Call for Papers: ‘Historiography and Life Writing in the Late Antique World’
Proposals for papers are sought for a hybrid conference (participation possible both in person and online) on June 16th–17th 2022 in London exploring the writing of historiography in context of the developments in biographical literature during late antiquity.
The relationship between historiography and biography in antiquity has always been an uneasy one. Despite their mutual interest in strong characters, the writing of history and the writing of lives were regarded by ancient authors as two distinct genres. This separation proved influential too among modern scholars, but there have long existed voices suggesting that the boundaries between the two were much more blurred in practice (Momigliano 1971; Geiger 1985; Kraus 2010). Such considerations are particularly important for the later period because of the dynamic literary transformations it catalysed. The changing literary landscape from the fourth century on, in East and West, was shaped not only by the rise of new genres but also by the shift, redefinition, and even breakdown of established generic boundaries (Greatrex/Elton 2015).
Recent scholarship has shown the fruitful interrelationships with contemporary literature of both later historiography (Blaudeau/van Nuffelen 2015; van Nuffelen 2019; Conterno/Mazzola 2020) and biography (Urbano 2013, Hägg/Rousseau 2000). But the link between the two remains largely unexplored. With the emergence of new biographical sub-genres – like hagiography or heresiology – and the blossoming of old ones – such as panegyric or philosophical biography – historians could draw on a hitherto unmatched spectrum of different models when incorporating the lives and deeds of individual characters into their historical narratives. This conference aims to investigate how historians adjusted to this increasing diversity of life-writing and what impact this development had on the evolution of historiography.
We invite scholars of varied specialisms and disciplinary backgrounds interested in the history and literature of the late antique world to submit 500-word abstracts for 30-minute papers. Papers might treat, for example:
- the factors that influenced historians’ choice of a particular model of biographical presentation over another;
- the incorporation and adaptation of biographical source material (including translations) into historiography;
- how historians played with their readers’ expectations by both alluding to and breaking the generic conventions of different types of biographical literature;
- the differences in the presentation of lives across the historiographical traditions of alternative writing cultures, like Syriac or Coptic;
- how imagined audiences determined the stylistic and compositional choices of historians narrating the life of a historical character.
We are happy to announce Peter van Nuffelen (Ghent University) and Anne Alwis (University of Kent) as confirmed keynote speakers of the conference.
Applications from all scholars, including postgraduate students, are welcome. Abstracts of 500 words should be sent to [email protected] by 5.00pm on 14th January 2022.
Karl Heiner Dahm