This doctoral thesis aims to explore the literary expression of the emotions of compunction (κατάνυξις) and repentance in the so-called katanyktic poems from the middle and late Byzantine period. These are personal poems of a penitentialnature that were performed and chanted in Byzantium during liturgical rites and practices of personal devotion.
My study consists of two volumes. In the first volume, I present the main characteristics of katanyktic poetry, by conducting a cultural-historical study and an analysis of the major literary motifs of these texts. In this analysis, I focus onthe influence of the Bible on the poems, also taking into account the fundamental mediating role of Christian exegesis and Byzantine hymnography. The methodology I apply is that of transtextuality, whose first theorist was Gerard Genette. Following this approach, I consider katanyktic poems as the hypertext, and the Bible as the main hypotext that underlies them. In this regard, I especially focus on the intertextual relationship – created by quotations and allusions – between theScriptures and katanyktic texts. My aim is not merely identify biblical or exegetical sources in the poems, but also show the function of such borrowings in the new context of katanyktic poetry, investigating the effects of intertextuality on the texts and their readers.
Among the literary motifs I have dealt with, the analysis of the characters of penitent biblical sinners as a model of representation for the katanyktic self, and my treatment of the topos of the appeal to one's soul and of tearsand lamentation stand out.
The second volume contains the digitisation of the thirty-nine Greek texts that form the corpus. For each of thesetexts I have offered an English translation. In the footnote of my translations, I mark in different ways the types of biblical borrowings present in the poems. For the quotations, I insert the scriptural source and provide the entirepassage in Greek. Also for adapted quotations I include the entire biblical passage, preceded by a tilde (~). Finally, inthe case of allusions, I use the abbreviation “cf.”
This research valorises a kind of literature long forgotten by scholars. Depite the fundamental role played by the emotion of compunction in the Byzantine literary and spiritual sphere, studies on this topic are still few, and oftenfocused on specific authors or historical periods. Therefore, the diachronic approach of my work, together with the intertextual analysis I conduct, which reveals the multiple links between the Bible, the Byzantine religiouspractices of repentance and katanyktic poetry, is innovative in this sense.