In the Name of the Father, the Husband, or some other Man

gender photo for torch  kopie

Group discussion facilitated by Matthew Kinloch (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, Moving Byzantium Project, FWF) on the topic of gender, characters, and identificatory practices in late Byzantine historiography on the basis of his pre-circulated paper ‘In the Name of the Father, the Husband, or some other Man: The Identification and Subordination of Female Characters in the Chronikē Syngraphē of George Akropolites’.

Abstract: This article explores the position of female characters in the Chronikē syngraphē (Χρονικὴ συγγραφή), a thirteenth-century Byzantine historiographical narrative. I argue that the grammatical-linguistic identification of female characters in the Chronikē syngraphē, both syntactically and semantically, subordinates female characters to male ones. I point to the preponderance of descriptions over proper names and the relational dependence of female characters on male characters, both for their own identification and for the generation of narrative meaning. I employ three case studies to make this argument, examining, first, a typical example of an elite/imperial female character, Margaret-Maria of Hungary; second, a selection of the most marginal unnamed characters in the text; and, third, the most prominent female character in the text, the empress Eirene Laskarina-Doukaina.

Additional Readings: *Ballif, M., ‘Re/dressing histories; Or, on re/covering figures who have been laid bare by our gaze’, Rhetoric Society Quarterly 22 (1992), 91-8. [Short and thought provoking position piece, which I’ve found highly influential for my thinking.]

*Clark, E., ‘The Lady Vanishes: Dilemmas of a feminist historian after the “Linguistic Turn”’, Church History 67 (1998), 1-31 (esp. 1-14). [Sceptical reading of women presented in late antique hagiography. Influential text outside the discipline.]

*Kaldellis, A., ‘The Study of Women and Children: Methodological challenges and new directions’, in P. Stephenson (ed.), The Byzantine World (Abingdon, 2010), 61-71. [Attempt by Kaldellis to head off a postmodern split in Byzantine studies.]

Messis, C., ‘Review of Questions of Gender in Byzantine Society ed. by Bronwen Neil and Lynda Garland’, The Catholic Historical Review 101 (2015), 148-9. [Review outlining and critiquing the current state of research in Byzantine studies, especially the absence of serious consideration of gender.]

Neville, L., Byzantine Gender (Amsterdam, 2019). [Hot off the press. Very short introduction.]

This meeting is a collaboration between the TORCH New Critical Approaches to the Byzantine World Network and the Project Moving Byzantium, funded by the Wittgenstein-Prize of the Austrian National Research Foundation (FWF) -


Image copyright: Wikimedia Commons -