Literature & Society in the fourth century A.D.

Call for Papers: ‘A magic stronger than the governors’ power’. Literature and Society in the Fourth Century A.D. (23-24th of September 2010).

Organised by Lieve Van Hoof (K.U.Leuven) and Peter Van Nuffelen (UGent)

On September 23rd – 24th 2010, the Universities of Ghent and Leuven (Belgium) will be hosting a joint two-day workshop under the title ‘A magic stronger than the governors’ power’. Literature and Society in the Fourth Century A.D. The aim of the workshop is to explore literature as a social phenomenon in the period from Constantine to Theodosius I.

Recent decades have seen a boom in studies on Late Antiquity. Hand in hand with this upsurge, texts by a variety of fourth-century authors have been made accessible through new editions and translations. Whilst these have led to stimulating analyses of extra-textual elements such as the educational system or religious history, no comprehensive study exists, as yet, of late antique literature as a social phenomenon. This workshop aims to open the path for such a study by bringing together specialists of both Greek and Latin as well as ‘pagan’ and Christian literature in order to study the social role and function of literature in the fourth century A.D.

Often the impression is created that literature lost much of the social relevance it had in the earlier Roman Empire. This impression is based on some statements of important late antique authors, who assume a society with huge cultural tensions – between Latin and Greek, between Roman law and Greek rhetoric, between Christianity and paganism, between the requirements of empire and devotion to the cities. Statements about the relationship between literature and society should, however, be read as rhetorical strategies which authors deploy in view of specific aims and contexts. It is this approach that lays at the core of this workshop: How do different fourth century authors present the relationship of literature and society? What are their aims and objectives in doing so? What strategies do they adopt in order to convince their readers and audiences? And which factors (audience, subject, genre, etc.) influence their practice?

Confirmed speakers include: S. Bradbury, P. Heather, G. Kelly, M. Ludlow, N. McLynn, P.-L. Malosse, S. Mratschek, and R. Rees.

We invite abstracts for 30 minute-papers on the following topics:

• the role of literary culture in defining the elite, in political promotions, in selecting members for the senate, …
• networking through literature: recommendation letters, dedications and prefaces, literary patronage
• chronological, geographical, and generic differences in the social status of literature
• the use of literature by Christian authors to acquire a prominent position in the church
• the rivalry for status between rhetoric and other disciplines such as philosophy, law, and medicine
• modern theories about the social status of culture; parallels with the perceived declining status of humanities today
• rhetoric/literary culture in epigraphy and law

Please send 500 word abstracts to peter.vannuffelen@ugent.be, before 30 June 2010.

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May 20th, 2010 11:18 am