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The ancient novels are populated not just by people but also by objects. While individual studies, particularly on ekphrasis, have examined some of the uses of physical objects in ancient novels (Bartsch 1989; Holzmeister 2014) or the depiction of scenes from ancient novels on objects (e.g. Bruneau 1965), there have been few systematic examinations of the presence, function, and interpretations of material objects in and about ancient prose fiction more broadly. Notable exceptions include Magdeleine Clo’s 2014 thesis, Les objets dans le roman grec, and the 2016 Rethymnon International Conference on the Ancient Novel on “Material Culture and the Ancient Novel” (Oct. 14-15), both of which have demonstrated the potential of examining objects within ancient novels as tools of characterization, plot devices, and symbols, but the topic has thus far received little attention in the United States.

We therefore invite submissions on the ancient novel and material culture. Papers may examine any of the ancient novels or other works of ancient prose fiction, including Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Byzantine. We are especially interested in applications of new theoretical perspectives, examinations of social interaction and cultural exchange in one or more novels or cultures, and/or collaborations between different subdisciplines such as philology and archaeology.

Papers may address, but are not limited to, questions such as:

  • How do physical objects shape readers’ interpretations of ancient novels? What emotions, associations, and responses do they provoke?
  • How are objects used as intertextual signifiers, agents of change, tools of characterization, or literary symbols?
  • How do material objects interact with writing?
  • How do descriptions of objects signify class, status, gender, and/or ancient Mediterranean religious, cultural, and ethnic identities?
  • How might descriptions of physical objects be used in conjunction with archaeological methods to advance our understanding of topics such as the appearances and uses of ancient objects, foodways, craft production, or reuse and recycling?
  • What can images of characters and scenes from ancient novels on objects from antiquity to the present day tell us about the popularity, audience, and role of these novels in daily life in the ancient world and their enduring interest for artists and craftspeople despite their often marginalized status within the body of ancient literature?

Please send abstracts for 20-minute papers to be read at the 2021 AIA/SCS meeting as email attachments to by February 7, 2020. Include the title of this panel as the subject line of your email. The text of your abstract should follow the guidelines on the SCS website and should not mention the name of the author. Abstracts will be evaluated anonymously by the panel organizers. Please address questions to Evelyn Adkins ( or Ed Cueva (