Over the past fourteen centuries, Gregory of Nazianzus (ca. 330–390 C.E.) has been the subject of more than a dozen biographical narratives and monographs, beginning with the late antique hagiography of Gregory the Presbyter and concluding with the modern biography by John McGuckin. This is likely the result of Gregory's vast autobiographical corpus, which has provided scholars with a chronological narrative and character perspective from which to start their own secondary narratives. By examining this tradition of biography, I argue that two trends remain regularly operative. First, each biographer has consistently endowed his subject with his own values, ideals, and theological commitments. Second, each biography has given pride of place to Gregory's autobiographical voice. To make a precise demonstration of the latter trend, I follow the notorious Maximus affair from its presentation in Gregory's autobiography and in the biographical tradition, showing how Gregory's narrative remains almost entirely intact and unscrutinized. Ultimately I contend that the generic boundaries between autobiography, hagiography, and biography have broken down and suggest that readers subject autobiographical texts, along with their content, structure, style, and narrative, to rhetorical analysis rather than treat them as texts that reveal, with varying degrees of transparency, the authentic personality of their author.

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