Our best primary source for Alexios Komnenos’ reign is The Alexiad written by his daughter Anna Komnene. I talk to Professor Leonora Neville about Anna’s life and writing and how she overcame the obstacles facing a woman trying to write history.
Download: Anna Komnene with Leonora Neville
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Very interesting stuff. After listening to the episode, I’ve tried to find an audiobook version of The Alexiad. Unfortunately it seems that there’s only been one on cassette (in 1986) and that one doesn’t seem to be available anywhere. That makes me sad!
Interesting interview. (Robin, you get brownie points for interviewing Dr. Neville, as she teaches at my alma mater, UW-Madison.)
One thing that listening to this interview made me wonder about is who did Anna Komnenos see as her audience? Was her writing meant for a small (a few hundred?) group of Byzantine elites? Or did she think that her writings would be read across Europe and perhaps even in similarly intellectual parts of the Islamic world? As the literate Byzantines of her era were reading Ancient Greek works that were 1000 to 1500 years old, did an author of Anna’s time think that their writings would be read for hundreds of years?
In a sense, this question can be expanded beyond Anna’s oeuvre. Meaning, 900 years ago, what happened to a writer’s work? (It didn’t get “published” by a publisher or organization and then sold in book shops, right?) Would (or did) Anna’s Alexiad, shortly after completion, get copied multiple times and distributed to friends or other contemporaries? Shipped to other Byzantine cities or towns? My guess is no.
Robin, I realize these questions are (probably) beyond your expertise. So consider these rhetorical musings :).