Morning Day 2:
So, slightly more settled and with much less to do I began Day 2 [Storified Here] with the Greek Authors panel.
The first paper of the day, Stephen Trazkoma‘s discussion of Chariton’s Callirhoe as alt. history. As a young classicist this was the paper that I found easiest to follow even though it has been several years since I studied Greek novel. Trazkoma’s thesis was that Chariton’s dating in the novel has been misunderstood as lazy, careless or ill-educated whereas in fact (in his opinion) since the accurate dates in the novel appear to relate to events before 1 set point and all the variations or inaccuracies occur after the variation at that set point (namely 413 & the Battle of the Great Harbour) Chariton was in fact experimenting with writing alternative history. He suggested that this style allowed Chariton to re-imagine history with his hero in the key events and create a new local power structure.
This was both a fascinating use of modern categorisations to re-analyse ancient material and a comprehensive argument about the imaginative scope of an individual writer. From my point of view it was extremely convincing but I would happily defer to people who know the text better to spot flaws in his list of dates and events – definitely looking forward to the book..
The second paper was by Brett Rogers on Orestes & Aeschylus in Half Blood Prince and the rest of the Harry Potter series. With the exception of Nick Lowe’s plenary, this was undoubtedly the most theoretically focused talk that I listened to over the conference. As well as demonstrating his theories about the structural and thematic parallels with the Oresteia (such as the Orestes/Pylades/Electra – Harry/Ron/Hermione link & issues around nature of tyrants or kin-slaughter) Rogers was keen to discuss models of reception in terms of equivalence, allusion & ‘ghosting’ [See also Keen’s breakdown of categories & later comments about N. Lowe].
Rowling is clearly an interesting author to do this kind of study with since her classical education is well known and the choice of a passage from Libation-Bearers in Deathly Hallows even more strongly encourages us to go back to that text as a reading aid. However, the question always remains: what is the purpose of discovering possible allusions and echoes – what does it add to our understanding of the texts?
Finally we heard from Robert Cape on Sophocles in Silverberg’s Man in the Maze. As someone who hasn’t read any Silverberg since she was in her early teens, devouring dozens of novels a week but paying attention to very few and who remembers even less of them I was struck by the explicitness of his reworking of the Philoctetes story. Cape commented on the fact that it is possible to trace some of his understanding of Sophocles’ themes to contemporary scholarship and especially looked at some of the ways these were re-written to reflect social concerns such as whether emotional disability is a social problem and what happens if the thing which causes isolation from society is also what society needs.
Overall, the paper suggested to me more ways or re-reading Sophocles – and reminded me just how gloomy some social commentary can be especially when it now feels outdated in its gender and racial politics…
Next up: Whedonverse. Whereupon I am back to more familiar ground.