Interview: Matteo Poiani


Université de Strasbourg / The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Areas of Interest/Research:

History of Religions, Syriac Christianity, Greek-Latin patrology, Late Antiquity

What is it about your field that you love researching?

I must admit that I’m fond of Patrology in general: I think that Greek and Latin authors of Late Antiquity are amazing: their debates are awesome. But in the Syriac Christianity, you find something different, something cooler: they imagine their faith in a different way, in a more “Semitic” mindset. Studying them, you have to understand something really new, but at once connected with other traditions. All is linked.

What is one “big idea” in your scholarship?

In the Syriac field we are lucky: much work has to be done. We have thousands of manuscripts which wait for us for being studied. Sometimes a single person can understand a big theme, and so he/she pursues that idea brilliantly. But many other times it is necessary to keep your eyes on a manuscript, editing the text, identify the (real) author(s), studying that particular tradition in order to clarify a piece of the Syriac puzzle. So, the general map can be clearer for all.

What is your current research about?

The main topic of my PhD thesis is the reception of Evagrius of Pontus in the Syriac and Latin milieux. I focus mainly on two works: Ad monachos and Ad virginem: they are (with De octo spiritibus malitiae) the only Evagrius’ works survived in Latin. Studying them in the Syriac and Latin monasticism would reveal new discoveries on evagrian reception in V-VII centuries.

Who is one of your academic heroes and why do you admire them?

One of my academic hero is Paolo Bettiolo, former full professor of History of Christianity at University of Padua. When I joined his courses, I felt an enormous culture which hit me! Then I discovered that he studied Syriac, and so it started my adventure with the Syriac world. I studied his articles, his books and his translations. His method and his deep analyses influenced me.

What books have been formative for you in your study? Why were they so important? How did they shape you?

Many books shaped my academic personality. In particular I’m in debt with the translation of the mystical Syriac authors like Simon of Taibuteh and Isaac of Niniveh. In comparison with the general patrology, the Syriac patrology scholarship (and Italian scholars inter alia) produced a certain type of studies which involve more disciplines (philology, history, paleography,…) and more fields (Greek, Syriac, Latin, Late antiquity and medieval…), making the study of Syriac very interesting!

Do you have any publications we can showcase?

I published this year for the first time: it is an article inside a book which collects the proceedings of a conference held last year. Another article will be published soon by the end of the year.

Where can we follow you online?

I have an account on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. For my academic “discoveries” or questions, I use more Facebook. Instagram and Twitter are for a personal use.

If we ran into you at SBL/AAR and you didn’t want to talk about your field what would you want to talk about?

I studied the Rabbinic tradition during my MA, in particular the mysticism of the Hekhalot. I think it is a very interesting field.

Other than your thesis, what research/writing project are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

I’m continuing a research on the “Ephremic school”, i.e. the disciples of Ephrem the Syrian which wrote after the end of the IV century. In particular I studied Cyrillona (an article will be published this year and I will talk about him in next conferences). Now, also with articles of history of historiography, I am deepening the whole school (Aba, Zenobius Isaac of Antioch,…).

>> Thank you so much, Matteo, for taking the time to share a bit about yourself and your work.

Are you a PhD student or Early Career Researcher working in Religion or Biblical Studies? If so, we’d like to hear from you. This website is dedicated solely to interviewing PhD students and ECRs on who they are, what they love about their work, and what has inspired them. If you’d like to be interviewed, head over to the Contact page and fill out the form. There’s no catch. Don’t be shy. Self-promotion is a virtue.

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