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Figuring Eros in Byzantine Fiction: Iconographic Transformation and Political Evolution

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Eros’s conniving nature in conjunction with his sadistic temperament is the single most important attribute of his character—indeed, it remains intact after some 800 years of iconographic and literary evolution. In medieval Byzantium Eros emerges as a formidable sovereign, toying with his subjects’ desires as he asserts his cosmic dominion from the grounds of his utopian castle. This remarkable transformation reveals a rich discourse on the merits of sovereignty—a discourse that raises significant questions about the dynamics of Byzantine imperial commissions and the paradoxical role of court intellectuals as sovereign propagandists and political critics. In linking the role of Byzantine intellectuals in the aftermath of political upheaval to the figurations of sovereignty showcased in Byzantine fiction, the author reveals an ambitious interplay of literary and political interests that calls into question the view of Byzantine intellectuals as dutiful followers of powerful patrons.

Affiliations: 1: Department of English, Baruch College, City University of New York One Bernard Baruch Way (55 Lexington at 24th Street), New York, NY 10010 USA

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