ACLA Seminar: The Alien Topography of Ancient Rome in Postwar Film

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American Comparative Literature Association Seminar, 31 March-3 April 2011, Vancouver BC [Deadline November 12]

The legends and history of Greco-Roman antiquity have enjoyed a revival in cinema and television (300, Troy, Gladiator, Rome, Spartacus), and scholars have approached such works using the analytical tools of both classics and film studies. We suggest, however, that this interdisciplinary dialogue is due for development beyond film adaptation into a greater examination of film's use of ancient Rome's alien topography.

The archaeology of ancient Rome is ubiquitous and inevitable in modern Rome; recall the scene in Fellini's Roma in which a Roman house with vivid wall paintings is discovered by a subway crew. The premise of this seminar is that this foundation, the Rome of the ancients, informs films that take place in the modern city, putting ancient ideologies and tropes into dialogue with contemporary ones. For example, in several Italian Neorealist films, the buildings of ancient Rome and the architecture of fascist Italy present a mise-en-scène that suggests that, despite Fascist attempts to connect Augustan Rome with twentieth-century Rome, the ancient city remains largely a foreign entity to the successors of the Romans. In British and American films, this "foreignness" puts into focus the imperialism and impermanence that lurk behind the continued romantic appeal of Italy.

We invite papers from scholars in fields including but not limited to Italian studies, Classics, Film studies, and Comparative Literature that examine how a particular film (or set of films) make use of ancient monuments and topography, transforming their received value through their expression on film.

The seminar will take place at the Annual Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association in Vancouver, BC, 31 March-3 April 2011. For more information and to submit an abstract, please visit Deadline November 12.