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Research - Education: Call for abstracts
Schloß Rauischolzhausen.
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by Archaeology Newsroom

Reading history in antiquity

Audience-oriented perspectives on classical historiography

The conference “Reading history in antiquity. Audience-oriented perspectives on classical historiography” will take place on 21-22 April 2017, in Schloß Rauischolzhausen, Germany.

Confirmed keynote speakers are Dennis Pausch, Technische Universität Dresden, and
Antonis Tsakmakis, University of Cyprus.

The 21st century could justifiably be deemed an era highly fertile for the examination of ancient readership of classical historiography. This is because the last decades have contributed to the liberation of modern scholarship from the nineteenth-century positivism’s persistence in scrutinizing the “objectivity” of ancient historians and seeing them mostly as the celebrated exemplars of critical acumen and scientific conscientiousness. On the contrary, if we try to summarize the prevailing modern perspectives on classical historiography, we may refer to a) the analysis of the ancient historians’ view of the nature of the historical development, b) their goals in preserving the past by writing history, c) the literary qualities of ancient historical accounts, and d) the techniques the ancient historians used in order to disseminate certain ideological and interpretive messages and to create specific emotions in their readers.

The questions emerging from these perspectives cannot be satisfactorily answered if they are not examined against the backdrop of the ancient readership of classical historiography. For the ancient historians’ view of the historical development is closely associated with several features of their readership (e.g. current philosophical trends, the readers’ interest in the past, and natural sciences), while topics such as the literary qualities of classical historiography and the strategies the ancient historians used in order to lead their audience to certain ideological and emotional reactions cannot be fully interpreted if we neglect the readers’ mentality, and their literary and linguistic competence, as attested both in historical works and in theoretical treatises of antiquity.

However, although the outcomes of reader-response criticism have repeatedly and meticulously been used in the analysis of other genres of classical literature (epic, tragedy, and oratory), the application of such a perspective still remains a significant desideratum in the field of classical historiography. The organizers of this conference, aspiring to fill this gap, invite scholars at any point of their careers to contribute to the examination of topics such as:
—       How did ancient historians conceive of their readership?
—       What explicit and implicit techniques did they use to address their readers?
—       What narrative strategies did they employ to create emotions in the reader or to provoke intellectual reactions?
—       How can we describe the purpose of reading historiography in antiquity? What is the relevance of the dichotomy of “utility and pleasure” in this context?
—       Did the means of communicating history (oral/written discourse) determine the ancient way of writing history and vice versa?
—       What does ancient criticism tell us about the readers of historiography?
—       Is there any way of reconstructing the sociology of the ancient readers of historiography by studying the works of the ancient historians?
—       To what degree did ancient historians adapt their compositional strategies to the distinctive features (social status, education, linguistic competence) of each group of their readers?

Please send short abstracts (250-400 words) for papers of 30 minutes on these and related themes to the conference organizers by 30 November 2016. The language of the conference will be English.

Mario Baumann, Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen (
Vasileios Liotsakis, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg (

The conference fee will be 100 euros and includes coffee breaks, lunch and dinner on both conference days. The proceedings of the conference are intended to be published.