Call for Papers: "Screening the 'Political Animals' of the Ancient Mediterranean"


Classical Antiquity: Screening the “political animals” of the Ancient Mediterranean world

An area of multiple panels for the 2018 Film & History Conference:

Citizenship and Sociopathy in Film, Television, and New Media

November 7-12, 2018

Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club, Madison, WI (USA)

Full details at:

DEADLINE for abstracts: 1 June 2018 

Aristotle famously defined humans as “political animals”: organizing themselves within the social structure of the polis and its codes of conduct, defining members from outsiders and different types of member in relation to each other and to the whole. From the time of the city’s foundation, Romans were no less concerned with the civitas and citizen status — increasingly so as Roman imperium expanded to encompass ethnic “Others.” The narratives generated and consumed by these societies both acknowledged and questioned the clarity of these theoretical concepts: the Odyssey marks Penelope’s aristocratic suitors as morally base and condemns them to divinely-authorized death worthy of enemies; Herodotus and Thucydides observe the increasingly despotic behavior of democratic Athens, as compared to both “barbarian” and other Greek adversaries; Livy emphasizes how abducted Sabine women stopped a war by asserting their own status and moral authority as Roman wives. Perhaps Julius Caesar would have been reviled as a traitor for his march on Rome, like the failed insurrectionary Catiline, had Caesar’s heir Octavian not gained control over the state, proclaiming the assassinated dictator in perpetuo divine and himself princeps.

All depictions of socio-political relations within the frameworks of kingdom, ethnospoliscivitas, and empire in the ancient Mediterranean world have been shaped and reshaped through the lens of subsequent interest—both in antiquity and in modernity. The Classical Antiquity area solicits abstracts for papers that discuss how film, television, video games, and other screen media represent these relations and frameworks, on topics including but not limited to:

--how representations help modern audiences to imagine those social relations through dramatization — or promise to, despite reshaping ancient accounts to modern tastes

--how representations radically re-envision ancient accounts of political actors and communities to suit contemporary purposes (e.g. the noble rebel Spartacus in Kubrick’s 1960 film or the vengeful survivor Artemisia in 2013’s300: Rise of an Empire)

--how modern social constructs (e.g. race, sexuality, gender) have been retrojected into depictions of ancient communities and individuals’ relations to each other and that whole

--how depictions of epochal shifts (e.g. constitutional, epistemological) redefine enfranchised/disenfranchised, subversive/revolutionary, patriot/traitor, barbarian/civilized

--how a “bad ruler/system” is critiqued by focus on a good/conscientious community member, or a “good ruler/system” is destroyed by criminality/sociopathy

--“rise and/or fall” narratives that turn on revolution, civil war, tyrannical coup, restoration

--use of ancient Mediterranean societies to stage modern romance with e.g. democracy, republicanism, fascism, imperialism

Proposals for complete panels of three related presentations are also welcome, but should include an abstract and contact information (including email) for each presenter.

Please e-mail your 200-400-word proposal to the area chair:

Meredith Safran

Trinity College


(Photo: "Handwritten" by A. Birkan, licensed under CC BY 2.0)


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