Workshop: Greek Literary Topographies in the Roman Imperial World



The Pennsylvania State University, 16-18 April 2021

Submission Deadline: September 15th, 2020

As spatial theorists like Lefebvre, Foucault, and Soja have shown, space is not static, but dynamic –both reflecting and engendering processes of interpretation and cultural construction. By extension, in a literary context, space does not simply provide the backdrop against which events “take place.” Rather, literary topographies create relationships – both within the text and beyond it – connectingindividuals to one another and to shared social worlds, both real and imagined. For scholars ofClassics, this means that the representation of space in ancient literature offers another way ofunderstanding the shape of ancient society, its political, religious and cultural concerns. There is now

a considerable body of scholarship on the literary topographies of the city of Rome and on the geography of empire in Latin literature, as well as important work on spatial perspectives in Greek literature of the Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods. Prominent examples of the latter include Alex Purves’ Space and Time in Ancient Greek Narrative, Kate Gilhuly’s Erotic Geographies in Ancient Greek Literature and Culture, William Thalmann’s Apollonius of Rhodes and the Spaces of Hellenism and Irene de Jong’s volume, Space in Ancient Greek Literature.

This workshop aims to broaden the discussion to include Greek literature of the Imperial period.While space has been explored in relation to explicitly topographical writers (e.g., Pausanias, Strabo)and in the context of the Greek novel, spatial descriptions outside of these genres have been treatedas primarily as scene-setting devices or ekphrastic excursus. Beginning from the essential questionsof how authors of the imperial period evoke different spaces and why they describe them in the waysthat they do, this workshop will interrogate the relationship between lived space, society, and powerand its depiction in literature.

Participants are encouraged to think about these issues as they relate not just to explicitly

topographical writers but also to the rhetorical, philosophical, and fictional literature of the period.We are interested both in papers that probe the specifics of a given author or text and that thinkmore theoretically about spatiality at this time. In addition, we also invite approaches that drawcomparisons to other periods of literature – whether earlier or later – and to other traditions (e.g.Latin, Jewish and Christian).

Workshop Format:

Participants will pre-circulate papers at the end of February 2021, and the workshop will includebrief presentations with formal responses and discussion. We are currently planning for a hybridformat, including both in-person and online participation, so that we can adapt as necessary toinstitutional and personal circumstances relating to travel and gathering.

Abstract Submission:

Please submit abstracts of no more than 800 words (including bibliography), as well as a CV, by 15September 2020 to either of the Workshop Organizers by email: Anna Peterson, and Janet Downie, Notification of acceptance will be given in early October.

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