Performing Authority in Byzantium. Bodies, Gestures, and Behaviour in the Practice and in the Literary Representation of Power

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Dokumentart: PhDThesis
Date: 2023-02-03
Language: English
Faculty: 5 Philosophische Fakultät
Department: Geschichte
Advisor: Patzold, Steffen (Prof. Dr.)
Day of Oral Examination: 2021-09-27
DDC Classifikation: 900 - History
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This research analyses the role of gesture, postures and bodily movements in Byzantine society and politics, with a particular attention to the imperial figure and through the theoretical lens provided by social sciences and performative studies. Far away from being a trivial one, the topic had been successfully addressed by the Greek-Roman and Middle Ages Western historical research, and only recently and occasionally had been put forward in the Byzantine field, where it remains an underestimated area of research. The present study wishes, first of all, to define the meaning and the values of bodily display and gesture (schema and schemata) in Byzantium, together with an analysis of the implications of the way in which the relation between body and soul was perceived, as well as of the rationale behind the use of physical movements. A more complex and comprehensive picture of the imperial body has emerged, unveiling its physical and performative dimension, its role in the ‘theater’ of a court potentially aware of the play, as well as its importance to understand the emperor’s divine and human nature. A review of the gestural occurrences has been conducted in the most exemplificative sources from Late Antiquity down to the Middle Byzantine period, and concluded with an exceptional case-study, the Chronographia of Michael Psellos.

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