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Duke University  
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October 23-24, 2009
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Diachronic aspects of ancient Greek literature and culture

The Department of Classical Studies at Duke University announces the conference Diachrony: Diachronic Aspects of Ancient Greek Literature and Culture, to be held on the Duke campus in Durham, North Carolina, Friday the 23rd and Saturday the 24th of October, 2009.

Conference description

            DIACHRONY will explore Greek antiquity’s remarkable combination of deeply rooted cultural traditions and innovations that are largely competitive re-appropriations of its cultural patrimony. Given the central role of tradition in innovation, the cultural artifacts and institutions of ancient Greece call for examination not only in their synchronic, but, most particularly, in their diachronic settings. And since evidence is fragmentary and often leads to analyses that span decades, if not centuries, cultural exegesis requires sensitivity to diachrony. Even strictly synchronic studies run the risk of treating a rapidly evolving society as static and misrepresenting a dynamic social reality. In addition, because culture functions synchronically but comes into being diachronically, the varying rates at which artifacts and institutions evolve give rise to complex states of internal synchrony. Knowledge of the evolution of all cultural constituents would permit an accurate reading of any given synchronic cross-section; but in the absence of this knowledge one must resort to manifestations of diachrony within synchrony such as the perception of temporal depth in the individual’s here-and-now. This “diachronic consciousness” is evidenced by the use of linguistic and cultural archaisms and neologisms; by aetiological and etymological memory; by evocations of the past, implicit or explicit; and by intertextual phenomena that embrace not only written texts but also creative re-performances of inherited traditions.

            This conference will feature keynote addresses by Gregory Nagy (Harvard University and the Center for Hellenic Studies) and Anton Bierl (Seminar für Klassische Philologie der Universität Basel) and presentations by a distinguished set of panelists. Papers will explore aspects of Greek literature and culture, from the archaic period to Roman imperial times, whose central insights turn crucially on diachronic analysis.

Please address any questions or comments to professor José M. González at diachrony@duke.edu.

Click here to see the poster with the conference program.

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