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Epitome: International Conference

Wann: Mittwoch 23.05.2018 09:00 - Freitag 25.05.2018 22:00
Typ: Allgemein
Ort: Ghent University
Epitome: From Fragmentation to Re-composition (and Back Again)

CONFIRMED KEYNOTE SPEAKERS: Virginia Burrus (University of Syracuse) – Ja? Elsner (University of Cambridge) – Eva Geulen (Humboldt University of Berlin/Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung) – Philip Hardie (University of Cambridge) – Jesús H. Lobato (University of Salamanca) – Scott McGill (Rice University) – Grant Parker (Stanford University) – Sigrid Schottenius Cullhed (Uppsala University) – Jürgen P. Schwindt (Heidelberg University) – Michael Squire (King’s College London) 

                                                                                          nusquam corpus erat; croceum pro corpore florem
                                                                                          inveniunt foliis medium cingentibus albis

                                                                                                    Ovidius, Metamorphoseon Libri, 3, 509-510.

For centuries, the term epitome did not enjoy great appreciation, intuitively connected as it was to an idea of textual recycling and derivativeness. It is thus no coincidence that a number of ages in which epitomatory works witnessed a widespread diffusion - from Late Antiquity up to the long season of humanistic and late humanistic erudition - were equally doomed to an aesthetical damnatio memoriae. Yet, in more recent years a renovated scholarly enthusiasm has been paving the way for both an aesthetic and heuristic revaluation of these “obscure objects”.
Our aim here is not so much to concentrate on the definition, indeed quite problematic, of a genre called epitome, nor to fall back to that theoretically limiting Quellenforschung whose only purpose was to treat epitomized texts as mines for lost textual sources. We would like, instead, to conceptualize epitomai as the result of two very basic movements, dismemberment and re-composition, and to survey the hermeneutic fields so disclosed. Among others:

•       What do we mean by textual integrity? What is at stake here is, of course, the problem of different open, closed, and fluid textualities.
•       At what and at how many textual levels can the dialectics dismemberment/re-composition take place? 
•       Far from being neutral objects or mere shortened reproductions of the so-called primary objects, epitomai establish with them a complex, dialectic relationship. They sometimes end up undermining the primary meaning (the apparent meaning of the primary object). Can we identify a semiotic principle which regulates such an overturning? 

If then we take the “text” in its broadest sense, it is not hard to realize that to reflect on epitome means to wonder about the most fundamental mechanisms of cultural memory:

•       Should epitomatory gestures be interpreted as auxiliary (continuity) or as contrasting (rupture) to the tradition? 
•       What kind of relationship can be identified between epitomatory practices and other forms of cultural archiving (chronologies, thematic repertoires, encyclopaedism, museification, cartography)?
•       How did the evolution of media influence the epitomatory dimension? 
•       Can we define a socio-cultural figure to be named “The Epitomizer”? What is its ethos? 

On a more literary and aesthetic ground, reflecting on these types of texts may lead us to further questions:

•       How could they be related to modernist and post-modern techniques such as collage or montage? 
•       Generally speaking, we are referring to practices that fissure the textual surface – practices in which the pleasure of the subjects involved in the textual play originates from the creation of a primal void (dismemberment of the primary text) and then by the erasure of this void itself (re-composition), but in such a way that a sense of the void keeps on being perceivable: what about thinking of epitome as a textual embodiment of absence? 
•       Accordingly, and contrary to the common opinion which tends look at aesthetic systems dominated by the epitomatory dimension as to static ones, does not such an aesthetic configuration show a state of inexhaustible and dynamic tension, of perpetual self-projection towards perpetually absent objects – all the more so as they seem to be conjured up?

Late Antiquity (ca. III c. CE – VII c. CE) provides a fruitful field of investigation, not only for the obvious reason that a great number of surviving epitomai dates back to that period, but also because what we have called the epitomatory dimension seems to have attained at that time a previously unparalleled pervasiveness, retrievable in many cultural phenomena: from the spolia-aesthetics to the literary fondness for centones, as well as, just to mention Latin evidences, the tendency to create textual corpora (Historia Augusta, Panegyrici Latini, Anthologia Latina, hagiographic collections etc…) and the success of corpora-texts (Macrobius’s Saturnalia, Martianus Capella’s De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii, Nonius Marcellus’s  De compendiosa doctrina etc…). Indeed, the list might easily be made longer by looking at the whole complexity of antique and late antique textual production (Greek, Syrian, etc…).

In the light of the above-mentioned broad theoretical problems we envisage contributions from any field of Classics, History, History of Art, Archaeology, Literary Studies, Cultural Studies, Media Theory, in order to take advantage of diverse expertise and promote an integrated approach to the subject. We would cherish contributions from artists, writers, composers etc. as well. 

Abstracts in English, French, and German containing about 300-350 words should be sent by 15 May 2017 to Marco.Formisano@UGent.be and PaoloFelice.Sacchi@UGent.be .

For further queries please contact PaoloFelice.Sacchi@UGent.be

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