19-20 June 2014: Conference

Literary Interactions under Nerva, Trajan and Hadrian 2: ‘Intertextuality, Society and Literary Production’

Rostock, 19–20 June 2014

Organised by Christopher Whitton and hosted by the Heinrich Schliemann-Institut, University of Rostock, with funding from the Alexander-von-Humboldt Stiftung, the BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grants Scheme, the School of Classics, University of St Andrews, and the Rostocker Freunde der Altertumswissenschaften. Fifteen speakers and four chairs from Germany, Poland, Italy, Britain, the US, Brazil and Australia were joined by academics and students from Rostock and further afield, including four doctoral students funded by bursaries.

After the success of the first conference in 2013, this second event set out to develop the work done there by both tightening and widening the focus of enquiry. As in the project as a whole, the aim was to bring together researchers with an interest in Nervan, Trajanic and Hadrian literature to examine the texts and literary culture of this period collectively, with an eye especially to synchronic textual interactions and the social dynamics of literary production. Contributors had been invited in particular to address methodologies of intertextuality (and the social/literary models they imply), to interrogate models of allusion (citation, reworking, echoing) and their limits, and to consider how historical, social and cultural contexts of production and reception can illuminate our understanding of dialogues – and gaps in dialogue – in the texts of this period.

The fifteen papers delivered offered a fine range of complementary approaches to these questions, and sparked extensive and productive discussion across the two days of the conference. Inevitably, Pliny served as a nodal figure. His relationship with Martial was triangulated, in intertextual and prosopographical terms, in a study of their respective responses to Lucan and Regulus (Ilaria Marchesi) and through their shared addressee Domitius Apollinaris (Sigrid Mratschek). Alice König probed the small but significant mentions of (and silences about) another fellow consular, Frontinus, and his De Aquis. In turn, Pliny was considered as an intertextual target by Tom Geue, assessing the self-consciousness of Juvenal’s allusions to the Epistles, and Paul Roche, demonstrating and analysing the complexity of intertexts between the Panegyricus and Suetonius’ Life of Domitian. The Panegyricus was also brought into a dialogue with Tacitus over the form and meaning of interaction between senators and emperors (Gunnar Seelentag), while Epistles 10 was the focus of two contributions: Myles Lavan nuanced recent debate about the ‘literariness’ of this book, contextualising Pliny’s and Trajan’s letters against other surviving evidence for correspondence between governors and emperors, and Roy Gibson used Plutarch’s political essays to stake out dialogues at one remove between Pliny and his Greek subjects and dependents. The challenges of reading across Latin and Greek authors, which will be a particular focus of the third conference, were also explored by James Uden’s paper on Quintilian, pseudo-Plutarch and Juvenal, which similarly sought to develop a cultural model for literary interaction going beyond ‘intertexts’ as usually understood.

Modes of intertextuality were also treated by Christopher van den Berg, in a paper reflecting on current scholarly models and the limits of criteria such as ‘meaningfulness’ in the literature of our period, while a model for reading contemporary texts in parallel without depending on ‘allusion’ was offered by Victoria Rimell, addressing two works from AD 98, Martial’s tenth book and Tacitus’ Agricola. Intratextuality was the focus of Jakub Pigon’s paper, exploring the ramifications of the Ascletario episode in Suetonius’ Life of Domitian within and beyond Suetonius’ Flavian lives. The pragmatics and styling of literary production were addressed in a pair of papers addressing Pliny and his social context from two different angles: Sven Page developed a model of studia in the Epistles as response to the Domitianic age, while Matthew Roller explored the paradoxes of a staged recitation culture which was at once cooperative and competitive. Finally – in fact, at the outset of the conference – Rebecca Langlands offered a way ‘beyond intertextuality’ in the case of Tacitus and Suetonius by demonstrating the role of cultural memory in the transmission of exempla.

‘Beyond intertextuality’ made a fitting headline for the conference, and for the continuation of the project thereafter: details of the organisation and remit of the third conference in summer 2015, to be directed by James Uden at the University of Boston, will be available in autumn 2014. In the meantime two volumes of papers are planned, edited by Alice König and Christopher Whitton and commissioned on the basis of the first, second and third conferences, and the working papers on the website continue to multiply (further contributions are warmly welcomed: please see information on this page). A team based at St Andrews and directed by Alice König is also developing a wider-ranging research project on interactions between literary and less-literary/non-literary spheres of activity (military, administrative, technical, legal, political, economic, religious, and artistic) under Nerva, Trajan and Hadrian. As well as exploring the interface between literature and society across the empire in that period, from a range of angles, the project aims to interrogate some of the methodologies that underpin such a study, and to produce (among other things) a new cultural history of Nervan, Trajanic and Hadrianic times.

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