CFP: The Playful Plutarch (Oxford, July, 2011)

Seen on the Classicists list (please direct any queries to the folks mentioned in the item and not to rogueclassicism):


Irony and Humour as Imperial Greek Literary Strategies: The Playful Plutarch


(UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD ,12-13 July 2011)

Plutarch of Chaeronea is always taken very seriously. The old image of a sober moralist, whose words should be taken at face value and whose ethical judgements are clear and simple, still dominates research. Even readers who are willing to grant him a sense of humour are seldom prepared to see this as anything more than a flash in the pan.

Yet Plutarch often employs irony; almost no other ancient author is more receptive to the different intellectual and cultural uses of humour. From the Table Talk’s concern with identifying appropriate uses of jesting at the symposium, to the Political Precepts’ admonition to make measured use of witticism in political discourse; or from the lively interest exhibited by the Lives in joking as evidence of good or bad character, to the various effects that irony achieves in the Moralia, Plutarch’s corpus consistently testifies to the importance of humour as a means of intellectual engagement and communication in the period of the high Roman Empire.

This conference aims to examine the centrality of humour in Plutarch’s works, both as a literary device and as a topic in its own right. By ‘humour’, we wish to encompass a broad spectrum of discursive and intellectual practices, literary devices and manifestations of psychological processes: laughter, wit, anecdote, ridicule, joking and jesting, mockery, derision, satire and the satirical, parody and irony.

We welcome papers exploring specific passages in Plutarch’s writings where humour features, as well as papers tracing his views and works to broader cultural practices of playful engagement in public festivals or elite symposia. In particular, we suggest the following key topics for investigation:

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