Realism in Hagiography

Realism in Hagiography lead image

Realism in Hagiography, University of Cologne and online, January 12–13, 2023

Saints lives, martyrdoms, and miracle stories comprise a large and challenging body of primary source material for historians of the First Millennium and Middle Ages. Elements of these texts resemble historiography, but these are blended with subjective experience, mystical truth, and theology. Modern scholars interested in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages -- and particularly scholars who do not come from cultural backgrounds where the veneration of saints is part of their personal lived experience -- are faced with difficult questions. Can one confidently differentiate "fact" from "fiction" among the mundane and miraculous details in hagiography? Is it possible to read and interpret these texts as coherent works according to the shared understanding of their pious ancient or medieval writers and readers? The workshop will bring together a group of pre-circulated papers which focus on the setting of hagiography (broadly defined), viewing its diverse literary components as part of a realistic structure and narrative.  By focusing on the thread of realism within hagiographical texts, the papers given in this workshop will provide a collection of perspectives about how to read and interpret such narratives. These contributions will form a collection of conceptual tools which will be helpful for students and historians alike in analyzing hagiography-like sources.


Advance registration required for digital participation.