College of Arts and Sciences

Ancient Studies

Conferences & Symposia

Upcoming Conferences and Symposia

Ancient Studies Symposium: Text and Textuality

April 27-28, 2018

Locations and times:
Friday, April 27: 1:00pm - 5:25pm
Hazelbaker Hall (Room 159), Herman B Wells Library
Saturday, April 28: 9:00am - 5:05pm
College Arts and Humanities Institute, 1211 East Atwater Avenue

Schedule of speakers:

Friday, April 27

Jonathan L. Ready (Indiana University, Classical Studies)
“Introduction (Or Who I Am and Why I Organized This Event)”

Elizabeth Alexander (University of Virginia, Religious Studies)
“Conceiving Biblical Textuality in Early Rabbinic Commentary”

The dominant trend among scholars of early rabbinic commentary (c. 250-350 CE) takes the interpretive innovations introduced by the rabbis to be their primary subject of inquiry. Work conducted in this vein assumes a stable conception of the biblical text, and envisions the rabbis either deviating from or adhering to the text’s meaning. In contrast, this paper argues that early rabbinic commentary actively constructs the conception of biblical text that serves as the starting point for interpretation. The paper further argues that social norms as regards gender shape the rabbis’ conception of biblical textuality.

Ray Cashman (Indiana University, Folklore and Ethnomusicology)
“A Folklorist’s Perspective on Texts, Textuality, and Entextualization”

According to many contemporary folklorists the nature of oral texts and the significations of specific texts are best understood in relation to context and genre. This presentation begins with a summation of folkloristic perspectives on the generation of texts that resonate in specific performance contexts, lay bare or strategically create connections to previous entextualizations, and invite creative recycling to meet changing contexts in the future. The second half of this presentation looks to examples from Irish folklore and literature treating the Famine (1845-1852), in which obstacles to entextualization are overcome, outflanked, or sometimes found to be insurmountable.

Andrew Taylor (University of Ottowa, English)
“Reflexive Text to Social Text: From Machaut’s Voir Dit to the Folger’s Crowdsourcing”

Fusing medieval and post-modern perspectives, critics have depicted Guillaume de Machaut’s Le Voir Dit as a model of textual reflexivity, in which the beloved lady is only a fiction used to generate the work. A radically different model, that of the social text, is suggested by recent experiments in crowdsourcing, including Pamela Smith’s edition of BnF 640 in the Making and Knowing project, Ray Siemens’s edition of the Devonshire manuscript, and experiments with crowdsourcing at the Folger. In these projects the text exists only in its broader use. Comparing these two models can bring out the underlying assumptions of each.

Francesca Schironi (University of Michigan, Classical Studies)
“Aristarchus’ Homer or How to Mold a Text from an Idea(l

I will discuss some examples of Aristarchus’ work on Homer (i.e. from his edition and commentary), showing how Aristarchus’ own ideas about Homer had an effect on the Homeric text he produced in his edition. These examples introduce the question of what a ‘text’ was (is) for an ancient (modern) editor and the problems connected with such an idea.

Saturday, April 28

David Rolston (University of Michigan, Asian Languages and Cultures)
“The Textualization(s) of Jingju (a.k.a., Peking Opera):
Effects of Secrecy, Governmental Censorship, Level of Literati Input, New Media, and New Audiences”

The playtexts of Jingju, a performance form which matured in the middle of the 19th century and went national in the following century, began with strict restrictions on their circulation and considerable flexibility in their performance, but witnessed progressively wider circulation and fixity in increasingly varied “textual” forms as Jingju’s relationships to political and social elites, new audiences, and new media, changed. I hope my presentation of this history will present points of comparison and contrast to the histories of the textualization of other performance traditions.

Melissa Dinverno (Indiana University, Spanish and Portuguese)
“Textuality, Editing and Memory Politics”

This talk explores the relationship between editing and memorialization, bringing editorial discourse and the edition into the discussion on cultural memory particularly as it relates to trauma and identity. Using as springboard the construction of Federico García Lorca’s textual corpus during Spain’s post-dictatorship, especially during its transition to democracy from 1975 to approximately 1986, I will examine some of the ways in which the scholarly edition can be understood as a site and technology of memory. I will, in turn, suggest a way of understanding the role of editing with respect to the narration of the past in Spain’s post-dictatorship, and the way that a study of editing and textuality may indicate the status of a particular society’s memory politics.

