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Byzantine literature is often regarded as little more than an agglomeration of stereotyped forms and generic conventions which allows no scope for individual thought or expression. Accordingly, histories of Byzantine literature tend to focus on the history of genres. The essays in this book challenge the traditional view. They attempt to show the coherence and individuality not of the genre but of author. By careful analysis of all the works of a given author, regardless of genre, these studies aim to reach behind the facade of convention, to discover not only biographical facts but also the writer's own likes and dislikes, his social views, his political sympathies and antipathies, his ethical and aesthetic standards. Most of the authors under consideration lived in the twelfth century. Several of them experienced or wrote about the same set of events; often they were acquainted with one another, or else had mutual friends. Thus each essay is both complete in itself and complementary to the others in the book; the individuality of each writer is most fully revealed in the comparison with his contemporaries and conversely the separate portraits may be combined to form a broader picture of Byzantine literary society of the time.
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