Thursday, 5 February 2015

Zachary Yuzwa: Dialogues in the Late Ancient World

Christians do dialogue. In the shifting intellectual terrain of late antiquity, the genre remained a vital form for philosophical and religious expression, as shown in Averil Cameron’s recent work (Cameron 2014). From Origen to Augustine, from Gregory of Nyssa to Gregory the Great, many of the most influential early Christian authors chose to employ the literary genre of the dialogue in their writing. The late ancient world was crowded with new ideas and competing voices, and the dialogue was one venue in which those debates were regularly staged.
By attending to the diversity of dialogic texts, we will explore the limits of the form. We will proceed from close readings of individual examples of the genre, in an attempt to understand the interplay of literary structure and philosophical or religious content; the relationship between literary production and a text’s social logic; the persistence of ancient literary forms and the influence of novel religious ideas. Between Plato and the rise of the Christian dialogue stand the impressive and influential dialogue corpora of Cicero, Plutarch and Lucian. How does the dialogue tradition change over its long history?  In what ways are Christians participating in new developments within the genre? What do dialogue writers hope to accomplish?   
This workshop will bring together scholars working on dialogic texts that span a broad chronological and geographical range: Methodius in Asia Minor, Augustine in North Africa, Julian the Apostate in Constantinople and Sulpicius Severus in Gaul. Study of the dialogue in antiquity is currently undergoing a revival of interest, and we hope to further the conversation by offering a fresh set of readings of some of the many late ancient dialogues, across linguistic and geographical boundaries.

Paper Titles: 1. “What is the point of Methodius’ Symposium?” 2. “Unity in Augustine’s Dialogues.” 3. “Towards a New History of the Sympotic Genre. 4. “Why would emperors dialogue? Form and Content of Julian’s Caesars.” 5. “Conceptual Blending and the Use of Exempla in Sulpicius Severus’ Gallus.

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