CFP: Antiquity in Film – Gender on Screen

Seen on various lists …

Conference: “Antiquity in Film – Gender on Screen”
December 10-12 2009 at the Freie Universitaet, Berlin, Germany

Contact: AntikfilmGender AT

Prof. Dr. Almut-Barbara Renger
Department of History and Cultural Sciences
Institute for Religious Studies
Chair in Ancient Religion, Culture and the History of their Reception
Gosslerstr. 2-4, 14195 Berlin

This conference shall explore reception(s) of antiquity in film – from the silent era through to sound film and to present-day blockbusters. Film adaptations of ancient figures and material and what they have to say about the present, about culture and society will be examined in light of the specific significance of gender. Aside from the return of antiquity in cinema, we can also see an increasing interest in antiquity on television, in the form of miniseries or fantasy series.

“Gender” here is an analytic category that will serve as our methodological basis. This thus assumes that “femininity” and “masculinity” are not biologically determined, transhistorical constants. As this project is based primarily on the body and sexuality and their representations and reproductions in film, they will be examined as parts of gender constructs in the sense of nature as cultural text.

Approaches in recent film and gender theory look at the performance and negotiation not only of gender, but also of cultural background and national identities, using concepts such as “bricolage” to bring their various facets in contemporary film into sharper focus. The body’s boundaries and the transgression of these boundaries, e.g. in scenes of excessive violence, are often dominant motifs. In the last few years, the literature of antiquity has been adapted to film and turned into blockbuster Hollywood films, yet this has rarely been discussed. It is therefore all the more important to examine the significance of these films and their socio-political function, and thus develop interpretations that reach beyond what has been considered analytical common sense for the past several years.

To date, a few Classics scholars have written articles dealing with this topic area. These have touched on the historical figure of Cleopatra as film heroine and symbol of oriental culture, and the mythical figure of Helen in film history, as well as the connection between gender on one hand and domination, barbarism and slavery on the other. With this in mind, we will also look at gendered codes of representations of state sovereignty, (post-) colonial power relations and expressions of cultural superiority.

The goal of this conference is to attract papers that demonstrate to what degree the representations – constructions, destructions and reconstructions – of gender and gender roles have changed along with the changes in film (and societal structures).

We particularly welcome projects from the following fields:
– History, Classics and Modern Languages and Literature
– Cultural Studies, Religious Studies
– Theatre, Film and Media Studies, Art History
– Philosophy, Theology and Political Science

In addition to issues in gender theory, we also want to address:
– analyses of films based on media theories
– the Production Code, a mode of self-censorship current in film studios as a response to pressures from social and religious lobbyists
– the effects of the Cold War and the end of it on antiquity in film
– new approaches in Gender Studies such as Postcolonial Theory, Critical Orientalism and Critical Racism

We aim to publish representative results of the conference’s profile in an anthology.
Abstracts should not exceed 1 page and should be submitted together with a short biography of a few lines by 1 August 2009.

We are looking forward to an inspiring conference and lively discussion!

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