Graduate Interdisciplinary Seminar

GIS Report: 23/10/2015

From Roman grandeur to Grecian glory, and two papers that challenge us to consider the relationship between images, objects and texts.

What’s the poetic effect of lists? Daniel Anderson’s talk “Greek Poetic Lists and the Materiality of Language” gave us an answer to this question: they evoke materiality in a range of different ways. To get to this result on a first instance Daniel, a third-year PhD, drew on ancient non-poetic, non-literary lists, bringing to our attention the fact that lists in these contexts primarily serve the purpose of recording the physical presence of objects. After this premise, Daniel gave us an overview of how lists and list-like tropes all share in foregrounding materiality in a range of different ways. Daniel started us off with Semonides fr.7, arguing that here the list objectifies the conceptual otherness of women, locating it securely into ‘matter’. He then showed how language itself becomes ‘weighty’ and therefore ‘thing-like’ in some examples of lists, or list-like tropes drawn from Attic drama. This way of alluding to the materiality of language in the context of a list, he argued, is part of a conceptual framework that can be traced as early as Homer. In the Catalogue of Ships of Iliad 2 the auditory heaviness of the ensuing catalogue is expressed in the famous appeal to the Muses that prefaces it: ‘But the multitude I could not tell or name, not even if ten tongues were mine and ten mouths and a voice unwearying, and the heart within me were of bronze…’ (Il.2,486-488). Finally, Daniel talked to us about the list-like effects of multiple anaphoras of the proper name in sympotic contexts. Here, the deictic effect of this form of repetition emphasises the relation between words and their physical referent in the material world.

Our second speaker, third-year PhD Max Leventhal demonstrated how our frequent prioritisation of text over image (à la Magritte’s ceci n’est pas une pipe) can sometimes lead us into misunderstanding the evidence, or failing to see its sophistication. In a beautifully-illustrated presentation, Max opened up the relationship between mythological scenes depicted on drinking vessels and the written versions of these myths, existing both outside and sometimes within the images themselves. Divergences between a visual and written telling need not indicate a lack of familiarity with the latter. Images offer artists, and the symposiasts who viewed them, the opportunity to view a story synoptically, to make connections within and between narratives by exploiting the fact that a vessel does not need to be ‘read’ in a certain direction from a specific starting point, and to suggest playful connections between story and symposiastic context.

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