CONF: Greek Memories

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Greek Memories: Theory and Practice

Department of Classics & Ancient History, Durham University

Ritson Room, 27-28 September 2010

Memory, and its correlate, forgetting, are at the centre of a recent surge of studies focused on the construction of collective identities. In the wake of Halbwachs, and more recently Assman, much work has been devoted to the relationship between cultural memory, intentional history (the invention of tradition), and identity, in ancient Greece and elsewhere. While these elements are bound to interact in any society, the specific ways in which they are conceptualized and function may differ significantly. We propose to reorient the discussion by focusing on how the theories and the practices of memory, recollection, and forgetting play themselves out in specific texts and authors from ancient Greece, within a wide chronological span (from the Homeric poems to Plotinus), and across the entire range of literary ‘genres’ (epic and lyric poetry, tragedy, comedy, historiography, philosophy and scientific prose treatises). In particular, we plan to explore two interrelated aspects: (i) explicit discursive reflections on memory, recollecting, and forgetting as divine and human experiences and (ii) the role of these reflections in shaping practices of thought, communication, and writing.

Monday 27 September

9.30 – Welcome, registration and coffee

10.00-10.15 – Introduction to the conference

10.15-11.00 – Anita Nikkanen (Harvard), ‘Mnemosyne khariessa’

11.00-11.45 – Sarah Harden (University College, Oxford), ‘Self-Reflexive Memory in Pindar and Theognis’

11.45-12.30 – Peter Agocs (Christ’s College, Cambridge): ‘Speaking in the Wax Tablets of Memory’

12.30-14.30 – Lunch and break

14.30-15.15 – Andrea Capra (Milano): ‘Lyric Oblivion: When Sappho Taught Socrates how to Forget’

15.15–16.00 – Silvia Milanezi (Nantes): ‘Comic memories’


16.30-17.15 – Catherine Darbo-Peschanski (CNRS, Lille 3): ‘Place and Nature of Memory in Greek Historiography’

17.15-18.00 – Neil Sewell-Rutter: ‘Remembering and Forgetting Cambyses: Memory in the Constitution Debate, Herodotus 3.80-82’

19.45Conference dinner

Tuesday 28 September

9.15-10.00 – Anca-Cristina Dan (Institute for Neohellenic Research, Athens / Paris IV): ‘The Memory of Wonderful Sites: Some Remarks upon Herodotean Theoretical Principles in Proemia of Extant “Geographical” Works’

10.00-10.45 – Steven D. Smith (Hofstra University, New York): ‘Claudius Aelianus: Memory, Mnemonics, and Literature in the Age of Caracalla’


11.15-12.00 – Ynon Wygoda (Hebrew University of Jerusalem): ‘Socrates’ Forgetfulness and Platonic Irony’

12.00-12.45 – Jean-Louis Labarriere (CRNS, Paris IV): ‘PhantasmaM and PhantasmaF in Aristotle’s De Memoria, 1, 450 b 20-451a8’

12.45-15.00 – Lunch and break (and guided tour of cathedral?)

15.00-15.45 – Emidio Spinelli (Roma, La Sapienza): ‘Physics, Memory, Ethics: the Epicurean Road to Happiness’

15.45-16.30 – Stephen Clark (Liverpool): ‘Plotinus: Remembering and Forgetting’

16.30-16.45 – Tea

16.45-17.30 – Maria Michela Sassi (Pisa): ‘Greek Philosophers on How to Memorise – and Learn’

17.30-18.00 – Final discussion

More information (bookings, location, programme) can be found at
Or e-mail the organisers, luca.castagnoli AT, paola.ceccarelli AT

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