Derek Krueger

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2015/2016
discipline History
Joe Rosenthal Excellence Professor of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Department of Religious Studies and Program in Women’s and Gender Studies; and Humanities Coordinator for the College of Arts and Sciences

Research project

Affective Rites: Hymnography and the Emotions in Byzantine Liturgy

Religious ritual both expresses and cultivates emotions. The history of the emotions in Christian cultures has largely ignored Byzantium. The hymns of the Byzantine Orthodox tradition provide a repertoire of sentiments appropriate to the various seasons of the liturgical year, ranging from anguish and terror to joy. Attending to their emotional vocabularies and rhetorics reveals native Byzantine theories about how liturgy should work. Through analysis of the texts of hymns composed between the 5th and 12th centuries, and the structure of the elaborate services in which they were sung, this project charts the emergence and development of Byzantine liturgy as a forum for the transmission of affect. Over the course of the liturgical year, hymns for Night Vigils and Morning Prayer in particular carried congregations through a sequence of the biblical narratives as presented in the lectionary. The major feasts of the life of Christ and of Mary exhibit the power of the liturgy both to express and to cue emotional responses to these key events, joining biblical and liturgical time, and demanding a sense of immediacy. Through liturgical compositions, clergy scripted Christian emotions and created an environment in which such feelings could be expressed through performance. The project works at the intersection of liturgical history, literary studies, and ritual and performance theory to present a new account of the generation of religiously licensed feeling in a major historical tradition.

The hymns of the Byzantine Orthodox church inserted Christians into the biblical narrative throughout the liturgical calendar, situating them at various points in the history of salvation and the emerging lectionary, the system of assigning biblical readings to particular days. With chapters on the Nativity, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost, and the major feasts of Mary, my project reads classic works of Romanos the Melodist, John of Damascus, Andrew of Crete, Theodore the Stoudite, and the nun Kassia. Often hymns draw broadly from biblical traditions, extant sermons, canonical prayers, and other hymns already in use. In addition to addressing individual hymns and their intertexual relationship, I consider the interrelationship of hymns within the broader services to which they were assigned. Of greatest importance are the liturgical reforms of the ninth century that generated hymnals for various liturgical seasons, indicating which hymns should be sung when. Monastic rules and the rubrics for secular cathedral churches in Constantinople and Jerusalem attest the complex shape of a liturgy that offered a calendar of emotions over the course of the festal cycle. Musical notation, when it survives, enhances our sense of how the compositions moved their audiences and their singers. Because many of my sources lack critical editions or represent fluid traditions, I consult manuscripts in addition to published sources.



Derek Krueger is the Joe Rosenthal Excellence Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He received his AB from Amherst College in 1985 and his Ph.D from Princeton University in 1991. He has taught at UNCG since then, and served as Department Head from 2004 to 2010. He has written on a variety of subjects in late antique and Byzantine cultural and religious history, including hagiography, liturgy, monasticism, the everyday religion of lay Christians, and the reception of the Bible. His research has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies, and the Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies in Washington, D.C.

Current projects include essays on the quotations from the Bible in saints’ lives; a collection of essays that explore how the culture of monasticism in Byzantium produced ideas about masculinity, gender, sexuality, and friendship; and a book about the cultivation of emotions in Byzantine Christian liturgy. He served on the advisory committee for a major exhibition of medieval relics and reliquaries at the Cleveland, Walters and British Museums, for which he wrote the exhibition catalogue essay. He sits on the editorial board of two book series: Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion at the University of Pennsylvania Press, and the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library: Medieval Greek Series. He served as President of the Byzantine Studies Association of North America, 2011-2013.

Selected publications


Liturgical Subjects: Christian Ritual, Biblical Narrative, and the Formation of the Self in Byzantium, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2014.


‘Authorial Voice and Self-Presentation in a Ninth-Century Hymn on the Prodigal Son’, in A. Pizzone (ed.), The Author in Middle Byzantine Literature: Modes, Functions, and Identities, De Gruyter, Berlin, 2014.


‘The Great Kanon of Andrew of Crete, the Penitential Bible, and the Liturgical Formation of the Self in the Byzantine Dark Age’, in B. Bitton-Ashkelony & L. Perrone (eds), Between Personal and Institutional Religion: Self, Doctrine, and Practice in Late Antique Eastern Christianity, Brepols, Turnhout, 2013, pp. 57-95.


‘The Internal Lives of Biblical Figures in the Hymns of Romanos the Melodist’, Adamantius, vol. 19, 2013, pp. 290-302.


‘Mary at the Threshold: The Mother of God as Guardian in Seventh-Century Palestinian Miracle Accounts’, in L. Brubaker and M. Cunningham (eds), The Cult of the Mother of God in Byzantium, Ashgate, Farnham, 2011, pp. 31-38.


Byzantine Christianity, (ed.), A People's History of Christianity, vol. 3, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2006.


Writing and Holiness: The Practice of Authorship in the Early Christian East, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2004.


senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2012/2013
Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS)
discipline Religious Studies
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS)
discipline History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS)
discipline Philosophy
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2013/2014
Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS)
discipline History