Our research group work on various group and individual research projects. You can find the list below.

Romancing Rhetoric. The Reception of the Ancient Greek Novel in the Late Antique Rhetorical Schools of the Eastern Mediterranean

  • Funding: FWO
  • Funding details: G032423N
  • Promotor: Prof. Dr. Koen De Temmerman
  • Researchers: Dr. Nicolò D’Alconzo
  • Period: 2023-2026

This project aims to improve our understanding of the early reception of the ancient Greek novels by investigating for the first time their influence on late antique rhetorical writing (4th-6th cent.): theory, declamations, orations, exercises, descriptions, and letters written in Greek by the foremost rhetoricians of the era in the famous schools of Athens, Antioch, and Gaza. So far, points of connection have been hypothesized sporadically and, as a result of existing paradigms in modern-day scholarship, have never been conceptualized or analysed in methodologically satisfactory ways. This project will be the first systematic cross-analysis and will place the study of the early reception of the novels on an improved methodological footing.

This project focusses on a previously unexplored corpus, which it interrogates with new research questions. These aim to achieve a more detailed and more comprehensive understanding of the late antique readership of the Greek novels. The project will thus enhance our knowledge of central issues of late antique literature: it will study how fiction was conceptualized in rhetorical theory and practice, reconstruct ancient literary criticism of the novels and help explain how they travelled through Late Antiquity into the Byzantine era.

Narrative patterns in the Lives of Ancient Greek Poets

  • Funding: FAPESP (São Paulo Research Foundation), Brazilië
  • Funding details: 2023/04940-0
  • Promotor: Prof. Dr. Koen De Temmerman and Prof. Dr. Adriane Da Silva Duarte
  • Researchers: Camila de Moura
  • Period: 2022-2026

In the last decade, the study of ancient biographical accounts has regained interest among scholars. This project aims to broaden this field of research by taking as its corpus the ancient Lives of Greek poets from the Archaic to the Hellenistic periods that have come down to us through papyri, scholia or as addenda to medieval manuscripts of their poetic works. These biographies bear witness to a long textual tradition that goes back to the first Lives of the Hellenistic period, whose elaboration responded to the demands of an incipient scholarship that was beginning to codify its practices in the great libraries of the Hellenized Mediterranean. Unlike some collections of Lives from the imperial period, such as those by Plutarch or Suetonius, the Lives of Greek poets were transmitted sparsely and relegated to the position of paratextual elements, despite the great impact they have had on the history philosophy, philology, and literary studies. This research aims to bring these texts to the forefront, producing a comprehensive study that converses with the most recent trends in the field, moving away from the historicizing reading to which these texts have been tied for centuries and understanding them as fictional narratives that use identifiable devices and procedures. Its final goal is to map and analyze the narrative patterns present in these Lives, such as those concerning dreams and oracles, education and vocation, and fantastic deaths, touching upon the question: ‘How should the life of an ancient poet be told?’. To carry out this analysis, a collection of translations will be produced to support this study and to verify subsequent theoretical propositions.

Nothing but the Truth? Rhetoric and Fictionality in Ancient Greek and Latin Novels

  • Funding: FWO
  • Funding details: FWO-Vlaanderen
  • Promotor: Prof. Dr. Koen De Temmerman
  • Researchers: Dr. Olivier Demerre
  • Period: 2022-2025

Most ancient Greek and Latin novels contain trial-scenes made of ingredients similar to modern-day legal drama series (e.g. Law and Order), such as emotionally-charged testimonies, wrathful confrontations and sidebar conferences; and during the adversarial debates in both novels and TV shows, the facts are manipulated and our perception of the narrative which they help create changes. Given that trial-scenes of the novels all deal with, comment on and thematize preceding parts of the plots of the novels in which they occur, my project investigates these episodes as self-reflexive moments. The driving research hypothesis is that Greek and Latin novelists adopt ancient rhetorical traditions creatively in their trial scenes in order to reflect about and conceptualize the fictionality of their own works. In order to test this hypothesis, the project will analyze the narrative and rhetorical functions of trial scenes in the novels and examine the metafictional potential of these scenes by drawing on ancient rhetorical traditions (both theory and practice), which constituted an educational background shared by both authors and readers of the novels and developed toolkits, concepts and methods to create and analyze fictional worlds. This project will result in a systematic study of metafictionality in both the Greek and the Latin novels of Antiquity.

