15 Credits SPRING

Aims/Description: Recent years have seen publication of several biographies examining the lives of prominent figures experiencing the end of the Roman empire. The empress Galla Placidia (d. 450) alone was the subject of two major studies appearing, respectively, in 2011 and 2015. This attention by late antique historians to the personal and the specific is remarkable for a field that, since the appearance of Peter Brown┐s seminal The World of Late Antiquity in 1971, values the study of large political, social, and religious transformations and dynamics over the study of individual agency. It is, among others, a sign that academic publishers appreciate biography as an accessible window into this period for a wider readership.This module will explore the possibilities and challenges of life-writing as a form of late antique historiography. The main focus of the module will be on human life, but it will also consider the application of the biographical method to other subjects with a 'life-cycle', e.g. objects. We will discuss methods of how modern biographers may deal with the fragmentary or polemical nature of late antique sources (written and non-written), as well as with the frequent absence of 'ego- documents' (documents produced by the subject of study themselves) characteristic for this period. You will also explore how modern biographers may understand and hence use late antique biographical genres, such as hagiography (saints' lives). The module will further invite you to reflect on the potentially exclusionary nature of the biographical genre for the study of some aspects of late antiquity, and how considerations of social attributes such as gender, social status and ethnicity can be integrated into this form of history-writing. Finally, the module will examine ┐ in a hands-on fashion ┐ how such methodological approaches and requirements of analytical rigour can be balanced with an accessible, immediate or even narrative style often expected of biographical writing.

Teaching Methods: Seminars, Tutorials, Independent Study
Assessment: Course work

Information on the department responsible for this unit (History):

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Teaching methods and assessment displayed on this page are indicative for 2021-22. Students will be informed by the academic department of any changes made necessary by the ongoing pandemic.

Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK