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Allegory, Poetics, and Symbol in Neoplatonic Texts

What is the origin and purport of the idea of the symbol in Neoplatonic poetic theory? What role does allegory play in strategies of Neoplatonic exegesis, either of Plato’s texts or of other canonical or scriptural texts? How do Neoplatonists deploy theories of allegory, analogy, and symbolism to approach traditional texts?

From Plato’s dialogues, to Middle Platonist treatments of those dialogues (e.g., Apuleius’ Golden Ass; Origen’s exegesis of the Phaedrus in the Contra Celsum) to the full-blown Neoplatonic theories of allegory we find in Proclus’ Commentary on the Republic, to later Renaissance uses of symbols and emblems (e.g. Bruno’s imprese in On the Heroic Frenzies), symbolism is a key component of Platonic discourse. What roles do the language of symbol, theories of symbolism, and or other aesthetic approaches to textuality play in the Platonic traditions? How do Neoplatonists apply the category of symbol to registers that are other than literary (as in for example in theurgy)?

Since Sheppard’s 1976 Oxford dissertation, Studies on the 5th and 6th essays of Proclus' Commentary on the Republic, scholarly interest in Neoplatonic allegory and poetics has increased. Not only is the first volume of the new Cambridge translation of Proclus’ Commentary on the Republic (Edited and translated by Baltzly, Finamore and Miles) about to appear, but now classics volumes such as Lamberton’s Homer the Theologian (Brill 1989) Dawson’s, Allegorical Readers and Cultural Revision in Ancient Alexandria (California 1991) and Struck’s Birth of the Symbol (Princeton 2004)have sponsored an increasingly important field that spans ancient philosophy, poetics, biblical studies, Patristics, and ancient religion.

In this CFP we invite scholars interested in the history, theory, philosophy, and trajectory of symbolism and poetics as they appear in Platonizing texts to submit abstracts of 500–800 words, for papers requiring 15-20 minutes of presentation, electronically to Sara Ahbel-Rappe ( The member's name should appear only on the cover letter, not on the abstract. All abstracts must be received no later than February 24, 2018. Abstracts will be judged anonymously. The panel organizer will subsequently contact those who have written abstracts with the reviewers’ comments and recommendation.