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Humboldt Research Fellowship recepients

Prof. em. Johan Thom, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

Popular philosophy and early Christianity

"One of the challenges facing early Christian authors, from the time of the New Testament onwards, was to frame their message in a format and in terms understandable and persuasive to an educated audience. This was necessary to gain the respect of more sophisticated readers who had not yet committed themselves to Christianity, but also to provide Christians with self-respect regarding the intellectual viability of their doctrines and beliefs within the broader cultural context. Early Christian authors furthermore needed a sophisticated conceptual framework and concomitant terminology to work out and express their own thinking about God, the world, humanity, religion, ethics, etc.

Such an instrumentarium was readily available within the broader context of Greco-Roman philosophy. Instead of trying to identify specific philosophical traditions as the sources used by a specific author, I propose that we should look at popular philosophy as the source of philosophical ideas and terminology for many authors in the Greco-Roman period. Popular philosophy forms part of the cultural repertoire available to early Christian authors within the cultural and conceptual contexts they shared with their non-Christian contemporaries. This repertoire included linguistic, historical, social, or religious knowledge that author and audience shared and that had to be applied in reading and understanding a text. Part of the repertoire would be philosophical concepts, terminology, and forms of communication (e.g., genres, literary forms) also found outside formal philosophical contexts. Popular philosophy thus denotes philosophical knowledge that circulated beyond the borders of a specific philosophical tradition and that was also accessible to people without a formal philosophical training. It consisted of commonly used philosophical concepts, terminology, and topoi, as well as the literary forms and modes frequently used to convey such philosophical ideas.

The concept of popular philosophy, however, has to be explored in much greater detail; my own research and that of others has so far just provided the general outline of the concept. My main focus during the period of research in Regensburg is therefore how the concept of popular philosophy and its application in the interpretation of New Testament texts could be refined and developed in greater detail.

The Centre for Advanced Studies ‘Beyond Canon’ at the University Regensburg provides an excellent context for my research. I received a warm and friendly welcome from the Director and the administrative staff are all very helpful and supportive. The Centre has a good technical infrastructure and comfortable working areas. From the very beginning I had stimulating and constructive discussions with the extensive group of research fellows and postgraduate students in the Centre, who come from many different countries, with different backgrounds and perspectives. The weekly seminars by various international scholars have also broadened my own research horizons considerably. I would not hesitate to come for another visit to the Centre and to Regensburg in future and would strongly recommend such visits to my colleagues as well."

Prof. Dr. Lorena Miralles Maciá, Profesora Titular de Universidad, Department of Semitic Studies, Facultad de Filosofia y Letras, Universidad de Granada, Spanien

Lorena Miralles-Maciá is Associate Professor (civil servant) in the Department of Semitic Studies, Section of Hebrew and Aramaic Studies, at the University of Granada (Spain). Her research revolves around the field of rabbinic literature, with special attention to the rabbinic commentaries on the Bible (midrash). Her stay at the University of Regensburg, in the framework of the Project “Beyond Canon,” is sponsored by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. During her stay (May-July 2022), she has taken advantage to attend the enriching activities and learn from the different approaches to the texts and methodologies applied by this international team and their guests, as well as has enjoyed the opportunity to discuss her work with the members of this Project, particularly with those that work on late antique literatures. In the context of Beyond Canon, her research project has focussed on the study of folktales in rabbinic literature taking into consideration that 1) the rabbinic texts analyzed date back to the same period the Project is devoted to; 2) Jewish and Christian literatures have a common background; 3) different strategies were developed to adapt, reframe and “judaize/christianize” the shared traditions; and 4) the cross-cultural interactions of the Jews with their surrounding (pagan and Christian) environment played an important role in rabbinic Judaism. From this experience/exchange, it is expected that future collaborations on shared topics and themes can take place.

Prof. Dr. Nina Glibetić, Assistant Professor, Department of Theology, University of Notre Dame, IN, USA

Professor Glibetić teaches in the field of liturgical studies. Her research is interdisciplinary, drawing principally from liturgiology, medieval history, ritual studies, and Byzantine and Slavic studies. She has received several fellowships, including at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Dumbarton Oaks, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. Professor Glibetić has published on a variety of topics, such as the development of eucharistic practices in Byzantium, the liturgy of early Slavs on the Sinai, religious rituals for women at childbirth and miscarriage, and the impact of liturgy on the formation of national identity. Before coming to Notre Dame, she was an Assistant Professor in Liturgical Studies at the Catholic University of America. Glibetić is also currently (2018-2020) a member of an international research team supported by the Austrian Science Fund and dedicated to studying the Glagolitic manuscripts discovered at St Catherine's Monastery on Mt Sinai in 1975. You can find more about this project, entitled "The Origin of the Glagolitic‐Old Church Slavonic Manuscripts".

Prof. Dr. Gabriel Radle, Rev. John A. O'Brien Assistant Professor of Theology, Department of Theology, University of Notre Dame, IN, USA

"My Humboldt project researches life-cycle liturgies in late antiquity and Byzantium, a project that extends from my first book on marriage ritual, which I've recently completed. The ancient Mediterranean world knew of various rites of passage that marked key stages of development in the lives of children and adolescents, and my work traces how these rites continued within late antique Christian communities through the redaction of formal liturgical rites for such occasions, as well as the creation of new rites of passage. Such life-cycle liturgies include, inter alia, a rite for a young child's first haircut, a man's first shave, or a young woman's adoption of a head covering at puberty. These rites can be found in the earliest liturgical manuscripts (sources that remain for the most part unpublished), and my work will concentrate on the Byzantine texts while also looking at parallels in the West. Because this project examines the cultural negotiation between pre-Christian and Christian social and religious practice (also in conversation with similar phenomena in other Mediterranean religious traditions), the University of Regensburg is an ideal place to work on this, between of its reputation in the field of Liturgiewissenschaft and the broad body of scholars in early and late antique Christianity and Judaism currently involved in the Beyond Canon project."

