Tuesday, January 15, 2008

CFP: "Where the Wild Things Are: Inhuman Territories in Classical Antiquity," Department of Classics, University of Reading, September 4-5, 2008.

We are accustomed to seeing the ancient world from its centres – Athens, Rome, and other major cities to and from which ideas, goods, and people circulated. But in many locations in Greek and Roman thought and imagination, past and present, the 'civilised' human was the outsider. These places were often inhabited by part-human or inhuman 'people', whose appearance and behaviour ranged from the peculiar to the horrific. These 'wild places' were often geographically remote, such as the Libyan deserts, the snowy wastes of Scythia, and the gloom of Cimmeria. Monstrous races were the subject of ethnological scrutiny, challenging anatomical definitions of humanity. Other wild places were closer to hand, but untamed: Arcadia; Thessaly; the depths of the sea; even local mountains, forests and other silent places could be haunted by dangerous supernatural beings such as fauns and satyrs. The past, too, could be an inhuman wilderness. Both Roman and Greek cultures ranged between creativity, rationalism and aporia when confronted by traditions and legends that defied understanding, even their own, let alone those of others. Some myths even connect the founding of human societies with the rejection of semi-human beings, such as Hercules' labours, the Argonauts' and Odysseus' fantastical encounters, and above all, the victories of the gods over the Giants and Titans in the earliest age of the cosmos.

This event will bring together researchers from a range of classical disciplines to explore the same fundamental questions:

  • In what ways were part-human beings in the ancient imagination defined by their habitat?
  • Did environment affect how 'savage' or 'cultured' they were, and should we define this by their anatomies, their familial and social structures, or their relationships with humans, animals, and the gods?
  • Finally, how did the exploration of wild places at the boundaries of human civilisation reinforce or challenge those boundaries?

Yulia Ustinova (Ben Gurion University), our keynote speaker, will address the subject of ''Wild Caves': Immortal Dwellers and Mortal Visitors'.

Papers should be 25-30 minutes in length. We welcome research in a wide variety of fields, but the following topics would be especially warmly received:

  • the ethnographic element in Herodotus
  • later ethnographic writers, both Greek and Latin
  • ancient paradoxography
  • hybrid and monstrous beings, especially in ancient verse and philosophy.

Titles and abstracts (c. 200 words in length) should be sent to the conference organisers, Dr. Emma Aston (E.M.M.Aston@reading.ac.uk) and Dr. Dunstan Lowe (D.M.Lowe@reading.ac.uk). If regular mail is preferred, the address is:

Department of Classics

University of Reading


Reading RG6 6AA

The deadline for titles and abstracts is March 15, 2008.

No comments:

Post a Comment