Online Conference

POETIC TRADITIONS IN MANUSCRIPT CULTURES.

Our inter-disciplinary forum will bring together scholars working on different pre-modern cultures interested in the manuscript representation and transmission of early poetry. It will review the tension between the oral performative element of early poetic traditions, on the one hand, and the written element in the material context of manuscript cultures and reading audiences, on the other.

Please consult the Conference Statement for more details.

16–17 September 2021
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Schedule

CMTC Team

9:00–9:30 am (GMT+1)

Dirk Meyer, Gabriele Rota, Yegor Grebnev

Introductory word from the organisers

What the conference is about, how the panels are structured, and how the sessions will be organised.

Session One: Texts before texts

Chair: Christopher Metcalf (Queen's, CMTC)

Dirk Meyer&Adam Schwartz

9:30–10:15

Dirk Meyer & Adam Schwartz

Chinese Studies: The Queen’s College, Oxford & HKBU

Aural Fixity and Semantic Flexibility in the Early Chinese Songs: The Case of ‘White boat’ 白舟 / ‘Cedar boat’ 柏舟 in the Ānhuī University Manuscripts

Based on the Shī manuscript of the Anhui University we show how during the Warring States period (ca 453-221 BC) different text communities could fill the sound moulds of aurally fixed Songs creatively for their purposes.

Almut Fries

10:15–11:00

Almut Fries

Classics: The Queen’s College, Oxford

“You shall have Imperishable Fame”: Performance, Reperformance and Writing in Early Greek Praise Poetry

This paper explores how the early Greek praise poets, especially their best-preserved representative Pindar, strove to ensure that their songs would still appeal to future audiences, whether in reperformance or in the emerging literary tradition.

Session Two: Literary forms

Chair: Selena Wisnom (Leicester, CMTC)

Patrick Finglass

11:15–12:00

Patrick Finglass

Classics: University of Bristol

How many lines in a Sapphic stanza?

Editors of Sappho typically set out the famous Sapphic stanza across four lines, a practice which goes back to antiquity, at least to the Hellenistic period – but the practice is clearly contrary to Sappho’s metrical shaping of the stanza, which involves not four lines but only three. Why is this, and why does it matter for editors and readers of Sappho’s poetry today?

Julia Bray

12:00–12:45

Julia Bray

Arabic Studies: St John’s College, Oxford

Arabic picture-poems and the “tree of praise” : a long - and significant? - tradition

Taking as its focus one figure found recurrently in Arabic generative picture-poetry, this paper will try to piece together its travels around the Mediterranean over several centuries and ask whether it is its longevity alone that makes the picture-poem significant.

Session Three: Scribes and editors

Chair: John Baines (Queen's, CMTC)

Anthony Lappin

14:00–14:45

Anthony Lappin

Romance Studies: University of Stockholm

The End Is Nigh. Telling the Audience That It’s All Over Now

We shall look at the means used by scribes and authors to delimit the scope of a work, both as written unit or temporal performance. We will thus look at the functions and deployment of explicits (verse, prose, juglaresque, scribal, editorial, autorial), colophons (in various forms) and some other forms of indicating closure; at how these fins were important in a manuscript culture, and how they could become fossilized in transmission.

Sam Mirelman

14:45–15:30

Sam Mirelman

Mesopotamian Studies: SOAS

Oral and written in Sumerian literature

In this paper I shall illustrate how the scribes of Mesopotamia only partially represented ancient poetic compositions in writing. I shall discuss specific instances within the three millennia of cuneiform culture, where it may be demonstrated that writing was used as an aide-mémoire within a context of oral transmission.

Session Four: Textual multiplicity

Chair: Ulrike Roesler (Oriental Institute, Oxford)

Chen Zhi

15:45–16:30

Chen Zhi

Chinese Studies: Hong Kong Baptist University

Xiaoyao and shuchi: a few special uses of alliterative binomes

Through the analysis of binomes in bronze inscriptions and bamboo and silk manuscripts, this paper shows how their variants and related expressions enable us to reinterpret passages from the received Classics which had previously been misunderstood or misinterpreted.

Tara Hathaway

16:30–17:15

Tara Hathaway

South Asian Studies: The Queen’s College, Oxford

“Editing” Rājaśekhara’s Bālabhārata: an examination of the variants and anomalies found in Sanskr. d. 88

Rājaśekhara's Bālabhārata (‘The Little Bhārata’, c. 10th century) is an incomplete two-act play containing both verse and prose passages. It has several published editions with irreconcilable variants that change the verses' meaning. I shall evaluate one particular 17th century manuscript (Sanskr. d. 88, Bodleian Libraries) to discuss some of the textual discrepancies and explore the extent to which this manuscript’s variant readings can shed light on scribal habits with regard to Sanskrit kāvya (poetry).

CMTC Team

17:30–18:30

Breakout sessions

Free time for informal group discussions.

Session Five: Genre and reception

Chair: Angus Bowie (Queen's, CMTC)

Christian Keime

9:30–10:15 (GMT+1)

Christian Keime

Classics: Girton College, Cambridge

Tragedy and Comedy in Plato's Symposium (223d2-6)

At the end of Plato's Symposium, Socrates claims that 'the same man should know how to compose tragedy and comedy, and the person who is a tragic poet by art (tekhnê) would also be a comic poet' (223d). I shall explore the philosophical implications of this claim. Plato here may provide key insights on the educational value of Socrates' dialectic and on the dramatic nature of his own writings.

Gesine Manuwald

10:15–11:00

Gesine Manuwald

Classics: University College London

Literary history in fragments: the transmission of Roman Republican literature and its reception

This paper will look at how the fragments of Roman Republican literature have been transmitted (by isolated quotations in later ancient authors) and how this way of transmission has shaped the perception of this phase of Roman literature in modern scholarship.

Session Six: Contemporary authorship

Chair: Hindy Najman (Oriel, Centre for the Study of the Bible)

Karin Barber

11:15–12:00

Karin Barber

African Studies & Anthropology: University of Birmingham

Oral Yoruba genres and homegrown print culture in early colonial Lagos, Nigeria

Local, artisanal print production in the Yoruba language flourished in early colonial western Nigeria without there having been an extensive preceding manuscript culture. It provided a space in which authors and editors could, for the first time, collect, preserve, and legitimise popular urban oral genres – while also changing them.

Gabriele Rota

12:00–12:45

Gabriele Rota

Classics: The Queen’s College, Oxford

Immortal Trash. Ovid’s Tristia and textual transmission in-between books

Tristia is the first of two collections of poems that Ovid wrote from his exile on the Black Sea. The five books were written and sent to Rome separately in the course of three years. In this paper I will explore Ovid’s traumatic confrontation with the unforgiving nature of textual transmission, and the clever ways in which he manipulates the expectations of contemporary readers at the end and start of subsequent books.

CMTC Team

14:00–15:00

Final roundtable discussion

All participants will be invited to share their reflections.

Host Institutions

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Established in 1341, The Queen's College prides itself in a long tradition of research of ancient cultures. The Centre for Manuscript and Text Cultures is a research-focused group that advances cutting-edge studies of pre-modern manuscript and epigraphic traditions around the world.

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Jao Tsung-I Academy of Sinology was established in 2013 at Hong Kong Baptist University for the purpose of understanding and preserving Chinese cultural heritage, through focused research and engaged teaching.

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