My research provides the first investigation of the Life Course in the Late Byzantine period (CE 1204-1453). Life Course theory, which examines the roles of cultural variables – namely gender, age and social status – in the process of “growing-up”, has fundamentally impacted historical approaches to Roman and Western Medieval societies, but rarely features in Byzantine studies. My project explores the interactive functions of gender, age and status in determining how Byzantine society imagined the division of the course of life into stages – such as childhood, adolescence, and old age – and the characteristics of those life-stages and the transitions between them. My research asks how such cultural constructs shape human social conduct and interaction. Specifically, by focusing on the socially conceived elements of the human life cycle, it illuminates Byzantine ideas regarding the nature and structure of the family and community.
By exploring representations of gendered familial and communal identities, this project seeks to address the current dearth of social historiography surrounding the Late Byzantine period. It also pursues an interdisciplinary methodology, analysing both textual and material evidence, in order to examine both elite and peasant social groupings. The latter are poorly represented in most textual genres, which generally offer male aristocratic perspectives. My research thus aims to create a “class-sensitive” analysis of the Byzantine family and community, and the gendered roles within each. It will thereby contribute new, nuanced material to the fields of medieval gender and social history, which remain weighted toward studies of the elite.