Cultures of Reading in the Ancient Mediterranean

Monday, October 28, 2019 - 1:30pm to 6:00pm

Smith Warehouse, Ahmadieh Family Lecture Hall, Bay 4, C105

Event Contact

Miller, Sylvia

Simone Oppen, Dartmouth College; Daniel Picus, Carleton College; Travis Proctor, Wittenberg University; and Stephen Young, Appalachian State University

This international, interdisciplinary research program is an exploration of ancient "reading cultures" or "reading communities" that seeks to extend the work in William Johnson's Readers and Reading Cultures in the High Empire: A Study of Elite Communities (Oxford University Press, 2010). This approach insists that scholars embed consideration of texts and text-based practices in the larger socio-cultural realities in which they gained currency. In this afternoon conference, four scholars, selected from a group who responded to an international call for abstracts, will present new short papers that will expand the topical and methodological scope of the research and position ancient reading practices in a revealing new light. The chronological focus will range from the first century CE through to late antiquity, and the topics will include Herodotean scholia, the Shepherd of Hermas, Paul, and Plutarch, among others. Please join us for lively discussion with the authors, prospective authors, and editors of a new multi-authored book-in-progress, followed by a reception.

Conference Program

1:30 – 1:45 p.m.

Welcome and introductions

Open Panel Session One, moderated by William Johnson (Duke)

1:45 p.m.

Simone Oppen, Dartmouth College, “Why Herodotus is Worth Copying: The Scholia on Book 1.” This paper explores the neglected scholia to Herodotus as a source of information for why the Histories remained relevant to readerly communities. In particular, it examines how the scholia to Book 1 encourage readers to connect the Histories to their own cultural and intellectual mileux.

2:15 p.m.

Daniel Picus, Carleton College, “‘Over These Things I Weep”: Liturgy, Reading, and Redaction in Lamentations Rabbah.” This paper considers the composition of a text as a ritual, liturgical act. Using this framework, it examines the "ideal reader" constructed by a passage in the rabbinic text, Lamentations Rabbah.

2:45 p.m.


3:15 p.m.

Coffee & Tea

Open Panel Session Two, moderated by Chris Keith (St Mary’s University, UK)

3:30 p.m.

Travis Proctor, Wittenberg University, “Reading as Revelation:  Writing, Literacy, and Cultures of Reading in the Shepherd of Hermas.” This presentation will explore how the Shepherd of Hermas, a second century Christian revelatory text, constructs an idealized Christian reading culture wherein the processes of book production and dissemination are not merely significant for their transmission of theological knowledge, but serve as foundational ritual practices in their own right.   

4:00 p.m.

Stephen Young, Appalachian State University, “Act’s Paul and Plutarch’s Alexander:  The Authority of Not-Writing in Ancient Mediterranean Literary Cultures.”  This paper thinks about literary sources that sever the connection between writing and authority while still presuming the prestige of interpretive practices. Thus Plutarch and the writer of Acts fashion Alexander and Paul, respectively, as non-writers who demonstrate interpretive mastery over foundational texts.

4:30 p.m.


5:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Reception:  Closing remarks, drinks and hors d’oeuvres

Fresco details showing saint writing in codex on left and woman and child with scrolls on right
Monday, October 28, 2019 - 1:30pm to 6:00pm
Publishing Humanities Initiative
Event Co-Sponsors
Arts & Sciences (A&S), Center for Jewish Studies, Classical Studies, Franklin Humanities Institute (FHI), Religious Studies