The Poetic World of St. Nersess Shnorhali by Dr. Jesse S. Arlen at the Catholic University of America

Last weekend, Zohrab Center director Dr. Jesse S. Arlen traveled to Washington, D.C., where he gave talks on St. Nersess Shnorhali at St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic University of America. His talk at St. Mary’s parish, at the invitation of Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan, entitled “The Life, Works, and Legacy of St. Nerses Shnorhali 850 Years Later,” considered the great achievements of the beloved catholicos and saint, especially his efforts to bring spiritual and religious truths in a format accessible to laymen and the general population through poetry, songs, and riddles.

His talk at the Catholic University of America, delivered to an audience of graduate students, seminarians, and faculty was entitled “The Poetic World of St. Nerses Shnorhali” and considered the voluminous poetic output of Shnorhali in light of the oral and written Armenian literary tradition of the time. It emphasized the innovation of St. Nerses’ poetic contribution in light of the literary, clerical tradition dominated by prose, as opposed to the largely oral, poetic tradition performed in the songs of the Gusans (Bards), still active in St. Nerses’ time. The talk chronicles the saint’s effort to render Scriptural, theological material in an accessible form that would be appealing to laymen, in a broader effort to replace their love of the ancient, epic, pagan, oral tradition with Christian poetry and songs based on the Scriptural tradition.

A recording of the talk at Catholic University of America may be viewed below.

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