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What’s Roma Got to Do with It?: Staging Romanitas in Republican Drama

SCS 2019, San Diego

T. H. M. Gellar-Goad, V. Sophie Klein, and Erin K. Moodie, organizers

What is Roman about Roman Republican drama? Modeled on Greek genres, often explicitly adapting specific Greek plays, and featuring many obviously non-Roman characters, Roman drama emerged as part of Rome’s large-scale appropriation of Greek culture. The process of literary Romanization of Greek texts and genres is complex. This panel will assemble papers moving beyond Quellenforschung to probe the dramatic texts of the Republic on questions of Roman identity, Roman imperialism, cultural synthesis, and paradigms of Roman and Other.

For example, the Roman stage boasted non-Roman playwrights, the influence of non-Roman pre-dramatic traditions, non-Roman actors and troupes, and non-Romans as spectators. Yet plays received their most prominent performances at ludi, a quintessential Roman institution that itself became a site for the assimilation of non-Roman cultures and concepts. Even the language of comoedia palliata blends Latin with Greek and other languages, and it foregrounds terms such as pergraecari, barbare, and uortere that call attention to the cultural fusion taking place.

Furthermore, Rome was becoming a cosmopolitan city at the same time as it was becoming an empire. The influx of non-Romans and new Romans — voluntary immigrants, people imported in slavery, manumitted slaves — changed the City’s demographic character and the demographic makeup of the audiences of Roman drama. Anxieties about Roman and non-Roman crop up in the theater in the form of ethnic stereotyping and orientalism, and Rome continued staging comedies during its wars with Carthage. The Roman stage is thus an excellent crucible for testing and displaying Roman identity.

We invite papers that investigate all aspects of staging Romanitas. Papers might address some or all of the following questions:

  • How do specific playwrights project Romanitas onto the stage?
  • In what ways do playwrights of comedy and tragedy in Roman dress distinguish their dramatic worlds generically and culturally from the palliata and cothurnata?
  • What do the physical and narrative settings of the performance do to confirm or destabilize the world of the play?
  • How does civic context play into performance?
  • How, and to what effect, do playwrights signal cultural similarities and differences to native and to foreign audience members?
  • How do spectators share in the experience of otherness portrayed on stage?

Anonymized abstracts must be submitted by February 8, 2018, as an attachment to with “What’s Roma Got to Do With It” as the subject. The organizers will referee abstracts anonymously and inform submitters before the Individual Abstracts deadline.