In my PhD-project, "In Good Faith. Belief and Credibility in Late Antique Latin Hagiographical Narratives of Chaste Couples", I concentrate on the much debated issues of truth, belief, and fictionality in hagiography. Rather than focusing on the historical value of the texts, I explore the literary strategies they employ for convincing the reader of the truth of the narrative and the trustworthiness of the saintly characters. My focus is on a selection of Latin hagiographical narratives about chaste spouses from the fourth to the sixth centuries. These texts provide an interesting test case, not only because many of them incorporate material from ancient fictional traditions such as the love novels and thus raise questions of fictionality and novelisation, but also because their main aim (the representation of secret chaste couples) is inextricably connected to problems of belief and credibility. My research draws on concepts from both ancient rhetorical theory and modern literary theory, while I use narratology to elucidate the narrative strategies at work in the texts.
The project is part of the research project ‘Novel Saints: Studies in Ancient Fiction in Hagiography’ at Ghent University, supervised by Prof. Dr. Koen De Temmerman and funded by the European Research Council. This project aims to offer an investigation of ancient fiction and hagiography in Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Persian narrative traditions.