Archive for June, 2014

A fragmentary summer III

If one starts thinking about conferences focusing on fragments that will take place this summer, one should not forget the one organised by the Department of Classics from University College London:

Song Regained, Greek Epic and Lyric Fragments from the Archaic to the Imperial Era
2-4 July 2014

For further information see their webside

In this case the focus is on Greek poetic fragments and interestingly the topic is addressed in a chronological perspective including works from the Archaic period up to Late Antiquity. Three sessions are dedicated to Hellenistic poetry and many of the participants can also be found in the programme from the Warsaw Conference on fragments. The venue is preceded by a one-day workshop were methodological questions are dealt with and participants will be trained in the handling of papyri. It is really a pity that I will not be able to attend the conference!

A fragmentary summer II

Here is the announcement for the second venue on fragments happening this summer. Fragments, seen as reused textual elements, will be the theme of a panel discussion at the Digital Humanity 2014 Conference which will be held in Lausanne from the 7th to the 12th July. More information about the panel may be found at, but here a sort summary of the approach the panel will explore:

DH 2014, Lausanne, 10 July 2014, 09:00-10:30
Amphimax, room 410

Text reuse – the meaningful reiteration of text, usually beyond the simple repetition of common language – is a broad concept that can naturally be understood at different levels and studied in a large variety of contexts. This panel will gather researchers from different projects focussing on text reuse in the field of Digital Classics with the aim of discussing the possible approaches to and understandings of the notion. It will also bring together current efforts and lay the ground for further research.

Aurélien Berra (Université Paris-Ouest & EHESS)
Matteo Romanello (German Archaeological Institute & King’s College London)
Alexandra Trachsel (University of Hamburg)

Invited participants:
Monica Berti (University of Leipzig)
Chris Forstall (University at Buffalo, SUNY)
Annette Geßner (University of Leipzig)
Charlotte Tupman (King’s College London)

I am really looking forward, especially after having attended the Warsaw conference on fragments last week, to taking part in this panel. It will be particularly interesting for me to switch from one domain, Classics, and its approach to fragments to the other, Digital Humanities. Both research fields face the same difficulties when dealing with the fragmentariness of the past, but each has its own tradition and methodology. The challenge consists, therefore, in bringing both fields together.

A fragmentary summer I

Photo authored by Ewa Kondracka and kindly provided by Jan Kwapisz

Photo authored by Ewa Kondracka and kindly provided by Jan Kwapisz

Last week the conference entitled Fragments, Holes, and Wholes was held in Warsaw. Its theme was the reconstruction of the past in theory and practice. The papers focused on several aspects of the fragmentariness of our access to the past, especially to the Greco-Roman past and gave fascinating insights into the different fields of Classics. Here is a sort summary:

Themes linked to the more theoretical aspects:

  • A first important aspect was the question of how scholars should deal with quotations and their incorporation in later works. The context in which they have been transmitted is different from the original one and there may be a huge gap between the original context and the several and various reuses of the pieces coming from the lost work.
  • Secondly much attention was given to the concept of reuse and what the new context of a given piece may tell us about either the way ancient people understood these pieces or about the social context in which these reuses were made. This was illustrated with examples such as the tabulae Iliacae and the ancient collections of poems preserved in papyri. It was, however, also a central element in two further papers: the one on the Hellenistic machines and that which presented an interesting attempt to make sense of a large amount of pottery remains.
  • Furthermore, the quoting methods of ancient authors was brought to the fore in several papers. It was illustrated in Cicero’s speeches and in Latin oratory in general, in Plutarch’s Lives, in Polybios, in Ps.-Apollodorus and to a lesser degree even in Stephanus of Byzantium. On the other hand, also the quoted authors were discussed and how a new approach focusing more on the context could help to collect the fragments of their works. Here we had examples from the Latin Atellane comedies and from Dicaearchus. In the paper on the Pythagorean tradition the question was raised whether it was always necessary to reconstruct the past or if the awareness of several readings of a lost past would be more accurate in some cases, especially when we start to think about the evidence we have as several layers of reception.
  • Finally, as a result of this focus on the context in which a piece has been preserved, the question was raised whether one can trust the ancient context in which a fragment has come down to us. This new aspect was for instance also addressed by the papers dealing with the ways the quotations are introduced, either by a certain category of verbs which can be analysed or by imputed intentions that a quoting author may mention while he reproduces the thoughts or speeches of the quoted author. Similarly interesting was the idea which came up in the discussion that we should also explore the ways a work disappears in order to get more information about how it could be recovered.

Themes related to more practical aspects of the reconstruction of the past:

  • Here we may first mention the brilliant demonstration given by the papyrologists of how they reconstruct on a daily basis the often very tiny pieces and bits preserved on the papyri.
  • We had also several papers on the previous collections of fragments, such as Jacoby’s FGriHist, Diels’ collection of Presocratic fragments and Kassel-Austin’s collection of comic playwrights. The choices from these outstanding editors were presented and discussed. The papers showed how controversial they are today, even if they also pointed out how necessary these choices were for the projects themselves at the time when they were undertaken. A large part of the discussion was, however, dedicated to the presentation of new projects and their new ways of approaching the difficult question of collecting fragments.
  • Finally we also had an interesting summary of the archaeological project of the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures from the Polish Academy of Sciences and this reminded us that fragments can be more than just textual elements.

The three days were extremely inspiring and they will certainly help to develop further research on fragments and their modern understanding. However, I am also please to announce here that this was only one of two venues scheduled for this summer where fragments play an important role. The second is coming soon…