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Call for Papers
From Life to Literature?
Genre and Performance in Hellenistic and Roman Literature

Boston University Graduate Student Conference, 27 April 2024
Keynote Speaker: Prof. Richard Hunter (Cambridge)

Timon of Phlius famously labeled the Alexandrians “cloistered librarians in the cage of the Muses” (fr. 786 SH = 12D), caricaturing Hellenistic literature as completely bookish and divorced from the social performative contexts in which classical and archaic literary forms had originated. It is in Hellenistic literature that we first encounter the idea of genre as a concept independent of those contexts, especially as authors begin to consciously blend genres and make allusions across them. But what of the original performative contexts? Did they become completely irrelevant, or did the formal social settings of classical and archaic source texts retain any meaning for Hellenistic and Roman authors?

The BU Classical Studies Graduate Student Conference invites papers that explore ways in which Hellenistic and Roman authors engaged with the earlier performative elements of their genres. We hope that case studies of allusions in any genre of Hellenistic and Roman literature will contribute to a fruitful conversation of the general issue. Examples of possible questions include, but are not limited to:

  • How do allusions to archaic and classical literary forms comment on contemporary contexts in Hellenistic and Roman literature?
  • Do allusions to Pindar’s poetry in Hellenistic and Roman texts retain the encomiastic function of the original performative context?
  • How does Horace’s reception of sympotic poetry allow him to reimagine the symposium for a Roman audience?
  • Did Senecan tragedy, whether intended for performance or not, imagine a civic performative context comparable to that of classical Athens?
  • Do more popular genres like mime and farce leave traces of the physicality of their original performances?
  • Does political context and frame narrative, so integral to the Platonic dialogue form, remain significant for later writers of philosophical dialogues?

Papers should be 20 minutes in length. Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words, excluding bibliography, to, by February 9th, 2024.

Call for Papers