The Holy Romance. Characterization and concepts of fiction in Italo-Greek hagiography

  • Funding: FWO
  • Funding details: FWO.OPR.2021.0033.01
  • Promotor: Prof. Dr. Koen De Temmerman en Dr. Julie Van Pelt
  • Researchers: Emma Huig
  • Period: 2021-2024

This project envisages a literary-rhetorical analysis of Italo-Greek hagiography, a corpus of which the prominent, narrative qualities have long been recognized but, for historical reasons of academic ideology, have not yet received much systematic scholarly attention in their own right. This corpus comprises Lives, martyr acts and encomia written in Greek between the 5th and the 13th centuries and describing the lives of Christian saints and martyrs of Sicily and Southern Italy (a region that culturally had been part of the Greek world ever since the Greek colonization of the western Mediterranean between the 8th and 6th centuries BC). The project examines concepts of fiction in this corpus, which are crucial, it argues, for enhancing our understanding of it as narrative. More specifically, we are particularly interested in exploring ways in which concepts of fiction can be approached through an analysis of character construction.

Novel Echoes. Ancient Novelistic Receptions and Concepts of Fiction in Late Antique and Medieval Secular Narrative from East to West

  • Funding: ERC
  • Funding details: European Research Council Consolidator Grant (ERC CoG) 819459 (Horizon 2020)
  • Promotor: Prof. Dr. Koen De Temmerman
  • Researchers: Dr. Nicolò D’Alconzo, Dr. Evelien Bracke, Dr. Claire Rachel Jackson, Dr. Ellen Söderblom Saarela, Dr. Simon Ford, Dr. Mara Nicosia
  • Period: 2019 – 2024

This project offers the first comprehensive reconstruction and interpretation of receptions of ancient novels (1st-4th cent. AD) in (Greek, Arabic and western vernacular) secular narrative from Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. Novel Echoes follows up from the ERC Starting Grant project Novel Saints (on hagiography). It does so by taking ancient novelistic receptions towards entirely new, unexplored horizons.

Our knowledge about the early history of the novel is incomplete. Receptions of ancient novels have been studied for periods from the 11th and 12th cent. onwards but not systematically examined for preceding eras – much to the detriment of the study of both narrative (then and later) and the history of fiction. This project pursues the hypothesis that different secular, narrative traditions in this period were impacted (directly or indirectly) by ancient novelistic influences of different kinds and adopted (and adapted) them to various degrees and purposes; and that, since the ancient novel is a genre defined by its own fictionality, its reception in later narrative impacts notions of truth and authentication in ways that other (often more authoritative) literary models (e.g. Homer and the Bible) do not.

Novel Echoes strikes a balance between breadth and depth by envisaging three objectives:

1. the creation of a reference tool charting all types of novelistic influence in secular narrative from the 4th to the 12th cent.;

2. the in-depth study of particular sets of texts and the analysis of their implicit conceptualizations of truth, authentication, fiction and narrative;

3. the reconstruction of routes of transmission in both the West and the East.

Given the project’s innovative focus, it will enhance our understanding of both the corpus texts and the early history of the novel; place the study of corpus texts on an improved methodological footing; and contribute to the theoretical study of the much-vexed question of how to conceptualize fiction.

Miracle or Magic? The Figure of the ‘Magos’ in Byzantine Hagiography

  • Funding: FWO
  • Funding details: FWO-Vlaanderen
  • Promotor: Prof. Dr. Koen De Temmerman
  • Researcher: Dr. Julie Van Pelt
  • Period: 2020 – 2023

What is the difference between miracle and magic? Scholars today believe that one cannot meaningfully differentiate between the two. The difference is a matter of perspective. This project investigates how Christians in late antiquity made the distinction between the fluid concepts of miracle and magic, how they tried to make it convincing, and why they constructed the distinction in the first place. It investigates these questions through the study of the character type of the ‘magos’ (‘magician’) in Byzantine hagiography (i.e. Christian narratives about holy (wo)men). The project takes a literary approach, studying the depiction of confrontations between so-called ‘magoi’ and holy (wo)men in hagiography, to see what kind of image Christians portray of ‘magoi’ and how they distinguish such figures from the saints. The project aims to show that the portrayal of ‘magoi’ as impostors and frauds lends the saint religious authority and thereby builds up the identity of the Christian community.

Reception of the First and Second Sophistic and Platonic philosophy in the Pseudo Clementine Literature.

