UTM-JHI Annual Seminar Series

UTM-JHI Seminar Series

Dealing with Fragmentary Evidence from Graeco-Roman Antiquity

Anyone working on Graeco-Roman antiquity - whether they approach their topic from a historical, literary or archaeological perspective - is constantly confronted with fragmentary evidence. Critical reflection on this aspect of our evidence is therefore of central importance to anyone in the discipline, which in turn invites comparison as to how colleagues in adjacent fields of Classics approach their fragmented sources.

This joint UTM-Jackman Humanities Institute seminar sets out to address material, methodological and historical questions that arise from this crucial fact concerning the state of our evidence. Guiding questions for our work include the following:

  • What is a ‘fragment’? What do terms like ‘complete,’ ‘incomplete,’ ‘recoverable,’ or ‘lost’ mean in the study of Graeco-Roman antiquity, and how do these terms inform our approach to the material?
  • How do we ‘complete’ fragmentary evidence (both textual and material)? Is it appropriate to use theory, context, comparison, conjectural supplement and/or extrapolation? Should ‘completion’ be the objective in the first place, or are there ways to see the fragmentary state of evidence as inspiring and stimulating?
  • Work on fragmentary evidence, preserved in a (usually, much later) host text, invites questions about the later text’s reliability regarding the preservation of the lost work’s original intentions or, to rephrase the problem, the host text’s interest in obfuscating these intentions. Consequently, when is the attribution of meaning to a fragmentary work by way of its historical contextualization legitimate?
  • What are responsible ways of presenting fragmentary evidence? Historically, how have best practices of presenting fragmentary evidence differed over time? What is the role of translation when dealing with textual fragmentary evidence? What is gained, and what is lost, when translating textual fragments? Are there ways of representing material fragments, perhaps in multi-media settings that offer advantages to the traditional print medium?
  • How does fragmentary evidence relate to complete evidence (in various fields)? Does it complement, confirm, question, or undermine the conclusions suggested by complete evidence? What novel light does fragmentary evidence throw on complete evidence (and vice versa)?
  • Is fragmentary evidence by default deficient? Is it by default marginal? Did the process of transmission leading to the incompleteness of a particular piece of evidence involve deliberate selection and value judgements, was it accidental, or both?
  • How does one teach fragmentary evidence? What specific skills, if any, do undergraduate and/or graduate students need to handle fragmentary evidence? Can textual fragmentary evidence meaningfully be taught to students who have no (or very limited) access to the language(s) this evidence was created in?


2019/ 2020 Schedule

Wednesdays, 4-7pm in (Maanjiwe nendamowinan formerly the new North Building) MN3230 (unless otherwise stated below)

Should you have any questions, please contact Martin Revermann at m.revermann@utoronto.ca