Hagiography as Argument: Narrative Technique in Vita Martini 7

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Often, hagiographical texts are qualified primarily as ‘stories’ and they may contain remarkable episodes indeed, including spectacular miracles. The question is, however, whether such basic categorization of hagiography as narrative is fully justified. This paper argues that hagiography, in this case Sulpicius Severus’ Vita Martini of the late fourth century, is fundamentally argumentative. It is not so much a matter of telling a story but rather one of arguing a case. The narrative episodes in which the vita consists, are – in fact – subordinate to as well as supportive of the wider argument that is being made. In recent years, a methodology that combines both discourse linguistics and narratology has been developed that allows for a type of textual analysis that differentiates between argumentative and narrative modes of discourse. This methodology was successfully developed within the field of Classics (cf. Rutger Allan & Michel Buijs (eds), The Language of Literature: Linguistic Approaches to Classical Texts, Leiden 2007) but also fruitfully applied in the area of early Christian studies (cf. Paula Rose, A Commentary on Augustine’s De cura pro mortuis gerenda, Leiden 2013). In my paper, then, I will present a discourse-linguistic analysis of Sulpicius Severus’ Vita Martini 7 in order to bring out the author’s narrative technique. Thus, I will focus on the exciting tale of Saint Martin’s miraculous resuscitation of a catechumen and it will be demonstrated that a close-reading of this episode sheds new light on the argumentative focus of this rich and famous sample of ancient storytelling.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2019
EventOxford Patristic Conference 2019 - Oxford Examination School, Oxford, United Kingdom
Duration: 19 Aug 201923 Aug 2019


ConferenceOxford Patristic Conference 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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