Irony and Humour as Imperial Greek Literary Strategies : The Playful Plutarch

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Irony and Humour as Imperial Greek Literary Strategies :

The Playful Plutarch

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Date limite :  20 février 2011



Plutarch of Chaeronea is always taken very seriously. The old image of a sober moralist, whose words should be taken at face value and whose ethical judgements are clear and simple, still dominates research. Even readers who are willing to grant him a sense of humour are seldom prepared to see this as anything more than a flash in the pan.

Yet Plutarch often employs irony; almost no other ancient author is more receptive to the different intellectual and cultural uses of humour. From the Table Talk's concern with identifying appropriate uses of jesting at the symposium, to the Political Precepts' admonition to make measured use of witticism in political discourse; or from the lively interest exhibited by the Lives in joking as evidence of good or bad character, to the various effects that irony achieves in the Moralia, Plutarch's corpus consistently testifies to the importance of humour as a means of intellectual engagement and communication in the period of the high Roman Empire.

This conference aims to examine the centrality of humour in Plutarch's works, both as a literary device and as a topic in its own right. By ‘humour', we wish to encompass a broad spectrum of discursive and intellectual practices, literary devices and manifestations of psychological processes: laughter, wit, anecdote, ridicule, joking and jesting, mockery, derision, satire and the satirical, parody and irony.

We welcome papers exploring specific passages in Plutarch's writings where humour features, as well as papers tracing his views and works to broader cultural practices of playful engagement in public festivals or elite symposia. In particular, we suggest the following key topics for investigation:

-- Types and styles of humour in Plutarchan discourse, and their various uses: literary-aesthetic, ethical, philosophical, pedagogical, political and otherwise.
-- The role that laughter, jesting and humour play in various communicative contexts in Plutarch's writings: their underlying psychology and their cultural significance.
-- Wit and humour as an appropriate technique in social encounters, and in the mode of self-presentation appropriate to those encounters, as seen in Plutarch's works and other imperial Greek authors.
-- Irony within the Lives and the Moralia as manifested by narrative, style and phrasing, and displayed by the characters or the narrator.
-- Plutarch's theoretical views on wit, humour, jesting, irony and their various media.
-- Plutarch and the various traditions of comic dialogue and satirical writing in the Roman Empire.

Dr Eran Almagor (Hebrew University of Jerusalem/ University of Leipzig)
Dr Katerina Oikonomopoulou (University of Patras)
Prof. Christopher Pelling (University of Oxford)

Confirmed speakers:
Prof. Aristoula Georgiadou (University of Patras)
Dr Jason König (University of St Andrews)
Prof. Christopher Pelling (University of Oxford)
Prof. Luc van der Stockt (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven)
Dr Alexei Zadorozhny (University of Liverpool).

We welcome paper proposals by both professional scholars and postgraduate students.
Abstracts of up to 300 words should be sent to Dr Eran Almagor ( Cette adresse email est protégée contre les robots des spammeurs, vous devez activer Javascript pour la voir. ) and Dr Katerina Oikonomopoulou ( Cette adresse email est protégée contre les robots des spammeurs, vous devez activer Javascript pour la voir. ) by 1st February 2011.


Lieu de la manifestation : IOANNOU CENTRE FOR CLASSICAL AND BYZANTINE STUDIES, University of Oxford
Organisation : Dr Eran Almagor, Dr Katerina Oikonomopoulou, and Prof. Chris Pelling
Contact : Dr Katerina Oikonomopoulou



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