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CALL. 10.07.2019: Imperial Power, Imperial Truth - Bristol (England)




LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: Bristol University (Bristol, England)




Roman imperial authors seem to take the necessity – and inevitability – of one-man rule for granted. What would have been a contentious political claim during the Republic appears to have been transformed into an unquestionable political truth with the establishment of the Principate: it is less argued for than argued with, that is, rather than a claim in itself it seems to function as a premise on which other claims may be built. Tacitus’ Galba, for example, claims that, since no other system of government is possible, all he can do is to give the Roman people a good successor (Hist. 1.16.1). The aim of ‘Imperial Power, Imperial Truth’ is to explore the emergence, side by side with the Principate, of an imperial ‘regime of truth’, that is, a system wherein judgements of truth and falsehood were made in alignment with the emerging imperial ideology. The idea that the emerging imperial regime broke the old aristocracy’s monopoly on power by breaking its monopoly on knowledge was argued persuasively by Wallace-Hadrill in his 2008 Rome’s Cultural Revolution: he noted that the very premises of political discourse shook and shifted under the pressures of the new imperial system. One key pillar in imperial ideology was the claim/truth that only one-man rule could guarantee peace in the empire (Cornwell 2017, Pax and the Politics of Peace: Republic to Principate). In more detail, then, ‘Imperial Power, Imperial Truth’ undertakes to raise and discuss the following questions: (1) What are the unstated premises on which imperial ideology and legitimacy rely? What are their republican origins and through what process are they transformed from claims to truths? How are they treated by ancient authors and their characters, as well as in modern scholarship?

(2) How do imperial authors and their characters (emperors, panegyrics, delatores, victims) navigate the logic of the imperial regime of truth? Through which rhetorical strategies is it sustained, undermined, or appropriated for other ends? What does ancient rhetorical theory say about speaking truth under autocratic regimes, and can such attempts be detected?

(3) More generally, how may the links between power and truth be studied in ancient literature? Which theories are applicable and which perils await those who attempt to use them? The workshop welcomes contributions which deal with any of the above-mentioned themes and is directed especially towards early career researchers and postgraduate students in classics, ancient history, literature, and political philosophy. Please note that the workshop aims to facilitate discussion rather than presentation: each participant will be expected to read all and serve as discussant on one assigned paper. Abstract (200-300 words) deadline: 10th of July 2019. Paper (up to 7.000 words) deadline: 26th of September 2019. Time and place: 10.30-18.00, Saturday 26th of October 2019, Bristol University.

For expressions of interest, paper abstracts, and/or more information, please contact Aske Damtoft Poulsen ( ).

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