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Name: Stephanie Novasio

PhD: Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies

Thesis Title: Searching for Identities: a meeting of text and material culture in the Byzantine Life Course CE 1204-1453



Thesis Description:

My research provides the first investigation of the Life Course in the Byzantine Late 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 Medieval Western 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. Thus, broadly, 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 Late-period representations of gendered familial and communal identities, this project seeks to address the current dearth of social historiography surrounding the Byzantine Late 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.


Supervisors and Institution(s):

Prof. Leslie Brubaker (University of Birmingham)

Dr. Archibald Dunn (University of Birmingham)


Conference Papers:


  • 'Gender, Age, Status and Ethnicity: Methods of Marginalisation in Byzantine Romance': paper presented on the panel series New Perspectives on Women in Medieval Romance, Leeds International Medieval Conference (IMC), University of Leeds, 2-5th July 2018.


  • ‘Alienating Behaviour: Gender and the Medieval Frontier in Byzantine Romance’: paper presented at Gender and Medieval Studies Conference, University of Durham, 7-10th January 2019.
  • ‘Blood, Bodies and Bonds: Applying the Life Course in Byzantium’: paper presented at the 52nd Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, University of Cambridge, 30th March - 1st April 2019.
  • 'The Life Course in Late Byzantium': paper presented at the Annual Postgraduate CAHA Colloquium (department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology), University of Birmingham, 16th May 2019.



  • 'What is "Byzantine"? Gender, Ethnicity and the Construction of Identities on Byzantium's Literary Frontiers' in Global Byzantium: Papers from the 52nd Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, Birmingham, March 2017. Forthcoming.


Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:

Years 2015-2016:

  • PGMSA: During my Masters year I worked as my college’s Postgraduate Support Assistant, working with a cross-college team of students to organise and run events, and establish facilities, designed to introduce students to postgraduate life at the University of Birmingham.
  • Scholarships/ awards: During my undergraduate degree at the University of Birmingham, I received both the Whitting Prize for excellence in Byzantine Studies, and the RHC Davis Prize for achieving the highest dissertation mark in Medieval Studies. For my Masters degree, I received two merit-based awards from my college, the College of Arts and Law Masters Scholarship and the Distinguished Alumni Scholarship.

Other Research Interests:

  • Gender studies and history of sexuality
  • Anthropology, sociology and psychology of gender, age, family and community
  • Comparative and interdisciplinary history of the Middle Ages


University email address:



Twitter: @StephNov77



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