Graduate Interdisciplinary Seminar – 18/10/2013

The first GIS of 2013-14 got the year off to a good (and very interdisciplinary!) start. First up was Laura Viidebaum with a paper on “Rhetorical Performance”. After a suitably rhetorical but wholly unnecessary apologia for her lack of oratorical skill, Laura told us about her investigation of ancient statements about performance as a feature of rhetoric, particularly the issue of character portrayal (ἠθοποιία); she discussed the ways in which various ancient authors use this term, and its particular importance in Lysias’ rhetoric.

Laura’s talk was followed by discussion on topics ranging from the links between theories of rhetoric and fiction, the differences between rhetorical and tragic characterisation (the concept of ἠθοποιία being largely absent from the latter), and whether Lysias is really the best author to use for teaching undergraduates prose composition (he’s not as “simple” as he appears…).

George Watson then presented a “snippet” on his research into techniques of coin production in 3rd-century C.E. Pamphylia, in southern Asia Minor. George explained that coins are produced by striking a piece of metal (the ‘blank’) against a pair of dies to produce the image; the production of the blanks themselves, however, has been much less studied. Known methods include casting in a mould or sawing or chiselling pieces off a metal rod. Many Pamphylian coins of this period show a series of unique characteristics that imply a different production method from any of these – for instance, the very square shape of their edges precludes them having been cast, while there are often mysterious circular marks and ridges on the faces and edges which appear to be connected in some way to the production of the blanks. George suggested that some of these features could be accounted for if the metal rod were mounted on a lathe, cut around partway, and then hit with a hammer to knock the blanks off the rod, but conceded that this still couldn’t explain all of the features he’d observed, and asked for suggestions. A lively if inconclusive discussion ensued, the prize for most inventive suggestion being that the blanks were cast in moulds with a spring-form construction, like the cake tins on the Great British Bake Off; the general conclusion was that a Time Team-style piece of experimental archaeology, and/or an engineer, was what was needed to answer the question. Volunteers with suitable qualifications will be welcome to a future session of GIS.

Finally, as is traditional, the meeting adjourned for drinks and dinner to the Granta. The Consuls (Christina Tsaknaki and Anna Judson) hope that an enjoyable time was had by all. We look forward to seeing you all again at next week’s GIS, at which Charles Northrop will give a paper entitled “Can Time Be a Character? Personification and Time in Ovid’s Metamorphoses” and Max Leventhal will present a snippet on “Virgil and Eratosthenes at the Limits of Intertextuality”.

PS: the complete GIS schedule for the term can be found here

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Author: Anna P. Judson

Classics researcher at Cambridge

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