The paper presents the problems of writing a history of Byzantine literature in the context of postmodern anxieties about canonization, authority and narrative histories of literature. An essential difficulty for such a project is the fact that Byzantine literature has been viewed as a continuation of or appendix to Ancient Greek literature, while, on the other, it has been divided into “learned” and “vernacular,” the latter category having been defined as Modern Greek since the middle of the nineteenth century. The paper offers two sets of criteria for establishing new concepts of periodization and taxonomy. A series of examples are indicatively adduced in order to explain the scientific and ideological impasse in which Byzantine Studies have found themselves at the end of the previous century, while delineating a proposal for a different approach to content and structure of a wider synthesis. Writing a ‘new’ history of Byzantine literature is an experiment in proposing a radical paradigm shift by means of which this particular literary production in Medieval Greek can be studied within the broader context of Medieval European literatures as an integrated entity rather than as a separate and peripheral phase in the histories of Ancient or Modern Greek literature.
Panagiotis Agapitos graduated in 1982 from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat (Munich) with an M.A. in Byzantine Studies, History of Byzantine Art and Musicology. Earned a M.A. in Classical Philology (1986) and a Ph.D. in Byzantine Philology (1990) from Harvard University. From 1985 to 1989 he taught as instructor of Byzantine and Modern Greek at Harvard University. In March 1992 he was appointed Assistant Professor at University of Cyprus. Since March 2001 he is Professor of Byzantine Philology. He was President of the Byzantinist Society of Cyprus (2012-2015), while he is member of the German Society of Byzantine Studies, the British Association of Byzantine Studies and a corresponding member of the Istituto Lombardo Academia die Lettere e Scienze (Milan). He has been a visiting professor at the Freie Universitaet Berlin (1998), the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (1999), and Stanford University (2009), as well as a distinguished visiting scholar at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Center, Washington DC (2012) and the Faculty of Letters at Gent University (2016).