CfP: Materiality, Representation, and Performance in Archaic and Classical Greek Poetry

A conference to be held at the University of Edinburgh on the 20th and 21st of June 2017. If you are interested in presenting a paper, please submit a title and an abstract of around 300 words by Friday 28th October to


Literature is littered with objects: things created in words, materials embedded in text. But what is the relationship between language and object? How does the one contain or mediate the other? If language is the medium through which an object is constructed, to what extent is the thing co-extensive with the language that defines it?

How does the ontology of objects change when they are not of the real world, but constructs? Most of the theoretical standpoints of the New Materialisms are based on the real-world interactions between people and things: the relationship as seen through philosophy or anthropology. Comparatively little work has been done on literary representations of that relation. Mediation through language and through literature is a crucial factor which makes a substantial difference to the status of objects and to the location of agency. For instance, when Bryant 2011:88 writes ‘objects require no subjects to manifest themselves in the world’, this may be true of real-world objects but it is not the case for representations of them.

What effect does the medium or mechanism of representation have on the object represented, and what effect does the represented object have on the mediated domain? Both Greek epic and drama can be experienced through a text – but is there an agency of objects that goes beyond their textual constructedness? What role is played by performance and the presence of props? How do we negotiate the question of interface in our readings of ancient texts?

This two-day conference, to be held at the University of Edinburgh on the 20th and 21st of June 2017, will focus on archaic and classical Greek poetry. It will bring together scholars interested in the relation between materiality and language, in literary objects, in performance and textuality. The conference aims to propagate ‘attentiveness to things’ (as vital materialist Jane Bennett puts it) – but also attentiveness to their literary representation.

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