  • Promotor: Prof. Dr. Danny Praet (Ghent University)
  • Co-promotor: Prof. Dr. Koen De Temmerman
  • Researcher: Benjamin De Vos
  • Period: 2016 – 2022

The aim of this research is an analysis of the influences of Plato and the First and Second Sophistic in the Pseudo-Clementines. Until now, the study of philosophy in the Pseudo-Clementines has largely remained limited to the possible stoic and epicurean influence. Nonetheless the influence of Plato cannot be underestimated, nor that of his contemporaries: the sophists. Similarities with the platonic dialogues and sophistic works as Gorgias’ Helena need to be examined more closely.

This stands in combination with a narrative and rhetorical approach of this work. How is the work constructed, where can we notice the influence of Plato or the Sophists and how does that fit in the whole construction? But the context (3rd -4th century) may not be lost out of sight. This context is much debated, so caution with probable notions of anti-Paulinism, the Neoplatonic Iamblichus and his Theurgy, Elcesaitic influences, etc. is necessary. In this respect, the question of the Jewish, Christian, pagan identities will be treated in this literary corpus.

To conclude, it wants to achieve a greater understanding of this literary corpus making use of a combination of methodologies from the fields of philosophy, religious studies and philology. By combining these fields of research, it wants to shed a fundamentelly new light on this corpus.

“The Romance between Greece and the West.” Heroes and Heroines in French, Anglo-Norman and English medieval narrative.

  • Funding: FWO
  • Funding details: FWO-Vlaanderen, 3G056118; UGent BOF/24J/2021/038
  • Promotor: Prof. Dr. Koen De Temmerman
  • Researcher: Dr. Tine Scheijnen
  • Period: 2019 – 2021

Medieval romance is arguably the most influential secular literary genre of the European Middle Ages. Its history has not been written yet. In order to enhance our understanding of this history (both conceptually and cross-culturally), this project offers the first reconstruction and interpretation of the persistence of (ancient) novelistic and (late antique and medieval) hagiographical traditions in French, Anglo-Norman and English medieval romance. Whereas it is assumed that ancient novels influenced medieval romance only if there were Latin versions of them, this project aims to explore the importance of hagiography as a possible narrative bridge between ancient (Greek) novels and medieval vernacular romance. The research hypothesis is that medieval romances were impacted (directly or indirectly) by ancient novelistic and late antique and medieval hagiographical influences of different kinds, and that they adopted, rehearsed, re-used and adapted them to various degrees in order to construct their protagonists as heroes/heroines. Two interrelated sets of research questions will test this hypothesis, one tracing diachronic continuity and the other examining synchronic differentiation. Methodologically, this project complements two literary-theoretical models, one modern (narratology), one ancient (rhetoric). The project will contribute to our knowledge about both reception of ancient novels in the Middle Ages and the literary complexities of medieval romance.

Latin to Greek. The Latinity of the Ancient Greek Love Novel.

  • Funding: FWO
  • Funding details: FWO-Vlaanderen, G0B7516N
  • Promotor: Prof. Dr. Koen De Temmerman
  • Researcher: Olivier Demerre
  • Period: 2016 – 2020

While the ancient Greek novels have been shown to absorb preceding Greek and eastern traditions, not much systematic attention has been paid to how they use, address or confront preceding Latin traditions. This project is designed to fill this gap, a course of action supported (even invited) by recent scholarship that (rightly) challenges unidirectional conceptualizations of the influence of Greek on Latin literature. This project aims at a systematic analysis of the presences (in different forms) of a number of Latin literary genres in the Greek novels that have come down to us (i.e. the five extant novels, the fragments and a number of so-called ‘fringe novels’). The driving research hypothesis is that Greek novels to varying degrees and in different ways address, respond to and make creative use of not just Greek and eastern narrative traditions but also of Latin ones, and, more specifically, that they use Latin narrative traditions in order to (a) conceptualize the intertwined notions of love and heroism, and (b) develop metaliterary thoughts about the generic encoding underlying these notions. Its method is defined by three stages: (1) taking stock of overlaps, (2) interpreting/conceptualizing them, and exploring metaliterary strategies. Given the project’s approach, it impacts the study of both Greek and Latin (meta)literature, and that of fiction.

Saints in Disguise: Literary Performance in Greek Late Antique Saints’ Lives.

