Pasts Imperfect (2.10.22)
Roman Love, Finding Nowhere, and More
This week, we need to talk about love ❤️ Specifically, Sarah McCallum and Arum Park consider how and why we teach ancient elegy. Then, “Antiquities” launches at Public Books as edited by Stephanie Wong and Sarah E. Bond, underwater discoveries of ancient Maya saltworks, the history of the ampersand, a lecture on recognizing local archaeological labor & much more.
What did Catullus mean by ‘Odi et amo’ and what resonance does the phrase have today? Prof. Sarah McCallum is a specialist in Augustan poetry and teaches a course every year called “Be in Love and You Will be (Un)happy: The Concept of Amor in Ancient Rome.” She guides her students through a focused study of the concept of amor (love, desire) in the Roman imagination, as expressed by authors like Lucretius, Cicero, and the lover-poets of elegy.
Students come to the course with modern preconceptions of love. Consequently, they have a powerful response when they confront Roman ideas about amor as an agent of destruction, suffering, and loss of self-control. For example, initial impressions of the phrase omnia vincit amor (“love conquers all,” Verg. Ecl. 10.69) as a Valentine-card-worthy encapsulation of their perception of love’s goodness, give way to an alternative vision of desire as a vanquishing, even violent, force. And this message isn’t lost on the broader public either. Last fall, Prof. McCallum did a brief presentation on this topic for the Tucson Humanities Festival.
What is fascinating about this course is how visibly and drastically students change their perspectives on love after engaging with the Roman concept of amor. At the beginning and end of each semester Prof. McCallum asks her students to list the five words they most associate with love and assembles the results in word clouds:
Examples of word clouds generated from lists collected in the first week of semester:
Example of a word cloud generated at the end of the semester:
These word clouds vividly illustrate the transformative impact of teaching and engaging together with unfamiliar cultural definitions of a “big idea” like love. This is particularly true when modernity and antiquity are examined through each other. The course invites students to interrogate their own cultural notions about love as well as those of the Romans, ultimately formulating and grappling with more nuanced and productive questions about a concept that has electrified and preoccupied humanity for centuries.
The study of amor and elegy has generated a great deal of excellent bibliography. If you’re interested in exploring further, here are just a few suggestions for getting started:
Gold, B., ed. 2012. A Companion to Roman Love Elegy. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
Günther, H.-C., ed. 2006. Brill’s Companion to Propertius. Leiden and Boston: Brill.
James, S.L. 2003. Learned Girls and Male Persuasion: Gender and Reading in Roman Love Elegy. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Kennedy, D.F. 1993. The Arts of Love: Five Studies in the Discourse of Latin Love Elegy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ross, D.O. 1975. Backgrounds to Augustan Poetry: Gallus, Elegy, and Rome. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Thorsen, T.S., ed. 2013. The Cambridge Companion to Latin Love Elegy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Public Scholarship on the Internet
Over at Public Books, the new “Antiquities” section has launched with a special issue focused on the ancient world. The issue is edited by Stephanie Wong (who also has a new essay at LARB out this week) and Sarah E. Bond, with article contributions from Ismael Cuevas Jr., Ali A. Olomi, and Vanessa Stovall. More on this special issue—covering everything from the fall of Tenochtitlán to the cosmology behind the founding of Baghdad to stripping ancient Greek myth— in next week’s newsletter.
The New Yorker’s Casey Cep explores “Why King Tut Is Still Fascinating” this week. There is a shout-out to Christina Riggs’ new Treasured: How Tutankhamun Shaped a Century about the Tut’s role within geopolitics and to Egyptologist Kara Cooney’s new The Good Kings: Absolute Power in Ancient Egypt and the Modern World.
In an open access article in Ancient Mesoamerica, archaeologists Heather McKillop and E. Cory Sills provide an analysis of the salt works at the underwater site of Ek Way Nal (Belize). The remains have revealed “evidence of a residence, salt kitchens, and additional activities. Ek Way Nal is one of 110 salt works associated with a Late to Terminal Classic (A.D. 600–900) salt industry known as the Paynes Creek Salt Works.” Find out more about the Underwater Maya Project here.
In epigraphy news, a new version of the digital edition of "Carmina Latina epigraphica online” is now available. As they note, “[i]t is true that only around 1% of the Latin inscriptions are in verse, but it is no less true that this small part is very significant – as Krummrey was able to see – because it puts us in contact with the experience of poetry and culture. popular in very different geographical, social, linguistic and chronological contexts.” Who doesn’t love a poem etched in stone?
Additionally, Charlotte M. Roueché sends word that a new edition of the Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania (edited by Charlotte M. Roueché, Gabriel Bodard, and Irene Vagionakis) is now online. It also has contributions from Caroline Barron, Francesca Bigi, Catherine Dobias-Lalou, Usama Gad, Philip Kenrick, Robert Kerr, Michael Mackensen, and Ignazio Tantillo.
Upcoming Lectures, Conferences, and Workshops
On Friday, February 11th at 1:30 PM EST, Stanford medievalist Monica Green speaks on "Stepping into the Same River Twice: Comparing the 1st and 2nd Plague Pandemics as Pan-Afro-Eurasian Events.” This is a must-hear lecture from an expert in the history of pandemics that you can sign up for here.
At UCSB’s Art, Design, and Architecture Museum on Thursday night, Dan-el Padilla Peralta is speaking on the work of the artist Harmonia Rosales, who has a new exhibition now on view at the museum. The lecture, “The Greeks are Then, the Orishas are Now: Harmonia Rosales and the Black Atlantic, lecture by Professor Dan-el Padilla Peralta,” starts at 5:30 pm PT. Sign up for this talk here.
On Thursday, February 10, 2022 at 12 pm EST, Yale Council on Middle East Studies welcomes Allison Mickel to address an important topic: the silent history of local archaeological labor. Register here for the online colloquium and read her new book, Why Those Who Shovel are Silent: A History of Local Archaeological Labor and Knowledge.
A number of talks focused on the Egyptian site of Wadi el-Hudi are coming up: Kate Liszka, “Forts, Prisons, or Rudimentary Vaults? The Three so-called "Fortresses" of Pharaoh at Wadi el-Hudi and their Connection to Amethyst Mining,” is on Thursday, February 17th at 1pm EST. And her next lecture is then for the Archaeology Abridged Series, for the AIA: “From Survey to History: The Region of Wadi el-Hudi through the Eras,” on Sunday, February 27, 2pm EST.
New Online Journal Issues curated by @YaleClassicsLib
Sylloge epigraphica Barcinonensis Vol. 19 (2021)
Erudition and the Republic of Letters Vol. 7, No. 1 (2022)
American Journal of Philology Vol.142, No. 4 (Winter 2021) NB: Edward Nolan, “Athenians, Amazons, and Solecisms: Language Contact in Herodotus”
New Literary History Vol. 52, No. 3-4 (2021) Race and Periodization
Digital Humanities Quarterly Vol. 15, No. 4 (2021) NB: Pierre Chastang, et. al. “A Named Entity Recognition Model for Medieval Latin Charters.”
Ciceroniana On Line Vol. 5 ,No. 2 (2021) #openaccess Cicero digitalis
Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists Vol. 58 (2021)
Revue d'assyriologie et d'archéologie orientale Vol. 115, No. 1 (2021)
Latomus Vol. 80, No. 3 (2021)
The Public Books section "Antiquities" continues to take pitches for articles to be published in 2022. You can pitch to our “Pasts Imperfect” column at the LA Review of Books using this form and to the new JSTOR column here. Thanks for reading!
Nunc scio quid sit Amor… (Virg. Ecl. 8.43).