The GIS this term began with two inspiring papers from Thomas Nelson and Claire Rachel Jackson, talking about two important issues in literature study: intertextuality and fictionality.
Thomas in his presentation on “Indices of Allusion in Early Greek Poetry” proposed to reevaluate the presence of allusive markers in early Greek poetry, part of his larger PhD project. Recent studies in Latin intertextuality have explored the way in which Roman poets self-consciously marked and metaphorically figured their intertextual engagements with other poems through various signposts, markers and pointers – what he called ‘indices’ of allusion. One of the most common forms of such self-reflexive annotation is the so-called ‘Alexandrian footnote’, where apparently general appeals to tradition (such as fama est, dicitur and ferunt) seem to signal an allusion to specific literary predecessors. Yet scholars have also noted various metaphors of intertextuality embedded in Latin texts themselves, including those of memory, theft and echo. Thomas pointed out that the presence of such self-conscious allusive markers in Latin poetry is often attributed to the growth of literacy and Hellenistic learning, but he went on to argue that this severely undervalues earlier Greek precedent. Through an examination of the language of hearsay, memory and time in archaic and classical Greek poetry, he demonstrated that these devices were not merely the preserve of later Hellenistic and Latin poetry, but already an integral element of the archaic and classical Greek poetic traditions.
In the second section of the seminar, Claire Rachel Jackson explored an interesting topic on “Epistolary Fictions in ‘The Letters of Chion of Heraclea’”. She interpreted the “Letters of Chion of Heraclea” in a new perspective. The Letters of Chion of Heraclea, an epistolary text from the imperial period, is something of a generic enigma. It has often been described as a philosophical novel in letters, but Claire pointed out that while the philosophical element is clear from its content – its protagonist, Chion, is a student of Plato who is inspired to assassinate the tyrant of Heraclea Clearchus – its novelistic qualities are more debatable. In the talk, Claire suggested that while considering the text as a novel unnecessarily isolates the text from its imperial context, focusing upon its fictionality instead opens up these hitherto unexplored connections with contemporary politics and culture. She demonstrated how the Letters uses its epistolary form and conscious fictionality to explore, perhaps even theorise, imperial fiction and its role within Greek culture of that period.