Review – Liturgy and the Emotions in Byzantium: Compunction and Hymnody

This review of AABS Committee member Andrew Mellas’s new publication appears on the site of the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art & Culture.

Andrew Mellas, Liturgy and the Emotions in Byzantium: Compunction and Hymnody.  Cambridge University Press, 2020.

From Cambridge University Press


This book explores the liturgical experience of emotions in Byzantium through the hymns of Romanos the Melodist, Andrew of Crete and Kassia. It reimagines the performance of their hymns during Great Lent and Holy Week in Constantinople. In doing so, it understands compunction as a liturgical emotion, intertwined with paradisal nostalgia, a desire for repentance and a wellspring of tears. For the faithful, liturgical emotions were embodied experiences that were enacted through sacred song and mystagogy. The three hymnographers chosen for this study span a period of nearly four centuries and had an important connection to Constantinople, which forms the topographical and liturgical nexus of the study. Their work also covers three distinct genres of hymnography: kontakion, kanon and sticheron idiomelon. Through these lenses of period, place and genre this study examines the affective performativity hymns and the Byzantine experience of compunction.

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