NeMLA 2018 Going Places from Pastoral to Polis: Setting and Fiction in Antiquity and Beyond

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Claire Sommers/The Graduate Center, CUNY
contact email: 

The ancient Greek word topos is commonly translated as “place” and referred to a region, site, or geographical position. While the ancient Greek language is long gone, the term topos has survived and passed into the modern vernacular. Today, the word topos is used in literary theory and refers to any common literary theme or motif. This passage of the term for “place” into literary analysis is the natural extension of how the Classics viewed space, as they defined their world through fictions and mythology. The flora and fauna found in the pastoral realm had their origins in various myths, while the city gave the temple a central location and tie its central civic and religious festival to theatre. Classical writers frequently characterized the artist and the poet as the creator of a world and their literature placed a premium on setting, from the sprawling journeys across the known world in epics and novels to the single location depicted in theatre to the imagined cities of philosophical allegories. This panel will examine the Classical Greek and Roman conceptions of place, focusing not only on their function as a setting, but as locus for interpretation and the creation of fiction. Possible approaches include:
· The significance of setting in Classical literary and philosophical texts

· Mythological explanations of nature in the Classical world

· Imagined and mythological locations in Classical thought

· Fiction as civic in the ancient city

· Classical philosophical theories of space

· Classical depictions of journeys through multiple settings

· Settings as allegories and metaphors in Classical literature and philosophy

· Classical literary works as topography

· Classical writers as world-creators

· Classical ekphrases of various environments

· The multiple elements of Classical spaces

· Post-Classical depictions and interpretations of Classical settings

· Classical settings and modern Critical Theory (particularly ecocriticism)

Please submit an abstract of 300 words to the panel “Going Places from Pastoral to Polis: Setting and Fiction in Antiquity and Beyond” at by September 30, 2016. You will need to create a user account through the NeMLA website in order to submit an abstract. Please contact Claire Sommers ( with any questions.