CFP: [Cultural-Historical] Ancient Literary and Philosophical Biography

full name / name of organization: 
Johanna Hanink
contact email:

The following call for papers appears in the latest American Philological
Association (APA) newsletter. The call is for the organizer-refereed panel
‘Literary and Philosophical Biography: Ancient Lives, New Approaches’, to
be held at the *2010* APA meeting in Orange County, California.

The full newsletter (which includes instructions about abstracts and ‘Form
D’, which must accompany all submissions) is now available online:


Literary and Philosophical Biography: Ancient Lives, New Approaches

Organized by Richard Fletcher, The Ohio State University, and Johanna
Hanink, Queens’ College Cambridge

In the 1970s and early 80s, the efforts of Janet Fairweather and Mary
Lefkowitz did much to demolish the credibility of ancient traditions about
the lives of poets (the poetic ‘vitae’). Over the last decade, however,
scholars have begun to see what Lefkowitz once dubbed the ‘popular fiction’
element of ancient biography as a topic that deserves study in its own
right. In ‘Inventing Homer’ (2002), for example, Barbara Graziosi argues
that “the fictionality of the ancient material on Homer’s life does not
warrant our ‘disregard’.” Seeing Homer’s biography as a crucial part of his
reception history, she proceeds with her compelling study in the belief
that this material must “ultimately derive from an encounter between the
poems and their ancient audiences” (3).

This re-evaluation of poetic vitae can also act as a fruitful complement to
the different, if related, challenges posed by the philosophical vitae
tradition. Ever since Plato challenged the cultural caché of the poets by
finding no ‘Homeric way of life’ along the lines of that lived by the
‘Pythagoreans’ (Rep. 10. 600a-c), the issue of living the life you preach
has been a central bone of contention between poets and the philosophers.
Owing considerably to the pioneering work of Michel Foucault and Pierre
Hadot, extended by Alexander Nehamas and John Sellars, modern scholars are
coming to see that philosophical biographical traditions are vital to
understanding how ancient philosophical practice was founded on the art of
living, rather than on theoretical systems and doctrines.

The purpose of this panel will therefore be to reappraise both the uses and
usefulness of ancient traditions about the lives of poets and philosophers
in Greco-Roman antiquity. To this end, the organizers invite papers of
fifteen minutes’ length (about 2,000 words) on any aspect of this topic. We
particularly welcome papers which, in addition to offering case studies,
contribute more broadly to a discussion about the way forward for studies
in literary and philosophical biography.

Questions that papers might consider include:
-How ‘literary’ are ancient literary biographies?
-What is the relationship between biography and reception?
-To what extent did biography influence criticism in antiquity?
-What are the pitfalls of relying on ‘testimonia’?
-How were the lives of poets and philosophers ‘read’ and reused by later
-How are literary and philosophical careers manipulated to relate the
dynamic borderline between vita and oeuvre?
-How is an assumed fidelity between life and deed inscribed into an
author’s vita?
-How does a poetic or philosophical vita enact an acceptance or rejection
of an ideology?

Please send FOUR copies of your abstract along with TWO copies of FORM D to
the APA OFFICE (NOT to the panel organizers):

American Philological Association
University of Pennsylvania
292 Logan Hall, 249 S. 36th Street
Philadelphia PA 19104-6304

Abstracts are DUE AT the APA office by February 2, 2009. All submissions
will be reviewed anonymously.

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Received on Fri Dec 12 2008 - 04:44:09 EST

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