Workshop IV: Theme and Aims


The focus of the workshop will be on the exegetical and literary genre of the catenas and other relevant literary collections. The chronological framework will be the sixth to eighth centuries, in particular the Byzantine cultural world and the early Islamic period. This chronological framework addresses a period which is characterised by groundbraking historical and political changes. On the one hand it is about an important period of transition in the cultural history of Late Antiquity, which begins with the birth of Islam. On the other hand it is about a period that is characterised by an very intensive literary activity, which is also expressed in new forms. This literary activity witnesses a continuity with regard to established literary and cultural examples, but above all it witnesses the attempt to bring to the light new forms of literary production, which differ from traditional literary genres. Traditional literary genres were transformed and used in new ways. Accordingly, the contents and the quality of cultural knowledge were defined in new ways.

Although, by definition, the genre of the catenas has no originality qua content, their importance can hardly be overstated. The catenas not only present an overview over the several exegetical approaches of renowned Christian authors of various provenance through the ages, but they also have preserved important material that not has survived otherwise.

The catena literature did not originate in a vacuum, but takes over and transforms the long established genre of wisdom collections. Such collections of wise sayings were known since Antiquity, are documented continuously, and circulated under various names and sub-genres like, e.g., sententiae, aphorisms, axiomata, proverbia, anecdotes, and apophthegmata. They were collected systematically in several kinds of collections (gnomologia, florilegia).

In this workshop we will devote ourselves to this literary phenomenon as part of the world of Late Antiquity and study it in the context of similar literary phenomena.

Of special importance for the question of the workshop are the interactions with similar literary forms of theological interpretations of holy texts in the context of the Abrahamic religions. This workshop will ask new questions with regard to the phenomenon of the catenas and above all contextualise this genre, and discuss it critically in connection with other relevant collections and the cultural Umwelt, diachronically and synchronically. New methodological approaches will be thematised and the definition of the genre will be questioned critically. At the same time hermeneutical, historical, cultural and philological aspects will be taken into account.