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Ancient World Seminar: Thorsten Fögen (Durham) - "Lives in Interaction: Animal 'Biographies' in Graeco-Roman Literature?"

When:Mo 13-06-2016 16:15 - 17:30
Where:Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies (Oude Boteringestraat 38), room 130


Earlier we announced that Dr. Fögen would speak about ‘Cassiodorus on the role of language and culture in divine and secular learning’. As you can see, there has been a small change in the programme.

This paper analyses some representative examples of literary texts in which a tendency towards an individualisation of animals can be discerned. It considers Odysseus’ dog Argus in Homer’s Odyssey, Arrian’s dog Horme in his Cynegeticus, King Alexander’s horse Bucephalas in Plutarch and Arrian, Corinna’s (unnamed) parrot in Ovid’s Amores 2.6, and the donkey Lucius in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses. Special attention is given to the questions of what kind of details on the lives of the animals in question are conveyed, and in what way these lives are related to the human sphere. It is also examined to what extent such accounts may be categorised as ‘biographies’ and how they differ from each other. Wherever possible, there will be some reflexions on the specific historical and socio-political background of the texts discussed.

Thorsten Fögen is associate professor at the University of Durham and “Privatdozent” at Humboldt University of Berlin. His area of expertise is Latin literature from the late Republic until the early Empire (1st c. BC – 2nd c. AD). In this he has written books on Roman authors’ attitudes towards the Latin Language and on Roman technical writing. More recently, he has edited the volumes Tears in the Graeco-Roman World and Bodies and Boundaries in Graeco-Roman Antiquity. Currently, he is a fellow at the NIAS (Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences), working on a project titled “Emotional Elements in Ancient Technical Texts”. The aim of which is to investigate the meaning and function of feelings and emotions in a variety of Greek and Roman technical texts from the fifth century B.C. until the second and third centuries A.D.