The PAIXUE Team
Professor Niels Gaul
Niels Gaul co-directs, together with Curie Virág, the PAIXUE project. His research focuses on the middle and later Byzantine empire; his recent work has looked at various types of social performances – be it in the form of rhetorical ‘theatre’ or (staged) miracles –, at the scholarly networks permeating Byzantine society and at the so-called ‘classical tradition’ from the ninth through fourteenth centuries. As part of the PAIXUE project, he is writing a monograph provisionally entitled Classicising Learning in Byzantium and co-authoring articles with Curie Virág and a visiting sinologist yet to be appointed.
Dr Curie Virág
Curie Virág is co-director of the PAIXUE project with Niels Gaul, and a specialist in pre-Qin and Tang-Song thought and intellectual history. She is interested in the evolution of ethical and cognitive norms and practices, and how this history is bound up with broader conceptual and structural developments. In the PAIXUE project, she is writing up a monograph that continues her long-standing investigation of emotions into the Middle Period, situating them within the context of new forms of subjectivity and learning practices that emerged alongside the shifting contours of empire. She is also co-authoring, with Niels Gaul, a methodological article on comparative approaches to classicizing learning in Byzantium and Tang-Song China, and with Foteini Spingou, a comparative research article on pleasure and the authorial self.
Dr Foteini Spingou
Foteini Spingou is a Research Fellow in Byzantine Intellectual and Cultural History. Bridging the fields of history, philology and art history, her work seeks to understand past behaviours and aesthetics codes in the medieval East Mediterranean region. Foteini's PAIXUE project focuses on the political and social implications of beauty in Byzantium. The quest for beauty – either this is human, or natural, or artistic – defined the individual and the group. Treating each medieval text as a well-posed selfie, she explores why and how Byzantine authors made 'beautiful texts' to present their 'beautiful selves' to their group of peers using Classics. She currently collaborates with Curie Virág (PAIXUE) on a comparative study of Pleasure in the Byzantine and Chinese Garden and discusses fervently with Ari Levine (Univ of Georgia) Emic/Etic Approaches to Imperial Ceremonies under the Song and the Komnenoi.
Defangyu (Charles) Kong
Defangyu is a research associate on the PAIXUE team. He focuses on the performative situations and instances of classicising learning in Tang and Song China. Defangyu is a second year PhD student supervised by Prof. Niels Gaul, Dr Yannis Stouraitis and Prof. Michael Höckelmann. His doctoral research is a comparative study on female rule/regency and literati elites in the Tang-Song China and the middle Byzantine period, with particular focus on the role of literati and classicising learning with regard to these rules. There are three main strands within his research. First, the research aims to discover how female rulers built up the legitimacy of their reigns within a conservative and patriarchal society. Second, the research examines how the Byzantine and Chinese literati, whose ideologies were considerably shaped by classicising learning, considered the legitimacy of female rulership and how these considerations affected their interactions and relationships with the female monarchs. Finally, the research traces the evolution of the literati’s evaluations and descriptions of female rulership over time.
Bilal is a research associate on the PAIXUE team, focusing on the literary performances of Middle Byzantine literati in the ninth and tenth centuries. Bilal is a first-year PhD student supervised by Prof. Niels Gaul and Dr. Yannis Stouraitis at the University of Edinburgh. His doctoral project studies patterns of resistance and subversion in the middle Byzantine empire with a specific focus on a relatively understudied ninth-/tenth-century literatus, Niketas David Paphlagon. Bilal’s research consists of three parts. Firstly, it systematically analyzes resistance to imperial power not coming from major shareholders in the empire but from middling class figures within a comparative framework that draws analogies between Niketas’ resistance to imperial and ecclesiastical power on religious grounds and the similar antagonistic contexts from earlier and later periods. Secondly, his research traces the impact of Niketas’ historiographical project, the so-called Sacred History, on ninth- and tenth-century historiography that was shaped under the Macedonian dynastic ideology as well as investigates his other writings. Lastly, the research focuses on career trajectories from provinces to Constantinople from the ninth through eleventh centuries.
Ivan Marić is a research assistant on the PAIXUE team, focusing on literary performances of Byzantine literati between eighth and tenth centuries. Ivan's PhD, supervised by Prof. Niels Gaul and Dr Tom Brown, is an interdisciplinary examination of models of imperial authority under the first two emperors of the Isaurian dynasty – Leo III and Constantine V – and their highly-contested legacy during the iconoclast controversy and its aftermath (c. 726–867). The thesis traces how the two rulers became popular and appealing imperial models in their own time, and how this image has been challenged and deconstructed, and a revised, politically appropriate version of history inserted in public discourse. Ivan is preparing a chapter on the effects of the Arab siege of Constantinople in 717/18 on Leo III's ideology and expansion of the cult of the cross in Constantinople for an edited volume on Religion and War from Antiquity to Early Modernity.
Dr Lucia Michielin
Lucia Michielin is the Database Developer, and her task is to develop the Edinburgh Database of Byzantine Literati further and maintain it. She got his MA and Scuola di Specializzazione degrees at the University of Padua (Italy) on Roman Archaeology. In 2010 she attended a master in Geotechnologies for Archaeology at the University of Siena (Italy), with a focus on GIS, Databases, and 3D reconstructions. Since then she specialised in the field of Digital Humanities taking part in numerous projects in UK and Europe. She earned a PhD in Classics at the University of Edinburgh with a research project about the role of doors and windows within domestic spaces in Imperial Italy. In her thesis, ‘Fores et fenestrae. A computational study of doors and windows in Roman domestic space,’ she applied computational approach to the analysis the impact of openings in the architecture and everyday life of Roman houses.