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Dr Matthew Kinloch: Character Systems and Cultural Solipsisms

Comparing the Histories of Doukas and Leonardo Bruni

March 25, 2021
17.00 (Istanbul time)
Lecture to be held by Zoom. To register, email

Bosphorus University Byzantine Studies Research Center, Byzantine Studies Research Center, Bosphorus University, South Campus Lojman No 8, 1st floor, Bogazici University, Bebek Mh., 34342 Beşiktaş

Abstract: One of the defining features of the Byzantine historiographical tradition is the dominant role played by emperors. Not only do emperors take up a disproportionate amount of narrative space, they also provide the foundational organizing principal and structure for the stories being told. It has become an accepted fact that Byzantine historiographical narratives are disproportionately about emperors, just as it is accepted that they are mostly about war, politics, and diplomacy or that they generally produce worlds centered on and aligned with the interests of the imperial court, its metropolitan center, Constantinople, and its (principally male) literate elite. This paper aims to render the contingency of this naturalized narrative structure visible. It contends that transhistorical comparison between historiographical traditions offers a means of unveiling, what Chris Wickham has termed, the “cultural solipsism” of traditional modes of analyzing Byzantine historiography. It does so by comparing the character systems of the fifteenth-century histories of Doukas and Leonardo Bruni and the manner in which rulers and urban populations interact to construct action in each narrative. While both narratives are statist, the stories of the Florentine, Pisan, Byzantine, and Ottoman states that emerge from these narratives are constructed in such contrasting ways that they allow us to reflect critically on the foundational narrative structures of the Byzantine historical tradition

The speaker: Matthew Kinloch is currently a Joint Fellow of the Byzantine Studies Research Center of Boğaziçi University and Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence. He has spent time as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Vienna and the Austrian Academy of Sciences, as a fellow at Dumbarton Oaks, as a guest lecturer at Masaryk University, Brno, and as a Gästdoktorand in Greek linguistics and philology at Uppsala University. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 2018 with a thesis entitled Rethinking Thirteenth-Century Byzantine Historiography: A Postmodern, Narrativist, and Narratological Approach. He holds an MRes in Byzantine studies from the University of Birmingham and a BA in ancient, medieval, and modern history from Durham University. His current project is entitled Minor Characters across Historiographies: A Comparative Narratological Analysis of Urban Populations in the Histories of Doukas and Leonardo Bruni. His recent publications include “In the Name of the Father, the Husband, or Some Other Man: The Subordination of Female Characters in Byzantine Historiography,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 74 (2020), 303–328; “Nicaea Anlatısı: On Üçüncü Yüzyıl Bizans Dünyasının Tarih Yazımı Üzerine Yeniden Düşünmek,” in İznik/Nicaea on its Way to Become UNESCO World Heritage, ed. Ş. Kılıç and K. Akalın (Bursa: Bursa Büyükşehir Belediyesi Yayınevi, 2020), 451–470; Trends and Turning Points: Constructing the Late Antique and Byzantine World (Leiden: Brill, 2019), edited with Alex MacFarlane

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