Macquarie University
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Personhood in Coptic hagiography: strategies of characterisation and rhetoric

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posted on 2022-03-28, 23:31 authored by Bruce Barnes
This study investigates the narration and representation of martyrs in ancient Coptic martyrologies. It identifies the key rhetorical forms and devices used in their characterisation, and ascertains how modern literary theory explains personhood. Throughout the work I assert two premises: the Classical Greek hero provided the model for the Christian martyr, and Christian literature was particularly affected by Classical Greek literature. The inquiry begins by examining two Egyptian martyrologies written sometime between the fourth and ninth centuries. It identifies the use of rhetorical forms and the emotional effect of plot structure; it explores the impact of psychodrama in oral deliveries. Although the focus of the work concerned the application of tools developed from recent advances in literary theory, what emerged was that the knowledge of attitude formation and other psychological phenomena existed in ancient times. Although there was little interest in the philosophical account of emotional involvement in ancient times, there was a concern to explain the circumstances of the production of various emotions. Aristotle's Rhetoric attempted to bridge the gap between philosophy and rhetoric, and his work profoundly affected later Latin writers, such as Cicero and Quintilian. An interrogation of the martyrologies reveals that the ascription of characteristics to characters in narrative is a fundamentally rhetorical process. Personhood, while often seen as a recent extension to personality, occurred in the characters' perceptions, memories and emotional responses as they interacted with one-another. The study concludes that the concept of personhood extends characterisation, by combining ancient and modern literary theory with recent advances in psychology and cognition, and the power of visual immediacy (ἐνάργεια) in forming attitudes, and indeed classical rhetorical theory, should be re-visited.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Literature review -- Chapter 3. Sources and methodology -- Chapter 4. Personhood -- Chapter 5. The martyrdom of SS. Apaioule and Pteleme -- Chapter 6. The martyrdom of SSPaese and Thecla -- Chapter 7. Conclusion -- Bibliography -- Appendices.


Bibliography: pages 165-191 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Ancient History

Department, Centre or School

Department of Ancient History

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Malcolm Choat

Additional Supervisor 1

Heike Behlmer


Copyright Bruce Barnes 2017. Copyright disclaimer:




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