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Women's History through the Colophons of Medieval Armenian Manuscripts

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Armenian lady of Isfahan. Painting by Janeta Lanzh (cropped)

The UCLA Narekatsi Chair in Armenian Studies presents "Women's History through the Colophons of Medieval Armenian Manuscripts," by Dr. David Zakarian of the University of Oxford. Dr. Rosie Vartyter Aroush will serve as the discussant for this lecture, followed by Q&A. This event is co-sponsored by the Promise Armenian Institute at UCLA and the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies.

Friday, February 25, 2022
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (Pacific Time)

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From the early Middle Ages onwards the practice of colophon writing in the Armenian tradition developed immensely, transforming it into a separate genre with its own characteristic features. The colophon (Arm. յիշատակարան) was conceived as a physical space in the manuscript where the scribe wrote a commemorative note about the history of the production of the manuscript mentioning people from all walks of life who contributed to or were present at its production.

Many colophons contain commemorations of women who are mainly remembered owing to their belonging to the nearest circle of the scribe or the sponsor of the manuscript (mother, wife, sister, sister-in-law, aunt etc.). Moreover, there are numerous colophons that remember women who sponsored manuscripts or performed remarkable deeds that were considered worthy of remembrance. Colophons written by women, albeit very few in number, have also reached us.

In this talk, Dr. Zakarian will demonstrate the significance of colophons as primary sources for writing the history of Armenian women in the Middle Ages. The discussed colophons will reveal compelling details about the daily life and experience of women of different social standing in the Armenian communities scattered throughout the Armenian Highland to the Near East, and Eastern Europe.


David Zakarian received his BA in English Language and Literature (2005) and MA in English Literature and Culture (2010) from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, and completed the Master of Studies programme in Classical Armenian Studies at Pembroke College, Oxford (2011). Between 2011 to 2015 he worked on his DPhil thesis and defended a dissertation entitled “The Representation of Women in Early Christian Literature: Armenian Texts of the Fifth Century,” receiving his DPhil in 2015. In 2017 he received a three-year British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Faculty of Oriental Studies to work on the colophons of Armenian manuscripts composed between 1375 and 1501. He is the author of a number of articles and book chapters that have appeared in many prestigious peer-reviewed publications and in January 2021 Brill’s Armenian Texts and Studies series published his monograph Women, Too, Were Blessed: The Portrayal of Women in Early Christian Armenian Texts. Currently, Dr. Zakarian is an Associate Faculty Member at the Faculty of Oriental Studies in Oxford.

His research interests include the representation of women in late antique and medieval Armenian sources, and colophons of Armenian manuscripts as primary sources for the study of daily life in medieval Armenia


Rosie Vartyter Aroush has a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures with an emphasis in Armenian Studies and a concentration in Gender & Sexuality Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles. She is currently working on her book, with Routledge as the publisher, investigating the experiences of LGBTQ+ Armenians living in the diaspora with a focus on identity, family, and community. As a pioneer in bridging the fields of LGBTQ Studies & Armenian Studies, Dr. Aroush’s book eliminates the current gap and promotes the growing body of knowledge in Gender & Sexuality Studies by adding Armenians to the representation and marks the introduction of LGBTQ research to the interdisciplinary field of Armenian Studies. Additionally, she is one of the co-founders of VLUME, the largest digital library for Armenian eBooks and audiobooks seeking to make Armenian literature accessible to audiences worldwide.


Sponsor(s): The Promise Armenian Institute, Center for Near Eastern Studies