A one-day Interdisciplinary Conference
Saturday 9th March 2019
Keynote Speaker: Prof. Richard Hunter, University of Cambridge
Organised by Paloma Perez Galvan and Alessandra Tafaro
Robert Montgomery, “All Palaces”. 2012. Light work with low power-consumption LEDs, plywood, aluminium, copper and oak. Courtesy of the artist and Cob Gallery, London.
When in 2012 the artist Robert Montgomery placed the aluminium letters of his poem ‘All palaces are/ temporary palaces’ in an empty swimming pool (Stattbad Wedding, Berlin), he deliberately embodied the written word into a physical context. With his ‘light poems’, he demonstrates how poetry can be a billboard, a tattooed body or even a gift to exchange for coffee: this interplay between word and object was already a quintessential feature of Graeco-Roman 'epigrammatic' poetry, which could be scratched or carved into walls, statues and stones. In our era of ‘Instagram poets’ and the quotation-culture of tweets, bits of poetry are spread across urban landscapes and social networks in the most variated forms, ingeniously combining words and objects, and making us aware of our inheritance of ideas developed in different ways in classical antiquity, linking poetry, materiality and objects.
The ancient epigram, a poetic form conscious of its ‘writtenness’ which originated as inscription (on gravestones, monuments and other objects) and which in fascinating ways lives on in our contemporary society, foregrounds questions about the materiality of texts in ways that we will take as a point of departure for this inter-disciplinary conference. When poetry is engraved on stones, scratched into walls, written on an object, how does the nature and use of that object affect our interpretation of the text? To what extent and how does the medium on which a poem is viewed influence the reader/viewer’s perception of it? This conference aims to investigate the shift between the epigram as embodying an inseparability of text and materiality, as conceived in the classical period and in the Renaissance (Neo-Latin epigram), and the modern re-interpretation of poetry on objects.
The conference aims to create cross-disciplinary discussion amongst scholars in Classics, Arts, Comparative Literature, Renaissance.
We will be addressing the following topics:
• Theoretical perspectives on poetry and materiality;
• The epigram book/ epigram as inscription;
• Continuities and differences between the conception of object and text in ancient/Renaissance epigrams and the new material expressions of modern poetry;
• (Responses to) the visual context/visuality of epigrams;
• The extent to which readings of ancient and/or Renaissance epigram might spur new perspectives on the contemporary production and consumption of poetry;
• The extent to which ‘epigram’ is a useful category/ recognizable poetic form in the modern world.