The introduction provides an overview of the biography of Anna Komnene, including known details about her birth, betrothal, marriage, children, and death. It explains how Anna’s life is usually seen as dominated by a failed attempt to supplant her brother and rule as empress, and suggests that both scholarly distrust of the Alexiad and the politicization of Anna’s biography are driven by discrepancies between the intended emotional impact of her writing and the feelings it in fact raises among eighteenth- to twentieth-century readers. Both the commonalities and differences between medieval and eighteenth- through twentieth-century conceptions of gender, authorship, and power worked to obscure Anna’s efforts to win the sympathy of her audience and predisposed modern historians to choose a version of Anna’s biography in which she is characterized more strongly by her anger at political disempowerment than by the empowerment of her authorship.
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