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, 4-7 p.m. in (Maanjiwe nendamowinan formerly the new North Building) MN3230 (unless otherwise stated below)
- Sept. 18 Martin Revermann (University of Toronto): Translating the fragmentary
[Focus item: Empedocles D73 Laks-Most]
- Oct. 2 Ephraim Lytle (University of Toronto) MN 4107: The Red Sea Aristotle [Focus items: Aelian De natura animalium 3.18 and 28, 10.13 and 20, 11.21 and 23-24, 12.25 and 12.27, together with Agatharchides De mari Erythraeo frr.109-11]
- Oct. 23 Hannah Čulik-Baird (Boston University): Fragments of Latin poetry in Cicero
[Focus item: Cicero Pro Sestio 118-124]
- Oct. 30 Jarrett Welsh (University of Toronto): The Fifth Glossary of Nonius Marcellus
[Focus item: From Nonius' Fourth Glossary]
- Nov. 13 Renaud Gagné (University of Cambridge): Fragments of Greek cosmography - Hyperborea between cult and song
[Focus item: a late archaic bone tablet from Olbia (IGDOP 93)]
- Nov. 27 Susan Stephens (Stanford University): The trouble with Sappho…
[Focus items: Alcaeus fr. 303A Voigt (originally attributed to Sappho); Sappho fr. 44A Voigt (originally attributed to Alcaeus); PMich inv. 3250 a+c; P. Köln 11.429+430; Sappho fr. 2 Voigt (an ostracon, PSI 13.1300)]
- Dec. 2 Special Monday Outreach Event (3-5 p.m.) - ‘The Worlds of Sappho’ - Ellen Greene (University of Oklahoma)
- Jan. 15 Andreas Bendlin (University of Toronto): From host text to modern scholarship: the many pitfalls of recontextualizing Varro’s Divine Antiquities
[Focus items: Lactantius Inst. 1.6.6-17 and Epit. 5, Augustine Civ. 7.35, Varro ARD frr. I, 51 & 56-59; XV, 3-4 Agadh]
- Jan. 29 Seminar with Distinguished Lecturer - Glenn Most (Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa): Why there are fragments of early Greek philosophy and how they have been edited
[Focus item: The ‘sentence’ of Anaximander]
- Jan. 30 Lecture Event with Distinguished Lecturer (5-7 p.m.) - Glenn Most (Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa): Thales and the beginning of Greek philosophy
- Feb. 12 John Ma (Columbia University): Political culture in the Roman-era polis: patterns and gaps
[Focus item: Dio Oration 43]
- Feb. 26 Graham Andrews (University of Toronto) MN 4107: History as fragment. Xiphilinus, Cassius Dio, and the Severan Senate
[Focus item: Caracalla's citizenship law. Cassius Dio 78.9, with Xiphilinus 330.2-32 R. St and Excerpta Constantiniana De virtutibus et vitiis 365-66]
- March 11 Kenneth Yu (University of Toronto): Ancient and modern approaches to titles of lost or fragmentary texts
[Focus item: 1680. Anonymous, Paradoxographus Florentinus]
- March 25 Carrie Fulton (University of Toronto): Shipwrecked cargoes: fragments of a whole?
[Focus item: selections from the Late Republican wrecks of Colonia de Sant Jordi and Spargi]
- April 3 Seminar with Distinguished Lecturer - Jaś Elsner (University of Oxford): Fragile, ephemeral, mutable: papyrus copybooks, Coptic textiles and
Roman technologies of replication
- April 4 Lecture Event with Distinguished Lecturer (3-5 p.m.) - Jaś Elsner (University of Oxford): Beyond the Eurocentric anchor: early Christian art outside the world of Christian hegemony