Affect, Intensity, Antiquity is the subject of an online conference scheduled for 20-22 August 2021. Classical scholars and experts in fields relating to the ancient Mediterranean world are invited to submit abstracts for consideration.
Recent years have seen a collective turn in the study of Greco-Roman antiquity, and in the humanities and social sciences more widely, toward the matter of bodies and embodied experience. As a result, body-oriented themes such as the senses, emotion, and embodied cognition have moved away from the periphery of our disciplines and closer to the center stage. And yet we can’t claim to have closed the book on mind-body dualism for good. As Spinoza says in the Ethics, ‘no-one has yet determined what the body can do.
Affect theory addresses this bodily unknown. ‘Affect’ names the potentiality of bodies to move and be moved in modes unintelligible to rationalist worldviews. Theorists of affect turn our sights away from familiar paths of inquiry and toward the para-rational zones of lived experience (sensations, disturbances, intensities, epiphenomena). Such reorientations awaken us to the otherwise ineffable dynamics that bind together political and social collectives, forge bonds between human and non-human entities, or galvanize and unite queer, racialized, and subaltern groups. The ‘affective turn’ has also birthed new methodologies, such as post-critique and reparative reading, by centering emotive forms of engagement with texts and media. Whether taken as an object of inquiry or as a catalyst of methodological innovation, affect destabilizes the hierarchies that order foundational narratives (‘Western’, ‘classical’, and otherwise) of the body and its powers.
The aim of this conference is to explore the potential and futures of affect theory in any field of study relating to Classics and the ancient Mediterranean world. It is our hope and conviction that these are many. The epigraph above offers one of many possible starting points: Horace asking the beautiful Ligurinus why he feels a tear of desire wetting his cheek (sed cur heu, Ligurine, cur /manat rara meas lacrima per genas? Horace, Odes 4.1.33-34)
Affect theory recognizes such an aporetic ‘why’ as a space of radical uncertainty and potential. We invite your interventions into this space from all corners of Classics.
Potential areas of focus might include:
– The affects associated with subaltern populations, such as women, enslaved people, and racialized groups, in ancient art and literature
-Affective encounters with the nonhuman and more-than-human world, as expressed in e.g. visual art, travel writing, or scientific texts
-Sensation and embodied experience in ancient medicine
-Sensory and affective experiences in ancient ritual and religion
-Reconsiderations (in light of affect theory) of cognitivist accounts of the emotions
-Challenges to concepts of the ancient ‘subject’ as a site of rational agency and control
-Interpretations of ancient texts and artifacts influenced by postcritique, reparative reading, or other methodologies generated by the affective turn
-The affects generated by antiquity itself, in receptions of Classical art, thought, and literature (or, how antiquity ‘feels’)
-The affective dimension of Classics pedagogy, including the experience of online learning in the age of Covid-19
The conference will be conducted entirely online through Microsoft Teams on 20-22 August 2021.
Organizers: Chiara Graf and Adrian Gramps (St Andrews).
Submissions for 30-minute presentations are invited from researchers at any stage of career or education. Please submit an abstract of 300-500 words for consideration to Dr. Adrian Gramps by 31 May 2021.
Confirmed Speakers: Aaron Kachuck (Trinity College, Cambridge / UCLouvain), Alex Purves (UCLA), Ben Radcliffe (Loyola Marymount), Mario Telò (UC Berkeley)