23-24/06/2022 – Speaking Knowledge in the Ancient World (Cambridge)

“Speaking Knowledge in the Ancient World”, Cambridge 23-24 June

We are delighted to announce the two-day conference ‘Speaking Knowledge in the Ancient World: Discursive Epistemology and the Performance of Understanding’, which will take place at the Faculty of Classics of the University of Cambridge on 23-24 June 2022.

The event, generously funded by the International Society for the History of Rhetoric (ISHR) and the Faculty of Classics, aims to explore the interaction between ancient rhetoric and epistemology by investigating how Greco-Roman authors across a variety of genres communicated knowledge or its lack. Greco-Roman thinkers – especially those indebted to the Platonic theory of episteme – inclined towards a conceptualisation of knowledge and its objects as truthful, immutable entities achieved through pure acts of cognition. Yet, as recent scholarship has shown, the ancient practices of definition and dissemination of epistemological principles tell a more complex story, one of pragmatic receptiveness to, and creative engagement with, the social dimension of producing, securing, and challenging understanding.

Our conference sets out to interrogate aspects of this tension between the search for absolute knowledge and its socially-mediated articulation. Papers will range from Presocratic inquiries into natural phenomena to the Late Roman Empire and its mobilisation of antagonistic discussions on the knowability of providence. We aim to assess how the construction of knowledge through speech unfolded across diverse genres, settings, and context-specific needs, from the socio-political deliberations of judicial and deliberative oratory, through historiographical attempts at predicting future events and reconstructing past ones, to the understanding of physiology and the shaping of theological arguments.

Programme of the event:

Day 1 (23/06/22)

10.15-10.45 Registration

10.45-11.00 Introductory remarks (Giulia Maltagliati and Lea Niccolai)

11.00-13.00 Panel 1 (Chair: Frisbee Sheffield)

Jenny Bryan (Manchester)

‘The rhetoric of understanding in Empedocles’

Thomas Blank (Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz):

‘Elenctic Isocrates? Paradoxa and Socratic methods of refutation’

Alberto Quiroga (Granada)

‘Writing outside time. Towards a poetics of counterfactual tales’

13.00-14.30Lunch Break

14.30-16.00 Panel 2 (Chair: Max Leventhal)

Liba Taub (Cambridge)

‘Science at the Symposium’

Caroline Petit (Warwick)

‘Proof in the field of medicine: demonstration, inference, and persuasion in Galen’s work’

16.00-16.30Tea/Coffee Break

16.30-18.00Panel 3 (Chair: Rebecca Flemming)

Henriette van der Blom (Birmingham)

Exempla of Republican orators and expectations of audience-knowledge of the rhetorical past’

James Corke-Webster (King’s College London)

‘Providence and Persecution: The Development of a Rhetoric of Justified Violence’

19.30 Conference dinner

Day 2 (24/06/22)

Free morning

13.30-15.30Panel 4 (Chair: Franco Basso)

Lyndsay Coo (Bristol)

‘Greek tragedy and the rhetoric of ignorance’

Robin Osborne (Cambridge)

‘What was history then?’

Alexandra Schultz (Cambridge)

‘Inscribing knowledge: literary history and identity in the Hellenistic polis

15.30-16.00 Tea/Coffee Break

16.00-16.30 Concluding remarks

Simon Goldhill (Cambridge)

This will be a hybrid event (in person and online). If you wish to attend in person, or to receive a Zoom link, please register by sending a message at speakingknowledgeconference@gmail.com

The deadline for registration is 25 May 2022.

The conference is free of charge and refreshment will be provided, but registration is required. Please do also let us know if you would like to join us for the conference dinner, for which there is going to be a charge.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact us at ln294@cam.ac.uk or gm716@cam.ac.uk

Best wishes,

Giulia Maltagliati and Lea Niccolai


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