Michael Psellos has long been known as a key figure in the history of Byzantine literary and intellectual culture, but his theoretical and critical reflections on literature and art are little known outside of a small circle of specialists. Most famous for his Chronographia, a history of eleventh-century Byzantine emperors and their reigns, Psellos also excelled in describing as well as prescribing practices and rules for literary discourse and visual culture. The ambition of Michael Psellos on Literature and Art is to illustrate an important chapter in the history of Greek literary and art criticism and introduce precisely this aspect of Psellian writing to a wider public. The editors of this volume present thirty Psellian texts, all of which have been translated—some in part, most in their entirety—into English. In the majority of cases, the works are translated for the first time in any modern language, and several are discussed at length here for the first time. They are grouped into two separate sections, which roughly translate to two areas of theoretical reflection associated with the modern terms “literature” and “art.” As such, these texts display Byzantine views, attitudes, and ultimately tastes regarding what is thought to be beautiful as well as moral, and appealing as well as mentally and psychologically effective, in texts and artistic objects.
Contributors: Christine Angelidi, Christopher M. Geadrities, Elizabeth A. Fisher, David Jenkins, Anthony Kaldellis, Demetrios Kritsotakis, Antony Littlewood, and Jeffrey Walker.
Charles Barber is professor of art and archaeology at Princeton University.
Stratis Papaioannou is associate professor of classics and director of the Program of Medieval Studies at Brown University.