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CALL. 01.12.2016: Unspeaking volumes: Absence in Latin Texts - Saint Andrews (Scotland)


Classicists are nothing...

...if not experts on absence. A large part of their day job is filling gaps and breaking silences, to make something of the textual wrecks and material ruins of their favourite lost world. But handling absence with care is more than a scholarly obligation. Many ancient texts are buoyed and rocked by their own uplift of omission and amnesia; what they leave out and pass over in their subterranean ‘textual unconscious’ is often as important as what they let into the light.

As recognised by Nicola Gardini at the very outset of his comparative exploration of ‘textual absence’ or Lacuna (Gardini, 2014), Latin texts offer fascinating ground for following shadows of absence. Their sensitivity to politics leaves them ripe for repression of all sorts of names, places, historical events. Their repository of the unmentioned is infinite: the arsenal of silence is important, for example, in the particularly Roman form of collective forgetting known as damnatio memoriae. As well as political absences, Latin literature leaks aesthetic ones too. The heavy allusivity of these Speaking Volumes (A. Barchiesi, 2001) makes certain texts present, while pointedly relegating others; and it is infested with tropes that bite holes in the text (e.g. ellipsis, praeteritio). Then there are all those absences dogging the critical theories and methodologies which inform this field’s motley crew of scholars. To take two of the most influential paradigms in Latin studies: persona theory and reader-response criticism could both be seen as a reflex of the peculiarly ‘absent authors’ of Latin literature. Absence is everywhere, and nowhere. So we think it’s time we let it speak in St Andrews. Of course, the lacunose state of the Latin literary corpus makes it riskier to recognise and interpret programmatic, ideological, subconscious or sous-rature absences. But modern theoretical work has given us various ways in.

Keynote: Nicola Gardini (Oxford)

Confirmed Speakers: Barbara Del Giovane (Florence), William Fitzgerald (KCL), Nora Goldschmidt (Durham), Philip Hardie (Cambridge), John Henderson (Cambridge), Duncan Kennedy (Bristol), Ellen O’Gorman (Bristol), Ellen Oliensis (Berkeley), Giuseppe Pezzini (St Andrews), Victoria Rimell (Warwick), Alexei Zadorojnyi (Liverpool)



LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: University of Saint Andrews (Saint Andrews, Scotland)

ORGANIZADOR/ORGANIZER/ORGANIZZATORE: Dr Tom Geue (University of St Andrews) ; Dr Elena Giusti (St John’s College Cambridge)

INFO: ; ;


We’re delighted to invite further abstracts by 1st December 2016 for a conference on all things unsaid, unwritten and unseen in and around Latin literature, philosophy, historiography. We’ve drawn up a schema of suggested topics below; these are of course indicative, and repress who knows what? The major guiding principle is to explore ways in which these non-discrete forms of absence relate to one another. We hope to collect some of the conference papers into a major edited volume for publication soon after. We look forward to reading your abstracts, and please do look out for further notice as details are firmed up. We hope to see as many of you as possible present for lending your voice to Unspeaking Volumes!

1. Psychological, Political, Ideological absences

  • repression in the textual/authorial unconscious; Freudian negation; Jung’s shadow; the Return of the Repressed;

  • authorial absence (anonymity, pseudonymity)

  • processes of deletion, erasure, and exclusion, such as damnatio memoriae;

  • absence and censorship/self-censorship; absence and ideology;

  • 'great unmentioned' characters and events in literature and historiography (i.e. characters and events that should have been mentioned but are conspicuously absent)

  • politically invisible classes, slavery etc; silenced subaltern;

  • writing as a medium of absence

2. Aesthetic absences

  • gap techniques (ellipsis, antonomasia, antiphrasis, periphrasis, omission, praeteritio, recusatio, aposiopesis)

  • allusion and intertext vs direct quote;

  • unnamed vs named sources;

  • omission in Latin translation of Greek texts;

  • Metaformations, acrostics;

  • the silence implied in poetic recitatio;

3. Methodological absences

  • the function of the 'conspicuous absence' and 'deafening silence' in criticism; conspicuous absences in classical scholarship; ideologically driven absences in scholarship (loaded terms: anti-Augustanism; propaganda; nationalism etc.)

  • the role of the lacuna and lost sources in scholarship;

  • bowdlerisation: cutting out the juicy bits

  • scholarly practice of filling in gaps; speculative reconstructions;

  • classics as a discipline based on textual absence? How does it differ from other disciplines?

  • absences in reception studies; absence and the classical canon

  • the effect of the death of the author on authorial silence

  • absence and persona theory;

  • methodologies of the fragment

We have a number of confirmed invited speakers (listed above), and we now invite applications for six more papers, especially (but not solely) from finishing graduate students and early career researchers. If you wish to be considered as a speaker, please provide an abstract (300-400 words) and a brief CV.

Please send the items (in pdf format if possible) to by 1st December 2016.

Decisions will be made by the end of December. Accommodation will be provided for the nights of Wednesday the 28th, Thursday the 29th, and Friday the 30th of June 2017, but we regret that speakers will be expected to cover their travel expenses.

Please do not hesitate to contact the organisers for further information.

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