Eustathios of Thessaloniki as literary critic

My PhD project focuses on the Parekbolai on the Iliad by the twelfth-century Byzantine scholar Eustathios of Thessalonike and, more specifically, on Eustathios’ literary critical analysis of the Iliad as a narrative masterpiece. First of all, I study the proem of the Parekbolai, in which Eustathios sets forth their aim and content, and discusses some of the principles underlying his literary criticism.

Next, taking my cues from the proem, I examine Eustathios’ literary critical practice by exploring three questions that concern the narrative structure of the Iliad: firstly, how did Homer, in Eustathios’ view, construct his narrative? Secondly, what role do distinctly mythical elements such as the Homeric gods play in the poem’s narrative structure? Thirdly, what techniques did the poet employ to imbue his narrative with plausibility, one of the main virtues of narrative according to the rhetorical handbooks?

Exploring Eustathios’ literary critical analysis of Homer’s Iliad as a narrative may give insight into some of the principles according to which Eustathios, his students, and fellow literati constructed narratives of their own. In other words, Eustathios’ ideas on Homer’s narrative as presented in the Parekbolai may give us valuable clues on how to understand twelfth-century narrative, which is found in texts across various genres and has only recently started to be studied for its literary merit. The last part of my thesis, then, presents a case study of the narrative section of one of Eustathios’ orations, in an attempt to bridge the gap between Eustathios’ literary criticism and literary practice.

Baukje van den Berg