Novgorodian Paradigm of Holy Foolishness

Svitlana Kobets, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

The developmental stages of Russian jurodstvo (the ascetic exploit of foolishness in Christ) are associated with three urban areas: Kiev (XI-XIII c.), Novgorod (XIV-XVI c.), and Moscow (XIV-XVII c.). Novgorodian holy foolishness occupies a special place in the history of the phenomenon and thus calls for special scholarly attention. First, it is of importance that Novgorodian Lives of jurodivye testify to the emergence of the urban mode of Russian holy foolishness. They represent holy foolish ascetics in accordance with the late Byzantine pattern, yet also endow them with new, genuinely Russian features. Second, holy foolish Lives of that period are represented by both monastic and urban paradigms, thus providing commentary on stock features and topoi of both. Third, to Novgorodian tradition belongs one of the best crafted holy foolish vitae, that of Mixail of Klopsko Monastery. Its several redactions exemplify the formation of the genre of the medieval holy foolish vita. The comparative analysis of these redactions provides us with valuable information on how the contemporary political pursuits were reflected in holy foolish hagiography. And fourth, at the Novgorodian stage of its developmental history Russian iurodstvo acquired the unique topoi that would characterize it henceforth. All in all, Novgorodian vitae reflect the genesis of Russian holy foolishness as a sui generis phenomenon.

In my paper I will discuss hagiographic adaptation of the holy foolish paradigm to a concrete socio-political reality of the Medieval Russian North-West, paying special attention to a number of modifications (deviations from the Byzantine model) that it underwent on the Russian soil.