Sophistic Views of the Epic Past from the Classical to the Imperial Age

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Monday 3 - Wednesday 5 September
King Alfred Quarter, University of Winchester, Sparkford Road, Winchester, Hampshire SO22 4NR 

The aim of this conference is to investigate the ways in which the Sophists engaged with their poetic past, thus suggesting new perspectives and directions for the study of periods of major cultural and social transformation in antiquity.

The conference aims to start by examining how the first Sophists, in the 5th and 4th centuries BC, appropriated and transformed the poetic past, in order to present themselves as the heirs of traditional culture – only to attempt to replace it with their new, revolutionary models. In addition to this, the conference seeks to explore how, in the Imperial age, writers belonging to the so-called Second Sophistic continued and innovated on this trend, by reconfiguring the value of epic poetry according to the new cultural and political circumstances. In so doing, the conference will identify similarities and differences in the first and second Sophistic’s approaches to the poetic past, and shed further light on aspects of continuity and innovation between them.   

We encourage an interdisciplinary approach to the topic. Scholars of philosophy, rhetoric, reception of epic, and textual criticism will cover various aspects of the Sophists’ interaction with the poetic tradition, including for example: interest in the language, diction and meter of the epic poems, manipulation of epic myths and characters, appropriation and rielaboration of the idea of poetic competition and performance, treatment of the biographical legends about the epic poets.

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