Psychogeographies in Latin Literature.
London, 8-9 July 2013
Conference organised jointly by the Department of Classics, KCL and the Centre for the Reception of Greece and Rome, Royal Holloway, University of London
Far from mere dots on a map, places are products of the interrelationship of humans and their natural environment. They are constructs in a material environment, having a materiality as products, but they also have a producing capacity in the interaction between person and place. That interaction is multi-sensory, but often represented in narrative, sets of stories that make a place and embed a place in time and collective experience. That experience and interaction with place creates psychogeography.
The experience of urban spaces, with their itineraries, neighbourhoods, monuments, gardens, theatres and crowds are important to authors as diverse as Ovid, Tacitus, Martial, Juvenal, Catullus, Horace and Cicero. Genres such as satire, comedy, epigram and elegy have their own particular orientations to space. For some authors it is itineraries, and for others (Pliny, Statius, Lucretius) it is the views and vistas that matter. Public spaces are reclaimed for other uses by Ovid, and viewed with suspicion by Seneca, while imperial space is contained and framed in the Odes of Horace. The cubiculum, the forum, the trivium, the Via Sacra and other locations all have their own topoi and associations. Literary works create their own models of space (closure, enjambement, digression and the like). How do these ‘spatial’ aspects of the literary work relate to, or even compete with, exterior spaces? And how can work in other areas of classical studies (archaeology, art, history) be brought to bear on literary texts?
Modern theoretical work has also offered multiple possible ways in which to reinvigorate our perceptions and reception of the spatial in literature. For example, the distinction between space (espace) and place as a locale (lieu), central to Michel de Certeau’s work, allows distance to be generated between the stable reception of meanings generated from a hegemonic political culture and the enacted meanings that are performed at street level. Similarly, perceived spaces, as Henri Lefebvre suggests, are laden with socio-political significance, and they can be deployed to challenge mainstream strategies of meaning by, for instance, rendering places of ceremony and order into sites for the performance of pleasure and carnival, and subverting official monuments with unorthodox cultural memories. Iconic amongst those strands of scholarship that seek to reenergise the reader’s relationship with space in literature is the figure of the flâneur (as reflected by Walter Benjamin), the stroller in the city, or away from it, who re-imagines space through often aberrant itineraries.
This conference will bring together scholars interested in all aspects of this topic to share different kinds of material and approaches and to discus the agendas and potential of this topic as a whole.
Confirmed speakers include:
Richard Alston (RHUL), Catherine Edwards (Birkbeck), Therese Fuhrer (Berlin), Jared Hudson (Berkeley), David Larmour (Texas Tech), Maxine Lewis (Auckland), Ellen Oliensis (Berkeley), Shreyaa Patel (RHUL), Victoria Rimell (Rome), Diana Spencer (Birmingham), Efi Spentzou (RHUL),
William Fitzgerald (william.fitzgerald AT kcl.ac.uk)
Efi Spentzou (e.spentzou AT rhul.ac.uk)