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A.M. Gorky Institute
of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences

IWL RAS Publishing

A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences


Povarskaya 25a, 121069 Moscow, Russia



Types of publications

About the author:

Tatiana L. Aleksandrova, DSc in Philology, Leading Research Fellow, А.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Povarskaya 25 а, 121069 Moscow, Russia.


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Neither classical antiquity, nor Byzantium knew any history of literature in the modern sense, following other principles of division in the field of philology. The literary-historical data were transmitted either in colophons of published works, or in the literary pieces of different genres: biographies of the authors, “scientific mixture”, literary letters, sometimes in didactic epics. Byzantine literature of the 12th century, and in particular the making of famous erudite Joannes Tzetzes continue this tradition. His literary output is vast and includes letters, didactic poems, scholia in verse and prose. In his works one can come across discourses in the literary history. The characteristic feature of Tzetzesʼ style consists in mixing of different genres and themes within the same literary work. His considerations about authors of the past both famous and obscure, are being interrupted by his autobiographical notes, instructions to his addressees, retelling of myths, historical legends and anecdotes. Sometimes Tzetzes makes attempts at critical analysis but he does not suggest any classification of the available information and in any case confines himself to the methods of ancient philology, without offering new ones. His literary-historical discourses for him are an occasion to show off his rich erudition and not as an object of knowledge. Nevertheless, he, like other Byzantine philologists, has the indisputable merit of preserving ancient heritage and the historical and literary information that later formed the history of Greek literature.

  • Keywords: John Tzetzes The Chiliads, literary history, ancient authors, Byzantine scholars.


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