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CALL. 05.02.2021: [PANEL 1] Extending Roman Personhood and Authorship - San Francisco (CA, USA)








What is a person? And what, more specifically, is an author? These are important questions for ancient Rome, both because of the implications for Roman studies and because modern western theories of the person often invoke some aspect of Roman persona as a frame of reference. Yet recent work in the broader academy (e.g., Fowler, The Archaeology of Personhood [2004]) and equally in Roman studies (e.g., Smith, The Roman Clan [2006]; Gurd, Work in Progress [2011]) suggests that both personhood and the configuration of personhood in the area of textual production (authorship) may not match modern assumptions.

Such questions were the focus of a posthumous book manuscript of Thomas Habinek, “Persons and Authors in Roman Culture.” Habinek’s goal was “to integrate insights and evidence from Roman law, literature, philosophy, historical narrative, art, ritual, and material culture … concerning the persona as a physical substance marked by qualities such as extensibility, durability, localization, and generativity.” The proposed panel will be the context for developing papers that examine or apply notions of personhood and/or authorship in Roman culture and literature—studies that may complement, critique, or extend the approach taken by Habinek, either in literary studies or in relevant subject areas, from legal and social history to material culture.

Questions to be addressed may include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • To what extent does the notion of person, as defined in various Roman social institutions, not align with the idea of a biological individual?

  • How are variations in gender, ethnicity, and status accommodated within ancient discourses on the person?

  • How did specific Roman conceptions of personhood play out in various cultural practices or historical settings, whether in literature or in other areas?

  • What features of present-day Roman cultural history and literary studies need to be rethought in light of the above?

Abstracts will be assessed on the merits of their contribution to the persons-and-authors problematic, quite apart from any specific engagement with Habinek’s work. Once an abstract is accepted, every effort will be made by the organizers to facilitate fruitful dialogue with Habinek’s ideas, and relevant sections of the posthumous manuscript will be available upon request beginning in July 2021.

Abstracts of not more than 500 words should be sent by email attachment to by February 5, 2021. Include the title of this panel (“Extending Roman Personhood and Authorship”) as the subject line of your email. The text of your abstract should follow the guidelines on the SCS website and should not mention the name of the author. Abstracts will be evaluated anonymously by the panel organizers. Inquiries may be directed to Andrew Feldherr ( and James Ker (

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