Fritz Breithaupt (Indiana University, Germanic Studies)
“How Emotions Guide Memory: Affects in Story Retelling”

When people retell stories, what guides their retelling? Most previous research on story retelling and story comprehension has focused on information accuracy as the key measure of stability in transmission. This paper suggests that there is a second, affective, dimension that provides stability for retellings, namely the emotions and affects both of characters but also of the story audience. This study includes data about happiness, sadness, embarrassment, risk, disgust, and surprise. In a large-sample study with multiple iterations of retellings and close to 8,000 retellings when complete, we find evidence that people are quite accurate in preserving all degrees of certain emotions in serial reproduction – even when the event that produced the emotion or affect in the original story is dropped or changed. Thus, we propose that the preservation of affect is an implicit goal of retelling.

David Elmer (Harvard University, Classical Studies)
“Homeric Textiles and Homeric Textuality”

In the Homeric poems, material objects exhibit various connections with the substance and practice of poetry. Pieces of armor, for example, can be described as bearers of kleos (Il. 8.192), while the weavings of Helen (Il. 3.125-128) and Circe (Od. 5.61-62) have often been interpreted in relation to epic poetry or songmaking more generally. But prestigious metal objects (including armor) and textiles belong to two different classes of goods and circulate along different ‘paths.’ Textiles also behave differently from other kinds of objects when it comes to their role as bearers of meaning in acts of communication. While the kleos of other prestige goods (armor or Agamemnon’s scepter, for example) is typically realized in the form of a ‘genealogy’ performed publicly by a male speaker for one or more other men, textiles are frequently configured as messages directed by a female sender to a specific female recipient. Paradigmatic examples include the peplos given by Helen to Telemakhos, with instructions that it be presented to Penelope, and the clothes given by Nausikaa to Odysseus in Odyssey 6; as can be inferred from the sequel in Alkinoos’ palace, these clothes, which Nausikaa had explicitly selected for her wedding day, are intended as a message indicating to Arete the princess’s willingness to have the stranger as her bridegroom. (Outside of the Homeric tradition, one thinks, of course, of Philomela and Prokne.) Notably, in both of these cases the message is not explicit: the textile must be interpreted. Moreover, the manufacture of textiles is frequently emphasized, so that there is a clear notion of ‘authorship’ in connection with woven messages. In this paper I will attempt to distill from the significant textiles of the Iliad and Odyssey the salient characteristics of a notion of ‘textuality’ that stands in contrast to the poems’ depiction of the circulation of kleos.

Haun Saussy (University of Chicago, Comparative Literature)
“Reconstructing Parry’s Networks”

Milman Parry’s 1925 theses on Homeric epithets propose a new, for the time, way of viewing the Kunstsprache of ancient epic—as being organized like a natural language, with a grammar and a vocabulary of items differentiated by function. The model of “langue” introduced by Saussure has appeared to many commentators as a not inappropriate analogy. But a look into the scholarship circulating around Parry on folklore, mythology, oral creation, and memory reveals that definitions of “parole” were also active and controversial in discussions of such topics. This paper demonstrates the relevance of a “langue et parole” model for analysis of language (including specialized art languages) by outlining the state of several problems addressed by Parry in the course of his career.

Amanda Randhawa (Ohio State University, Comparative Studies)
“Narratives and Sacred Geographies: Punjabi Sikhs in Tamil Nadu”

Drawing on both traditional and contemporary narrative texts, my presentation focuses on the intersections, seeming contradictions, and attempts to navigate culture, tradition, observance, practice, ancient and contemporary. I attend to the sacred geography of India, especially claims and popular religious practices that integrate ancient Hindu mythology and religious adherence into contemporary Sikhism. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork I conducted among Punjabi Sikhs living and on pilgrimage in the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu, I examine the disparity between textual traditions and contemporary religious practice.

Previous Conferences & Symposia

Vandalia Conference 2016

September 16-17, 2016

Performers of Tales: A Seminar Sponsored by the Program in Ancient Studies

April 30, 2015

Miniature and Minor

April 11-12, 2014