CfP: Literariness of non-literary texts from Classical to Late Antiquity

CfP: Literariness of non-literary texts from Classical to Late Antiquity – Celtic Conference in Classics (Cardiff, 9-12 July 2024)

Organisers: Maria Sole Rigo and Lorenzo Livorsi (Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg)

What was considered literature in Antiquity, and why and how can it also be found in non-literary texts?

Despite the widely perceived divide between ‘major’ and ‘minor’ genres, there appears to be a substantial continuity in features of prose texts. In other words, literary prose (Kunstprosa) can be found in unexpected texts, even if these are not usually considered to fit into a literary genre.

These texts are letters, constitutions, pagan and Christian liturgy, documentary texts such as court proceedings, and technical manuals and treatises about medicine, veterinary medicine, the art of war, land surveying, architecture, etc.

However, only rarely did these texts attract attention on account of their rhetorical, narrative, and literary value. While they have been mined by historians looking for ‘hard facts’, their linguistic, stylistic, and rhetorical qualities remain to be appraised. Moreover, the communicative role of these texts and the reasons why they were written in such an elaborate way remain yet to be explained.

A potential reason for such continuity lies in a common background shared by numerous authors. Columella switched from prose to Vergilising poetry while expounding agriculture. Ausonius – erstwhile teacher of rhetoric and consul – was not just a celebrated poet and panegyrist; he also authored laws for his emperors. These are but two of many possible examples: the overarching influence of rhetorical training and common societal background constitute linguistic and stylistic unity factors.

This panel aims to bridge the gap between ‘literary’ and ‘less literary’ genres. We will discuss which features make these texts ‘literary’ and what could be considered ‘literature’ in a period when no unequivocal notion of literature yet existed. While Late Antiquity affords a particularly rich array of sources to study the intersections of technical and literary features, papers about earlier periods are welcome. In fact, we would like our panel to trace a history of applied rhetoric in different genres across the entirety of Antiquity. Contributions linking ‘technical’ or ‘lesser’ genres to a bigger picture in cultural history will be especially welcome, as well as papers comparing rhetorical strategies in technical texts with major rhetorical genres (such as forensic and epideictic rhetoric). The results of different fields of research about Greek and Roman prose will achieve a multidisciplinary and innovative perspective on what Kunstprosa meant in classical and late antique texts.

Potential topics include, but are not confined to:

  • narrative techniques applied to non-fictional texts,
  • theory of style,
  • poetic diction and poetic quotations in prose,
  • use of literary quotations in technical / non-literary texts,
  • readership and performance,
  • critical approaches to technical or ‘lesser’ genres valid for any other text,
  • differences between classical and late antique technical texts,
  • study of these texts in their specifically cultural and literary context,
  • what can be considered ‘literary’,
  • communicative role of the literary features in these texts,
  • the influence of rhetorical training in non-literary production,
  • interfaces between rhetoric and commentaries / exegesis,
  • ecocritical readings of ancient treatises on medicine and agriculture,
  • ‘technical poems’ (e.g. Halieutica, Cynegetica) and their relation to prose treatises,
  • prosaic rhythm/cursus

Please submit abstracts, maximum 300 words, for either a 40- or 20-minute paper (please say which in your submission) to Maria-Sole Rigo (maria-sole.rigo@uni-bamberg.de) and Lorenzo Livorsi (lorenzo.livorsi@uni-bamberg.de), by February 26th 2024.

Please provide a short biographical note, including any institutional affiliation and relevant research interests, with your abstract.
General information about the Celtic Conference in Classics can be found on the following website https://cardiffccc.wixsite.com/cardiffccc2024. If you any questions about the panel, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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