  • Funding: FWO
  • Funding details: FWO-Vlaanderen, 3F025616
  • Promotor: Prof. Dr. Koen De Temmerman
  • Co-promotor: Prof. Dr. Kristoffel Demoen (Ghent University)
  • Researcher: Dr. Julie Van Pelt
  • Period: 2016 – 2020

This project seeks to examine the literary representation of performance in Greek late antique hagiographical Lives of ‘saints in disguise’ (4th-10th c.), holy types that are usually not studied together but that may arguably be compared on the basis of their adoption of a false identity. Among them are Lives of cross-dressers, of holy fools, and of other saints who take on other forms of disguise. The project investigates the narrative strategies that are used in these stories to represent disguise and theatrical performance, characteristics which are not readily associated with saints and holiness. More specifically, the project examines aspects of the saint’s performance vis-à-vis other characters as well as aspects of the text’s performance vis-à-vis the reader and its narrative effects. By highlighting fictional aspects of the texts, the project aims to show also that the theme of disguise was sought out for its narrative qualities and entertaining effect as much as its edifying value.

Novel Saints. Ancient novelistic heroism in the hagiography of Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages.

  • Funding: ERC
  • Funding details: European Research Council Starting Grant (ERC StG) 337344 (FP7-IDEAS-ERC)
  • Promotor: Prof. Dr. Koen De Temmerman
  • Researchers: Dr. Ghazzal Dabiri, Dr. Flavia Ruani, Dr. Tine Scheijnen, Dr. Klazina Staat, Dr. Julie Van Pelt, Kirsten Ricquier
  • Period: 2014 – 2019

The novel is today the most popular literary genre worldwide. Its early history has not been written yet. In order to enhance our understanding of this history (both conceptually and cross-culturally), this project offers the first comprehensive reconstruction and interpretation of the persistence of ancient novelistic material in hagiographical narrative traditions in the Mediterranean in Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages (4th-12th cent.). This period constitutes a blind spot on the radar of scholars working on the history of the novel, who conceptualize it, much to the detriment of the study of narrative in subsequent periods, as an ‘empty’ interim period between the latest ancient representatives of the genre (ca. 3rd-4th cent.) and its re-emergence in 11th/12th-century Byzantium and 11th-century Persia. This project, on the other hand, advances the hypothesis that different hagiographical traditions throughout Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages were impacted (directly or indirectly) by ancient novelistic influences of different kinds and adopted, rehearsed, re-used and adapted them to various degrees as tools for the representation of saints as heroes/heroines. In this sense, constructions of heroism in these traditions should be understood to varying degrees as ‘novelistic’ and raise crucial issues about fictionalization and the texts’ own implicit conceptualizations of fiction. Three stages of the project will test different aspects of this hypothesis. Firstly, the project will chart for the first time all novelistic influences in the hagiographical corpus texts. Secondly, it will analyze the impact of these influences on constructions of heroism in specific hagiographical traditions (mainly Latin, Greek and Syriac Martyr Acts, hagiographical romances and saints’ Lives) and examine implications for notions of fictionalization and/or strategies for enhancing verisimilitude and authenticity. Finally, diachronic and cross-cultural dimensions of the research hypothesis will be articulated through the study of continuity of hagiographical traditions (and their constructions of heroism) in narrative genres from the 11th and 12th centuries in the West (medieval romance), Byzantium (novels) and the East (Persian romance). By generating an improved understanding of the impact of ancient novelistic material in different hagiographical traditions throughout Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages, this project aims to contribute not just to the history of the idea of fiction but also to the study of hagiography, the early history of the novel and to all disciplines that study these literary genres.

Santità e potere nelle collezioni agiografiche in lingua siriaca.

  • Funding: BOF
  • Funding details: Ghent University BOF
  • Promotor: Prof. Dr. Koen De Temmerman
  • Co-promotors: Prof. dr. Alberto Camplani, Dr. Flavia Ruani
  • Researcher: Dr. Annunziata Di Rienzo
  • Period: 2015 – 2018

Joint PhD with La Sapienza – Università di Roma. This research project explores the relationship between holiness and political power in a selection of lives of saints preserved in Syriac hagiographical collections. It is based on the philological study of both these writings and the manuscripts in which they are preserved, and analyses the ideological reasons according to which the collections were formed in the course of time.

The Rhetoric of Democracy. Elites and Popular Power in Second Sophistic Literature.

  • Funding: BOF
  • Funding details: Ghent University BOF
  • Promotor: Prof. Dr. Koen De Temmerman
  • Co-promotor: Prof. dr. Andries Zuiderhoek
  • Researcher: Dr. Thierry Oppeneer
  • Period: 2014 – 2018

A literary-rhetorical analysis of speeches, essays and biographies from the Second Sophistic (50-250 AD) will test the hypothesis that democratic elements in politics in Greek cities continued to exist under Roman imperial rule. This hypothesis challenges a long-standing and influential common opinion among both literary scholars and ancient historians. The methodology combines ancient rhetoric and New Historicism.

Affiliated Projects and Research Groups