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CALL.05.02.2021: [PANEL 4] Vergil and Authoritarianism - San Francisco (CA, USA)








Although totalitarianism and authoritarianism have been studied intensively since World War II (e.g. Adorno 1950, Arendt 1951, Linz 2000), they are not phenomena unique by any means to the 20th and the 21st centuries. The deep changes in the political landscape of Rome in Vergil’s lifetime reflect many of the elements that define authoritarianism, such as the violent suppression of political rivals, the manipulation of information, the exploitation of patron-client ties with powerful elites, the oppression of different population groups, and the adoption of the institutional trappings of the republic. Even though these trends are not unique to Augustus and his policies but can be traced throughout Roman history, under his reign this tendency was solidified and began the development into a centralized government maintained by political repression.

This panel invites a re-evaluation of Vergil’s work and that of his contemporaries and successors in the Latin poetic tradition in light of modern advances in our understanding of the concept of authoritarianism. Do these poets demonstrate a consciousness of these processes? And if so, how do they indicate their reactions to them?

The panel does not aim simply to re-examine the question of Augustanism vs anti-Augustanism but to delve into the ways in which Vergil and later authors grapple with the emerging political situation in Rome and the role of poetry in this process. The papers may explore, but certainly need not be limited to, the following questions: is authoritarianism a useful concept in examining and appreciating Vergil’s work? Where and how does Vergil’s poetry represent, comment, or address characteristics of authoritarianism, such as those described above? Does Vergil’s poetry react to Augustus’ attempts to appear as an heir to traditional Roman political institutions while eroding them? What is the relationship of other contemporary and later authors to Vergil’s position?

Abstracts for papers should be submitted electronically as either PDF or MSWORD documents by February 5, 2021 to Vassiliki Panoussi (, preferably with the subject heading “abstract_ SCS2022.” The abstracts will be judged anonymously and so should not reveal the author’s name, but the email should provide name, abstract title, and affiliation. Abstracts should be 500 words or fewer and should follow the guidelines for individual abstracts (, except that works cited should be put at the end of the document, not in a separate text box.

Works Cited:

Adorno, T. W. 1950. The Authoritarian Personality. New York: Harper & Row.

Arendt, H. 1951. The Origins of Totalitarianism. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co.

Linz, J. 2000. Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienne.

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