Guest seminar by Ellen Söderblom Saarela on ‘She must write her self, she did write her self: Hysmine’s voice from within the wrong’

The third seminar in our online series is by Dr Ellen Söderblom Saarela (UGent) on ‘She must write her self, she did   write her self: Hysmine’s voice from within the wrong’.


We are at threshold towards the safe, happy, familiar ending of the tale. The lovers have been out on their adventures, fought against their obstacles, and here they are: safe and sound back home, to everyone’s delight. Hysminias, the narrator of Eumathios Makrembolites’ twelfth-century Byzantine novel, has recounted the events of his and his beloved Hysmine’s journeys towards their festive reunion. And now they want to hear Hysmine talk about her experiences of it, but she rejects their request. Why doesn’t Hysmine want to speak, why doesn’t she want to tell the others’ her story?

My talk circles around novel and romance heroines’ relation to storytelling, or the literary tradition. Other than Hysmine and Hysminias, mentioned above, I will discuss Chrétien de Troyes’ Old French romance Cligès, along with other relevant (clear or potential) intertextual works. The aim of my talk is to discern the presence of a perspective of a female reader of the literary tradition in the narratives. By discussing potential parallels between Old French and Byzantine literature, I aim to demonstrate the possibility to interpret articulations of female voices, or representations of female experiences, as forming part of the romance and novel genre that is under development during the twelfth century.

Hysmine then gives in, and tells the others of her past experiences. In my talk I will present an interpretation of her voice, as well as others, and its place in a world where “modesty inhibits a maidenly tongue”, to use her own words.

Please email for the zoom link.