Dr. Alexandra Nikiforova

The Triodion between Jerusalem and Constantinople: Shifting Texts - Shifting Meanings

"I teach and study Byzantine liturgy and hymnography in Moscow. My deepest thank to the Humboldt Foundation for rising above the political challenges of the time, contributing to fundamental scholarship and scholars support, and building a bridge to mutually enriching scientific exchange between our countries in future. I came to Germany with my project “The Triodion Between Jerusalem and Constantinople: Shifting Texts – Shifting Meanings. Edition, Historical Analysis and Comparative Interpretation of the Oldest Manuscript Witness”. Triodion is a collection of ancient liturgical hymns for Easter and Lent, appeared in 6 – 7th c. Jerusalem, developed gradually, and being in demand for orthodox christians till nowdays. During such a long life of the book texts, structures, meanings were shifted. To see original texts and structures, to understand original meanings I prepare the publication and study of the oldest preserved Greek triodion collection from the manuscript hymnal ‘of the Anastasis church in Jerusalem’ Sinai Greek NE/ ΜΓ 56 + 5 (8–9th c.). This study is currently relevant to multifaceted research of the Hagiopolite worship, lead at the Chair for Liturgical studies at the University of Regensburg. Labors of Professor Harald Buchinger this center became famous all over the world and most desirable for liturgical scholars to colloborate with. My stay in Regensburg has already exceeded all my expectations. In one month I have benefited more than in years of work at home, being involved in all activities both of the Chair for liturgical studies and of the Centre for Advanced Studies “Beyond Canon”, as well as encouraged in participating in the St. James conference in Regensburg and in the SOL liturgical congress in Thessaloniki, permanently learning and geting feedback from my colleagues. I had also a great opportunity to take part in the team study during our Triodion workshops together with my remarkable colleagues – Dr. Harald Buchinger, Dr. Daniel Galadza, Dr. Damaskinos Olkinuora, Dr. Gregory Tucker, and in everyday life of the Chair for liturgical studies and the ‘Beyond canon’ center, discussing my project with the Humboldt fellows Dr. Nina Glibetic, Dr. Gabriel Radle, and other outstanding fellows and scholars of these centres. It is worth noting, that Dr. Harald Buchinger’ very positive and helpful team makes my stay and research very comfortable, and solves all the problems, before they can arise."

Dr. Jacob Aaron Lollar, postdoctoral scholar (postdoc), USA

Fellow der Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung 05/2022–04/2024

Jacob Aaron Lollar

Raum: SGLG 320

E-Mail: jacobalollar@gmail.com

"My project is sponsored by the Alexander von Humboldt foundation as a postdoctoral research initiative. The Acts of Thekla is one of the most popular early narratives of the Christian heritage. It was translated into multiple languages and was read and adored by Christians from the second century CE to even the present. My project focuses on the Syriac translation of the narrative and its influence within the multiple Syriac-speaking Christian groups. I engage with multiple disciplines, including archaeology, art history, and manuscript studies in order to understand the place Thekla held in the imaginations of Syriac Christians. In the end, I will produce a comparative textual edition of the Syriac Acts of Thekla that will open the door to further textual comparisons with Greek, Coptic, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions of the story. I will also demonstrate how Thekla has lived in the minds of Syriac Christians as an ascetic icon, a biblical heroine, and an exemplary saint. By tracing Thekla’s devotion, a significant, enduring aspect of Syriac heritage is preserved, and remains of global religious and historic significance."

Dr. Evan Freeman

Appropriating the Past: Art, Ritual, and Identity in Later Byzantium  

Evan Freeman holds a PhD in the History of Art from Yale University, where he wrote his dissertation on ritual objects in the Middle Byzantine Divine Liturgy. His primary research interests include art and materiality, ritual, and cross-cultural exchange in Byzantium and the wider medieval Mediterranean. He is also interested in Byzantium’s influence on medieval Russian art and architecture, and has published on the twentieth-century “rediscovery” of the icon and subsequent receptions of the icon by Pavel Florensky and other thinkers of the Russian Silver Age and Russian Religious Renaissance.

Dr. Paweł Figurski

Medieval Liturgy and the Making of Poland. A Study in Medieval State-Formation, Peace-Building, and Strategies of Identification (until c. 1300)

The Humboldt Foundation has granted Dr. Paweł Figurski (Academy of Sciences, Warsaw) a Humboldt Research Fellowship for Postdoctoral Researchers at the Chair of Liturgical Studies. His project, which is also critical of ideology, on "Medieval Liturgy and the Making of Poland. A Study in Medieval State-Formation, Peace-Building, and Strategies of Identification (until c. 1300)" fits into the research context in the field of medieval liturgy as well as the Forum Mittelalter, which has also been identified by other projects, and makes a methodologically innovative contribution to the area studies in the field of research on Eastern Europe, which form the profile of the University of Regensburg.




Heterotopias of Religious Authority in Ancient Christianity

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