Trajanic library of Celsus at Ephesos (image credit: Jon Coulston)

Since its inception in 2011, this project has brought together researchers with an interest in Nervan, Trajanic and Hadrianic literature to examine the texts and the literary culture of the period collectively. The last few decades have seen some exciting scholarship in this field, but the trend has been for author-specific studies, leaving the connections and interactions between texts under-explored. Yet the authors themselves worked in dialogue with each other; they attended recitals, commented on drafts, referenced each other in their writings, and defined their own styles and agenda alongside or against those of other writers. By examining the nature and impact of these cross-pollinations (within and across genres, and between both Latin and Greek authors), this project has developed our understanding not just of individual texts but also of the literary cultures in which they were produced. In the process, it has interrogated different models of ‘intertextuality’ (from salutation, citation, echo and allusion to reworking, correcting, omission and exclusion); and it has also explored interactions between ‘literary’ and less ‘literary’ material (for example, edicts, imperial letters and the writings of jurists). Of course many of these authors engaged with each other personally, socially and politically too, and the project has examined the interface between these various literary, personal, social and political interactions. In so doing, it has sought to bring the literary and historical study of the period into closer dialogue with each other, shedding new light on both.

A second strand of the project has focused particularly on cross-cultural interactions, looking beyond the Nervan, Trajanic and Hadrianic period down to the demise of the Severans in 235 AD. In this phase of the project, researchers have explored what it means to trace intertextuality and interplay between texts written in different languages and within different cultural communities. The so-called Second Sophistic (or ‘the long second century’) has come under fresh scrutiny in the process, with a far more variegated and nuanced picture of cross-cultural interactions emerging than has been recognised before.

These first two phases of the project have resulted in two major edited volumes. The first, Roman Literature under Nerva, Trajan and Hadrian: Literary Interactions, AD 96-138 (edited by Alice König and Christopher Whitton), was published by CUP on 2nd March 2018. The second, entitled Literature and Culture in the Roman Empire, AD 96-235: cross-cultural interactions (edited by Alice König, Rebecca Langlands and James Uden) was published in April 2020.

A third phase of the project, now underway, is looking panoramically at theories of intertextuality as they have evolved within a broad range of disciplines, and looking also at the impact and opportunities of digital resources in the ongoing study of intertextuality.

Principal Investigator: Dr Alice König (St Andrews)
Co-Investigators: Prof. Roy Gibson (Manchester), Dr Christopher Whitton (Cambridge) and Dr James Uden (Boston), Prof. Rebecca Langlands (Exeter).

Funding for the project was generously provided by the BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grants Scheme, with additional contributions from the School of Classics at the University of St Andrews, the Alexander-von-Humboldt Stiftung, the Peter Paul Career Development Professorship, the ICS and the University of Exeter.