CONF: Roman Error: The Reception of Ancient Rome as a Flawed Model

A Conference at the University of Michigan
September 20th–21st, 2013
Angell Hall 3222

The idea of large-scale Roman missteps—whether imperial domination, sexual immorality, political corruption, greed, religious intolerance, cultural insensitivity, or the like—has been a notion “good to think with” since antiquity, and persists in familiar comparisons between the Roman Empire and the present-day United States. This conference seeks to go beyond a merely thematic discussion to re-examine the connections between “Roman error,” broadly conceived, and basic features of the reception of antiquity including: misunderstanding and misprision, repetition and difference, the subject’s relation to a (remembered or unconscious) past, performance and illusion, and links between text and image. If the Romans “erred,” what are the consequences for Rome’s inheritors as they attempt to construct a stable relation to Rome as a flawed “source” or model? We ask not simply, “Are Rome’s errors ours?” but, “How does Roman error figure in the reception of Rome itself?”

FRIDAY, September 20th

2:00 Welcome

Error and Empire

2:15 Phiroze Vasunia (University of Reading), “The Roman Empire and the Error of Civilization”

3:00 Margaret Malamud (New Mexico State University), “Worse than Cato? How to Think about Slavery”

Error and the Body Politic

4:00 Michèle Lowrie (University of Chicago), “Civil War and the Republic to Come in Victor Hugo’s Quatrevingt-treize” 

4:45 Joy Connolly (New York University), “Past Sovereignty: Roman Freedom in Modernity”

SATURDAY, September 21st

Error and Affect

9:00 Marc Bizer, (University of Texas at Austin), “Romans into (Elite) Frenchmen: Michel de Montaigne’s Revision of Cicero on the Politics of Friendship”

9:45 Craig Williams (Brooklyn College, CUNY), “False Friends: Moments in the Reception of amicitia

Error and Assessment

10:45 Caroline Vout (University of Cambridge), “The Error of Roman Aesthetics”

11:30 Serafina Cuomo (Birkbeck, University of London), “Measurement, Error, and Accuracy in the Roman World”

Error, Religion, and Philosophy

2:00 Marco Formisano (Ghent University), “Roman Errors and Religion: Symmachus and Lorenzo Valla”

2:45 Richard Fletcher (The Ohio State University), “The Kristevan Slip: Narcissus, Eros, and Other Errors in Roman Philosophy”

Error, Narrative, and Film

3:45 Catharine Edwards (Birkbeck, University of London), “The Romance of Roman Error: Encounters with Antiquity in Hawthorne's The Marble Faun

4:30 Maria Wyke (University College, London), “The Pleasures and Punishments of Roman Excess: Elagabalus at the Court of Early Cinema”

This event is co-sponsored by the following sources at the University of Michigan: the Contexts for Classics research consortium, the Department of Classical Studies, the Departments of Comparative Literature, History, Philosophy, English, History of Art, Romance Languages and Literatures, Asian Languages and Cultures, American Culture, and Afroamerican and African Studies, the Program in Medieval and Early Modern Studies, the Institute for the Humanities, the International Institute, the LSA Organize an Event Fund, and the Rackham Dean’s Strategic Fund.

For information please contact Basil Dufallo, Associate Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature, University of Michigan (dufallo@umich.edu).

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