discussion of the interaction of text and music through metre, and a deeper insight into the relationship of the poems with the Greek text of the Bible. We will also have special attention for the role of chanter and audience in the poems and remark upon the rhetorical (or poetical) effects and figures.

We will also consider the relationship of the poems to the liturgical cycle, leading to an acknowledgement of the theological background and emotional dimension of each liturgical poem. The series of meetings will be introduced by a short explanation of the formal metrical features of kontakion and kanon.

Learning Outcomes: 
  • strenghten Greek reading skills
  • awareness of the connection between language of Byzantine poetry and biblical Greek
  • knowledge of accentual metrics and structure of liturgical forms
  • insight into various rhetorical figures as used in Byzantine poetry
  • insight into the liturgical context of hymnographic poetry and the expression of spirituality and liturgical emotions among congregants
  • 50%: preparing written annotations to each week's text listing its grammatical, semantical and syntactical difficulties
  • 40%: own translation of an unknown and untranslated text (as homework assignment)
  • 10%: class attendance and participation
  • have intermediate or advanced knowledge of (ancient and/or medieval) Greek