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IMC 2023: Sessions

Session 520: Entanglements between the Comical and the Sacred in Medieval Arabic, Greek, and Western Literatures

Tuesday 4 July 2023, 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair:Emma Campbell, Department of French Studies, University of Warwick
Paper 520-aEntangling Holiness with Foolishness: The Theme of Pious Fool in Medieval Arabic and Greek Hagiographies
(Language: English)
Zhicheng Ye, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics, School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London
Index terms: Byzantine Studies, Hagiography, Islamic and Arabic Studies, Social History
Paper 520-bStrange Entanglement: Sacred and Comical in Le Roman de Renart
(Language: English)
Daria Akhapkina, Faculty of Philology Lomonosov Moscow State University
Index terms: Language and Literature - French or Occitan, Religious Life

Paper -a:
After the rise of saint worship in late antiquity, a theme of 'holy foolishness' or madness frequently appeared in hagiographical stories throughout the East Mediterranean world, in which piety and faith were conveyed by the actors of stories through seemingly foolish behaviours. By comparing and analysing various medieval Arabic, Syriac, and Greek hagiographies, this paper seeks to explore the theme of 'holy foolishness' and argue that narratives of entangling piety with foolishness in the tales of Muslim ascetics, Sufis, or Christian saints were the products of religious and social movements that rose under the context of early medieval society, serving also as an instrument of popular resistance against increasingly institutionalised worship and monopolised religious authority in early Abbasid and Byzantine empire.

Paper -b:
Religious imagery figures prominently in the texts of the cycle of Roman de Renart. One can often encounter depictions of liturgy, prayers, members of the clergy, sacred rituals, and objects of worship; a significant portion of these appears to be humorous, either in a parodying or satirising way. This paper deals with the latter issue, covering religious satire in some of the branches of the cycle and discovers various forms of religion depicted in the Roman, focusing on the relationship between sacred and comical within these texts. In addition, it tries to distinguish between satirical and parodying approaches, at the same time acknowledging the synthetic nature of the medieval humour and comedic devices. While exploring linguistic, socio-historical and didactical means and purposes of the use of satire in the cycle, the paper draws an outline of the peculiarities of religious satire and parody in the Middle Ages in general. It also explains how seemingly unbecoming and incongruous images of clergy and liturgy were not perceived as blasphemy, but, on the contrary, helped enhance the verity and importance of the religious norms.