Double stories – Double lives: Reflecting on Textual Objects in the Pre-Print world Yale University, 13-15 April 2012

full name / name of organization: 
Niv Allon, Julia Hsieh / Yale University
contact email:,

The physical aspects of texts – their existence as textual artifacts – may assume a particular prominence that is independent even from the contents of the texts themselves. Circulated and contextualized as objects, texts and inscriptions may impart dual meanings, which may either be complementary or contradictory. As such, manuscripts, inscribed amulets, ornamental objects, and similar artifacts draw complex ‘biographies’ as the attention alternates between the artifact’s textuality and materiality. The biographies of these artifacts invite a variety of interpretive and analytical models, the application of which is dependent on the different degrees of distinction
and integration between the two aspects.

The interplay between the material and textual aspects of an inscribed object may manifest in a variety of ways, ranging from a competitive to a complementary or even harmonious relationship. Moreover, the visual aesthetics of certain objects attract special attention and invite artistic manipulation on different levels, from the incorporation of ekphrastic pictorial or plastic elements together with written elements, to the preference of different scripts for the recording of text, up to the point of calligraphic art. Certain acts and rituals might also accompany the production of such objects, delimiting the framework of their contextualization and marking
those moments of transition: from word to object and from object to word. Furthermore, the material lives of textual objects also enable their physical destruction, erasure, and other forms of manipulation as means of contesting or censuring the texts they contain.

We would like to open an interdisciplinary discussion on the nature of such objects and to invite papers regarding textual objects of the pre-print world from different cultures in the ancient world. Of special interest are papers which examine the nature of such objects in their circulation and interpretation, as well as studies of the practices and the meta-discourses that accompany the
lives of such objects.

We are very honoured to host two prominent scholars as our keynote speakers:

Professor John Pollini
Professor of Classical Art & Archaeology
Department of Art History
University of Southern California

Professor Rolena Adorno
Reuben Post Halleck Professor of Spanish
Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Yale University

The conference will be scheduled in panel sessions – each session will consist of four 20min papers, with a chair and a discussant. Current panel topics include:
• Embodying the Text in the Greco-Roman world: “figure poems”, graffiti, magic squares and other verbal objects – the intersection between visual and textual, elite and popular, profane and religious culture in Greece and Rome.
• Textual Visuality: Inscriptions on Objects of Devotion – the function of texts within the overall synphrastic process and the ways in which text determines how an object is viewed.
• Monuments of Paper and Documents of Stone – the examination of the diverse relationships (artistic, linguistic, historical, and literary) between the public monument and the private document, particularly in their role as establishing cosmic/mundane temporal frameworks for the historical event.
• Sounding Sight, Sighting Sound: The Perceptual Habits of Seeing, Reading, and Hearing the Pre-Modern Book – the manner in which the synchronic interlacing of writing, illustration, and sound enacted perceptual habits of reading and cognition in the pre-print

Papers from all related disciplines are welcome, and additional panels will be assembled based on topic relevance. Possible panels and paper subjects may include:
• Theoretical models for the analysis of textual objects
• Marked transitions between text and object
• Script choice and artistic manipulation of text
• Paratext and the object
• Abomination and prestige of textual objects.

We invite scholars interested in participating as chairs or discussants to contact us, and scholars interested in presenting a paper to submit a 250 word abstract to one of the conference coordinators by the 15th of November 2011. A conference website will be set up in the near future, which will include descriptions of current and additional panels in more depth.

cfp categories: