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Unspeaking volumes: Absence in Latin Texts - 29-30-01/06-07/2017, 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)

FECHA/DATE/DATA: 29-30-01/06-07/2017

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: ; ;


1. Postgraduate bursaries: Current postgraduate students wishing to attend this conference may apply for a bursary of up to £100 towards University accommodation up to 3 nights (28, 29 & 30 June 2017), plus evening dinner 30 June and registration fee. If you wish to apply for a bursary, do not register on the online shop, but send an email to, giving your name, your institution, how the conference fits with your research, how many and which nights you need accommodation in St Andrews, any special dietary and access requirements, and whether you would like to attend the dinner. If you require assistance to travel you may apply but preference will be given to the above elements initially. Applications must be received by 14 May 2017.

2. Other participants: 26£ Aquí/here/qui


Thursday 29th June

10-10.30 Welcome and Introduction. TOM GEUE & ELENA GIUSTI

10.30-11.00 --- Coffee Break ---

11.00-12.30 I Session: Left Unsaid

KATHRIN WINTER (Heidelberg) “Silent and eloquent: Absence and presence of speaking in Cicero’s Brutus and Tacitus’ Dialogus de Oratoribus”

STEFANO BRIGUGLIO (SNS Pisa) “uel alio transeundi gratia: the (generic) sound of silence in Statius’ Thebaid”

12.30-2.00 --- Lunch ---

2.00-3.30 II Session: Interpreting Absence

PHILIP HARDIE (Trinity College Cambridge) “Allegorical absences”

VIOLA STARNONE (SNS Pisa) “No one looks at Elissa: Hermeneutic Responses to Dido’s first appearance in the Aeneid”

3.30-4.00 --- Coffee Break ---

4.00-5.30 III Session: Lyric Losses

ÁBEL TAMÁS (ELTE Budapest) “Catullus’ Sapphic lacuna: a palimpsest of absences and presences”

ERIK FREDERICKSEN (Princeton) “Grief Philology: Catullus 101 and Anne Carson’sNox”

5.30-6.15 Keynote Lecture

GIUSEPPE PEZZINI (St Andrews) “Pontem interrumpere: missing characters and other absences in Roman comedy”

Friday 30th June

9.00-10.30 IV Session: Missing Subalterns

WILLIAM FITZGERALD (King’s College London) “The Slave, Between Absence and Presence”

HOLLY RANGER (Institute of Classical Studies) “Staging Virgil’s Silence in Sylvia Plath’s bee poems”

10.30-11.00 --- Coffee Break ---

11.00-1.15 V Session: The Power of Absence

CATHARINE EDWARDS (Birkbeck London) “Looking for the Emperor in Seneca’s Letters”

BARBARA DEL GIOVANE (Firenze) “Anonymous Verses in Notorious Lives: Suetonius’ Lives of the Caesars and the Historia Augusta”

JOHN HENDERSON (King’s College Cambridge) “Globbing with Marcus: Meditations not Mediations”

1.15-2.30 --- Lunch ---

2.30-4.00 VI Session: Inaction in Action

ALEXEI ZADOROJNYI (Liverpool) “Good for nothing: exemplary non-acts in Valerius Maximus”

LYDIA SPIELBERG (Nijmegen) “Res non Gestae in Tacitus Annals”

4.00-4.30 --- Coffee Break ---

4.30-6.00 VII Session: The dark matter of historiography

JAMES McNAMARA (Victoria Wellington) “Solitudinem faciunt: the rhetoric of empire and no-man’s land”

ELLEN O’GORMAN (Bristol) “Conspicuous absence: Tacitus’ Invisible Republic”

Saturday 1st July

9.00-10.30 VIII Session: Not in Ovid

VICTORIA RIMELL (Warwick) “The neuter plural in Ovid’s Remedia Amoris”

NORA GOLDSCHMIDT (Durham) “Ovid’s missing corpus”

10.30-11.00 --- Coffee Break ---

11.00-12.30 IX Session: Received Absence

JOANNA PAUL (Open University) “In Search of the Lost City: the Enduring Absence of Pompeii”

DUNCAN KENNEDY (Bristol) “Absence, metaphysically speaking”

12.30-1.00 Closing Remarks

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