'Holy and pleasing to God': a narratological approach to hagiography in Jerome's Lives of Paul and Malchus


  • Christa Gray


This article analyses the narratorial attitudes of Jerome's fictional Lives of Paul 'the first hermit' and Malchus 'the captive monk'. These works are among the first Latin examples of Christian monastic biography, or 'hagiography'. Using the narratological categories of distance (mimetic versus diegetic) and focalisation, the article seeks to determine to what extent these texts exhibit the biased and uncritical presentation which current usage considers to be typical of hagiographical discourse. Close readings of selected passages suggest that Jerome's narrators are flexible in their attitudes and do not impose a single, ideologically consistent, interpretation of the events narrated.

Christa Gray is a Lecturer in Classics at the University of Reading and a postdoctoral research fellow sponsored by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. She is the author of Jerome, Vita Malchi: Introduction, Text, Translation, and Commentary, published in 2015 by Oxford University Press.