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My Rooster speaks like a human!: Animal speech in ancient literature - 27-28-29/09/2018, Postdam (Germany)






 Speaking animals can be found in various genres of ancient literature, ‘animals’ being understood as creatures occurring in nature in contrast to eloquent mythological hybrids, and ‘animal speech’ being understood as verbal utterances of literary animals in contrast to animal communication and animal languages. The conference aims at a synoptical and systematic access to the scattered material in order to examine it for the completely different quantitative and qualitative character of animal speech, for contexts relating to literary, cultural and intellectual history and for the concepts of animality and humanity behind it. The scope ranges from the mere mentioning of the fact of animal speech to rhetorically elaborated monologic or dialogic animal speech. Animals with permanent or just temporarily conferred faculty of speech take on different narratological functions as minor characters with short parts or as protagonists and central actors; they speak for themselves or serve as a mouthpiece for supernatural powers or the (implicit) author. Accordingly, they are used in multiple ways for moral instruction and as ironically unmasking mirrors of human behaviour, for theological and philosophical reflection and paraenesis, for prophecy or even for parody and comic effects, whereby the reasons for the added value of the animal speakers are just as multiple. A stimulating basis for discussing the topic is offered by the heuristic distinction drawn by Roland Borgards between ‘semiotic’ animals, which occur in texts exclusively as signs, as bearers of meaning, and ‘diegetic’ animals, which occur also as beings, as comprehensible elements of the narrated world, and between ‘realistic’ and ‘fantastic’ animals [2]. For the definition of the latter, the relationship between the narrated world and the time and culture, in which the narration takes place, is relevant, which means for instance that animal speakers in the Bible are not fantastic, but theologically explainable phenomena. Of particular interest are cases which elude unambiguous interpretations and those in which the fictionality or plausibility of animal speech is reflected upon in the text or paratextually. Crossing the borders between animals and humans [3], speaking animals blur the anthropological difference, albeit in the medium of literature, and thus challenge the traditional dichotomies between subject and object, between culture and nature, between free action and instinct-bound behaviour [4]. In this respect interesting connections can be established to the current Animal Studies [5] by exploring how the animals in question can be located between anthropomorphisation and animality, between individuality and stereotype, between their own value and their use as rhetorical and allegorical instruments by humans.


FECHA/ DATE/DATA: 27-28-29/09/2018


LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: University of Postdam (Postdam, Germany)


ORGANIZADOR/ORGANIZER/ORGANIZZATORE: Dr Hedwig Schmalzgruber (Department of Classics, University of Potsdam)








Confirmed keynote speakers:
Prof. Dr. Annetta Alexandridis (Cornell University)
Prof. Dr. Ursula Gärtner (Universität Graz)
Prof. Dr. Janet Spittler (University of Virginia)

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