Laura Borghetti, M.A.

Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Graduiertenkolleg 1876
Hegelstr. 59
55122 Mainz


Project title: The depiction of natural phenomena in the Byzantine literature of the 9th to 11th century.

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Johannes Pahlitzsch, Prof. Dr. Jochen Althoff

Dissertation project:

People have always had to cope with natural phenomena. They have come to know natural events and learnt how to confront or take advantage of them. In every culture of the world, the relationship between man and nature has left its indelible traces in literature, art, philosophy, theology. These varied traces, which have been admired and studied in the course of history, have given a voice to human understanding and perception in relation to nature.

These exact traces in the Byzantine literary world will be the subject of my current research: storms, winds, rainbows, tides, dew, and many other natural phenomena, along with their environment. How and to what effect were natural phenomena represented in poetry, historiography, epistolography, and other literary genres? Which classical, scriptural or patristic template is discernible?

With the help of ancient and contemporary lexica and a comparative reading of Greek sources, the representational and metaphorical significance of the description of natural phenomena is going to be investigated.

In a time-journey to the Middle Byzantine era, it will be possible to discover how men (and women) of that time perceived and staged nature in their literary works.

Moreover, it is the aim of this textual and historical investigation to gain the most comprehensive view possible, not only of the Byzantine man’s perception of environment and nature around him, but also of the role he played in his ecosystem.

This research method consists of a combination of philological and historical approaches, ranging from literary theories to anthropological concepts in the natural sciences. Therefore, it finds an ideal field of application in the context of contemporary Byzantine studies.