Centre for Doctoral Training in Russian, Slavonic & East European languages and culture


Nick Mayhew (Cambridge)

Nick Mayhew

Gender and Christianity in Early Rus, c.988-1240. Translating Morality from Byzantium to the Medieval Slavonic World

Supervisor: Prof Simon Franklin

My research deals with the interaction of Christianity, gender and morality in the earliest cultural artefacts of the Slavonic world. The sources I plan to engage with include translations of Biblical passages and exegeses, as well as both translations and native compositions of hagiographies, liturgical texts, chronicles, icons, and a range of other "genres".

My research divides into three main focus questions:

  • What moral frameworks are established by expressions of gender in the cultural artefacts of Early Rus?
  • How do these frameworks interact with those identified in Byzantine traditions? In other words, to what extent do they form part of a consistent gender-based code of morality in the Orthodox oikoumene and, therefore, to what extent do they signify native distinction from that universe?
  • To what extent do expressions of gender in different contexts appear to be informed by Christian morality and in which ways precisely, in Byzantium and Early Rus comparatively? In other words, how do various constructions of genders (for example, monastic and dynastic) interact in different contexts in Rus as compared to their interactions in Byzantium?

The course of study seeks first and foremost to contribute to our understanding of the culture of Early Rus, using gender as a case study within a broader discussion of cultural translation from the Byzantine to the Slavonic world. The notion of cultural translation remains fundamental to most analyses of the cultural artefacts of Early Rus, and my proposed project marks a new approach to the question of translation - one inspired by scholarship on the medieval Latinate kingdoms and Byzantine world, where analyses informed by gender have shaped our understanding of "medieval mentalities" in these contexts.

Contact: nicholas.e.mayhew@gmail.com