Conf/CfP - HOLY HERO(IN)ES: Literary Constructions of Heroism in Late Antique and Early Medieval Hagiography, 18-20 February 2016, Ghent, Belgium

Publish Date: Dec 23, 2015

Deadline: Jan 09, 2016

Event Dates: from Feb 18, 2016 12:00 to Feb 20, 2016 12:00

Call for papers

Holy Hero(in)es. Literary Constructions of Heroism in Late Antique and Early Medieval Hagiography

International conference at Ghent University (Belgium), Thursday 18th to Saturday 20th February 2016

Confirmed keynote speaker: Prof. dr. Stephanos Efthymiadis (Open University of Cyprus)

The ERC research group Novel Saints (Ghent University) builds on and contributes to a recent trend in scholarship of studying late antique and early medieval hagiography (4th-12th cent.) as literature. We welcome paper proposals for our first, international conference, which will deal with literary constructions of characters as hero(in)es in different types of late antique and early medieval hagiographical narrative (Lives, Martyr Acts, hagiographical romances, etc.). We envisage contributions on hagiography from different linguistic traditions (Latin, Greek, Syriac, Georgian, Coptic, Armenian, Persian and Arabic).

The conference aims to explore definitions of and aspects/concepts relevant to heroism in Christian narrative. What does it mean to be a hero(ine) in these narratives? Are there different types of hero(in)es (and of heroism)? To what extent can narratological concepts provide useful tools for evaluating hagiographical constructions of heroism? The other central question is how saints (and/or, possibly, other characters) are characterized, shaped, imagined and/or constructed as hero(in)es. This last, broad question comprises a number of important sub-questions:

  • Which literary and/or rhetorical techniques underlie such constructions? To what extent and how do these narratives employ techniques rooted in ancient rhetoric (e.g. ecphrasis, syncrisis, ethopoeia, etc.), and to what purpose?
  • Does the notion of heroism imply specific behavioural patterns and/or speech acts?
  • What is the relevance of other literary traditions, such as biblical narrative, Acts of the Apostles (both canonical and apocryphal), ancient biography, historiography and fiction (pagan and/or Jewish novels)? To what extent do these traditions offer models of heroism that are adopted/adapted in hagiographical narratives? To what extent and how, for example, do ancient fictional strands of heroism persist in hagiographical constructions of martyrs and saints, as they are well known to do, for example, in the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles (e.g. Paul & Thecla) and other early Christian narrative such as the Ps.-Clementines and a few pre-Nicean Martyr Acts?
  • How do hagiographical narratives adopt/rework authentication strategies common in biography or historiography in order to construct its hero(in)es?
  • To what extent and how do constructions of heroism in saints/martyrs in different cultures develop over time and cross-fertilize other such constructs throughout late antiquity and the middle ages?

In relation to this, the conference also aims to explore issues like the following:

  • heroism and definitions of sainthood and holiness;
  • heroism and explorations of moral/ethical dimensions of character;
  • heroism and development (is one a hero(ine) or does one become one?);
  • saints, self-presentation and performance: constructions of heroism and/or re-enactments of earlier models by saints themselves (rather than by the narrators of their narratives);
  • heroism and ego-narration;
  • heroic constructions in collective v. individual life-writing;
  • impact of depictions of hero(in)es/heroic behaviour on audiences;
  • heroism and meta-literary approaches: ‘heroic’ qualities of both saints and texts;
  • types of saints (e.g. desert saints, military saints, converted prostitutes, holy fools, etc.) v. character individuation.

Abstracts (in English or French) should contain 300-350 words and should be sent to before 20 September 2015. Notifications about acceptance (or not) will be sent out by 20 October 2015. Not only senior scholars but also PhD students are welcome to submit abstracts.

For further queries, please contact or

Prof. dr. Koen De Temmerman
Klazina Staat
Julie Van Pelt


Registration is now open.

Venue and travel information

Koninklijke Academie voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde
Koningstraat 18, 9000 Gent

Travel information

Your destination railway station is Gent Sint-Pieters. Train-tickets can be purchased online. (choice of language top right on welcome page).

How to get to Gent Sint-Pieters from Brussels National Airport (BRU) (‘Brussel Nationale Luchthaven’)

There is a fast direct train from the train station at Brussels National Airport to Gent Sint-Pieters leaving every hour at xx.59 (the final destination as displayed on the screens is Blankenberge/Brugge and the journey takes 56 minutes. The last train leaves at 22.59; other trains run until 23.59 but take longer and most of them will require you to change once). The slower direct train leaves every hour at xx.26 and takes 1 hour and 22 minutes. There is also a train leaving every hour at xx.30, which requires changing at any of the three Brussels City Train Stations (North-Central-South; Dutch: Noord-Centraal-Zuid; French: Nord-Central-Midi). This last option gets you to Gent Sint-Pieters in ca. one hour.

How to get to Gent Sint-Pieters from Charleroi Airport (CRL/EBCI) (also called ‘Brussels-South Airport’ by some airline companies)

The easiest way to reach Ghent is to take the shuttle bus at the airport, which drops you off near the train station of Gent-Sint-Pieters. The company of the shuttle bus is called Flibco. You can check the hours of departure in Charleroi on their website (, and you can also buy your ticket online in advance. A one way ticket is €15. The bus ride to Ghent lasts about one hour and a half.

How to get to Gent Sint-Pieters from Brussels South Railway Station (= ‘Bruxelles Midi’ = ‘Brussel Zuid’), where international trains such as Eurostar and Thalys arrive

There are several direct trains per hour (xx.06, xx.22, xx.33, xx.51) which all take 30 minutes to get to Gent Sint-Pieters. Their final destinations as displayed on the screens are Oostende, Brugge, Kortrijk, and Knokke respectively.

Travellers coming by Thalys or Eurostar, please note that it is possible to book Thalys-Eurostar tickets “to any Belgian railway station”, which cover the journey to Gent Sint-Pieters and do not require extra payment for the leg of the journey from the Brussels Thalys/Eurostar terminal to Gent Sint-Pieters.

How to get to Gent Sint-Pieters from Antwerpen Centraal Railway Station (for travellers coming from the Netherlands)

There are three direct trains per hour (xx.06, xx.37, xx.51) which take approx. one hour to get to Gent Sint-Pieters. Their final destinations as displayed on the screens are Oostende, Poperinge, and Gent Sint-Pieters respectively.

How to get from Gent Sint-Pieters Railway Station to the city center of Ghent.

To travel from the Ghent train station to the city center, take the tram line 1 (direction Wondelgem/Evergem). The tram stop for line 1 is just outside the train station, near the bus area. Tram 1 will take you to the city center in about ten minutes. Get off at ‘Korenmarkt’.

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