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From “mirror of antiquity” to antiquities on screens: shaping self, persona, society through media/ted encounters with imagined pasts

The 2023 Antiquity in Media Studies international online conference (via Zoom)

Americas, UK, and EU
Friday-Saturday November 10-11 & 17-18: regular conferencing days
Monday-Thursday November 13-16: special events

Saturday-Sunday November 11-12 & 18-19: regular conferencing days
Tuesday-Friday November 14-17: special events


Since antiquity, mirrors have been endowed with magical abilities to reveal different truths than what mere physics requires. Infused with the cultural expectations of its beholder, a mirror can conjure images of hidden desires, true selves, cautionary tales, and unwelcome revelations in the light passing over its surface. Modern subscribers to the Western “classical tradition” looked into the “mirror of antiquity” and conjured up images from the Greek and Roman past as models for aspects of contemporary life, justified by claims of moral or spiritual kinship that established an emotionally potent relationship between beholder and image.

Through the mirror of antiquity, a viewer’s sense of self could be mediated by the image of an ancient model, a persona fit for the scenario. Pre- and early industrial elites (and those who aspired to that powerful status) in many countries propagated this affinity for “classical antiquity” in society over time, including through educational institutions historically intended to prepare people for positions of importance in society. As 20th-century elites turned broadly away from antiquity as a source of guidance and toward imagining the world of the future, over time educational institutions have followed suit, thus narrowing one of the primary streams of cultural activity through which an epistemology of “antiquity”, including Western “classical” or “Greco-Roman” antiquity, had developed over centuries.

And yet, this technocratic turn and institutional disinvestment have hardly resulted in the disappearance of antiquity from public discourse. Ancient worlds, particularly Mediterranean antiquities–including Greek, Roman, Biblical, Egyptian, and Near Eastern deep pasts–continue to be conjured especially as art and entertainment. With the “mirror of antiquity” model largely (but not entirely) discarded as a vehicle for self-improvement, another reflective, and reflexive, surface arose: the screen, where projections of ancient worlds and contemporary retellings of ancient narratives have continued to proliferate across myriad media, implicating the global entertainment industry and billions of consumers worldwide, and further refracting through fan culture.

Whether through mirror, screen, or other medium, popular culture has long made its own uses of antiquity as a transnational metaverse, with or without pixels. What does this dynamic and sometimes interactive sandbox for the shaping of self, persona, and identity look like in societies that become less invested in the study of antiquity, as reflected in the priorities of institutions that serve and (re)produce those societies? What sorts of reflections do all kinds of people see, and seek, when they engage with antiquity on screen? What selves are constructed through the play of pixels purporting to represent the ancient past, from early childhood well into adulthood? What kinds of engagement may be sparked by reading against the grain when representations of antiquity exclude or distort the selves with which some contemporary viewers may identify? How does this environment change who can shape the meanings and value(s) of “antiquity”?


With such questions in mind, for our 2023 annual meeting the conference committee of Antiquity in Media Studies invites contributions that engage with this year’s theme, whether through individual case studies, trend analysis, experimental processes, theoretical frameworks for broader inquiry, or creative interpretations. AIMS welcomes contributions from scholars, educators, and creatives that treat a wide variety of media, including but not limited to: the products and production of film, television, analog and video games, novels/genre fiction, fan fiction, comics, manga, anime, animation, fashion, music, theater, dance, cooking, and social media.

AIMS welcomes a variety of formats for the presentation of research, pedagogy, and creative responses to the reception of antiquity, including but not limited to: individual 20-minute papers, three-paper panels, roundtables, workshops, poster sessions, lightning sessions, play-throughs, live multi-player games, technical demonstrations, creative showcases, creator interviews, and other activities that can fit within a 60-90 minute time slot and be delivered remotely at this online conference. NOTE: Research papers will be pre-recorded and available with captioning in advance of the conference, while discussions of these papers will be live.

To submit proposals, please click through to the form below. AIMS is committed to creating an environment that supports participants of diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and we encourage submissions from scholars, educators, and creatives from underrepresented backgrounds.

Submit a Proposal

Submissions are due by Friday, August 11.

Questions about the conference? Contact AIMS President Meredith Safran

AIMS logo, black on white, reads AIMS and Antiquity in Media Studies