Project ‚Reading Symmachus’ Letter Collection by the Book’. Literarästhetische, narratologische und historische Studien…

Basic data

Title:
‚Reading Symmachus’ Letter Collection by the Book’. Literarästhetische, narratologische und historische Studien zur Briefsammlung des Symmachus
Duration:
01/09/2021 to 31/08/2024
Abstract / short description:
The project follows a recent trend in reading ancient letter collections ‘by the book.’ This approach was introduced into Classics by the British scholars Mary Beard and Roy Gibson. It is based on the insight that ancient letter collections which are for the most part ordered non-chronologically, are not a contingent product of unorganized and untalented compilers and editors who are hardly interested in contemporary politics and history. Rather, they are the result of a series of intentional decisions which are not primarily aiming to simply document historical or (auto)biographical events and developments. According to Beard and Gibson, it is important to understand ancient letter collections as ‘literary collections’ or ‘books of literature’, i.e. to take their arrangements which came down to us, seriously and to explore implications and possible intentions resulting from them.In the context of this overarching approach, the project puts the literary component of the correspondence of the late Roman aristocrat Q. Aurelius Symmachus (died presumably in 402) in the center of the analysis. It aims to work out principles and patterns of composition according to which his surviving letter collection is designed, as well as to identify implications emerging from its arrangement and to contextualize them in the contemporary, social, cultural and educational history of the late fourth century AD.To this end, as methodology is concerned the study takes both a ‘traditional’ and an ‘innovative’ way. On the one hand, the arrangement of Symmachus’ letter collection will be related to contemporary, late antique poetic and aesthetic concepts, above all to the ‘Jeweled Style’. This notion of the poetics and aesthetics of Late Antiquity was first presented by Michael Roberts in 1989 and is fundamental in this regard to this day. This approach aims to understand and explain the design of the collection against the background of its own cultural and educational context and thus adheres to one of the key concerns of current research on Late Antiquity: to understand it as a period in its own terms. Furthermore, the project takes an approach which is to be seen ‘innovative’ in the study of the arrangement of ancient text collections. For it will examine three of the fragmentary narratives resulting from the specific design of the collection by applying analysis categories derived from modern narratology (Brian McHale’s concept of ‘weak narrativity’; Jurij Lotman’s notion of ‘eventfulness’; Gérard Genette’s category of ‘order’): the rehabilitation of Symmachus documented in book 3, the rehabilitation of his son-in-law Nicomachus Flavianus minor in book 4 who fell out of favor with the emperor after having supported the usurper Eugenius, and the supply crisis in the city of Rome in the years 394 to 398 which is dealt with in book 6.

Involved staff

Managers

Institute of Philology
Department of Ancient Studies and Art History, Faculty of Humanities

Other staff

Institute of Philology
Department of Ancient Studies and Art History, Faculty of Humanities

Local organizational units

Institute of Philology
Department of Ancient Studies and Art History
Faculty of Humanities

Funders

Bonn, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
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