Narrating the Self: Autobiography in Late Antiquity

Society for Late Antiquity sponsored panel at the 2017 Society for Classical Studies (formerly the APA) annual meeting 5-8 January 2017 in Toronto –

In relation to late antiquity – and, indeed, in relation to antiquity in general – the term “autobiography” is generically fluid: there was no genre devoted exclusively to autobios, just as there was no genre devoted exclusively to bios considered more broadly. And yet people still wrote about themselves; they just did so in a variety of modes and genres. The pace of the production of reflexive works of self-narration (or works that included such reflexivity) not only did not slow in late antiquity; it quickened, and from this corpus emerged works that plumbed the depths of interiority (but for public consumption) in ways that had not been seen previously. Augustine and Boethius are the most famous, but not the exclusive, examples of interior self-description that is simultaneously externalized, mannered, and offered for public review (cf., recently, S. Squires, “Contra Academicos as Autobiography” [Scottish Journal of Theology 64 (2011): 251-64]; P. Turner, Truthfulness, Realism, Historicity [Ashgate, 2012]). In addition, one might consider poets such as Gregory of Nazianzus, Paulinus of Pella, Rutilius Namatianus, Paulinus of Nola, or Ausonius; grave inscriptions; itineraria, in so far as they are metaphorical for or serve the purposes of a description of self-transformation; the differences and tensions between the self-display of an individual’s various personae, for example in literary prefaces, public offices, and private correspondence; and much else besides.

The Society for Late Antiquity invites abstracts (ca. 500 words) exploring any aspect of self-narration in late antiquity for its panel at the 2017 Society for Classical Studies (formerly the APA) annual meeting 5-8 January 2017 in Toronto. Abstracts for papers requiring a maximum of twenty minutes to deliver should be sent no later than February 15, 2016 by email attachment as .doc or .rtf files to Eric Hutchinson at Please follow the SCS’s instructions for the format of individual abstracts: All submissions will be judged anonymously by two referees. Prospective panelists must be members in good standing of the SCS at the time of submission and must include their SCS membership number in the cover letter accompanying their abstract. The submission of an abstract represents a commitment to attend the 2017 meeting in Toronto should the abstract be accepted.

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