Pasts Imperfect (9.8.22)
Ecocodicology, Climate Change, Cuneiform Tablets, and More
Ecocodicology by Del A. Maticic
In the latest issue of postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies, Bruce Holsinger has coined for us the new concept of “ecocodicology.” This new -ology is sure to be handy not only to Holsinger’s fellow medievalists but also to practitioners in many other corners of cultural studies including Classicists. It concerns itself with the study of how nonhuman lives are affected by and entangled in processes through which the archives of written culture are produced, maintained, and used. Drawing on a diverse array of modern and premodern literature and theory, the article dwells particularly closely on what Holsinger calls the “membrane archive” of materials written on parchment, the durable writing surface made from prepared animal skin. In this, the author is previewing his forthcoming book On Parchment: Animals Archives, and the Making of Culture from Herodotus to the Digital Age, forthcoming from Yale University Press.
The “membrane archive” is an apt metaphor for ecocodicology’s object of study. The project draws extensively on ecocritical theory. Holsinger aims to study literature and literary production as involving not only the representation of an abstract and alien nature, but rather as a connective tissue embodying the interdependence of human cultures and nonhuman worlds. For Holsinger, the parchment record is an “unfinished archive” that records not only the cultural content inscribed in it, but also the environmental and biotic forces that converged to bring it into material existence. In this way the archive is a proof of what Holsinger, channeling Michel Serres, elegantly terms the “palimpsest of the earth.”
This clear and compelling way of accounting for this unfinished archive has a lot to offer scholars of pasts imperfect. While recent research into book history by scholars like Joseph Howley has exposed ways in which the materiality of ancient writing was closely connected to human corporeality—and, in particular, the corporeality of the enslaved body—we still have a lot to learn about how ancient scribal practices formed sympathetic and antipathetic relationships with nonhuman nature. Fortunately, there are a growing number of scholars importing the eco-turn into Greek and Roman Studies, as the curators of the delightfully rich @EcoClassics listserv regularly make clear in our inboxes.
Public Scholarship and a Global Antiquity
Digital Scholarship Librarian and Assyriologist Sara Mohr has updated her interactive map of U.S. institutional cuneiform collections, titled “Where is the Cuneiform?” You can access it on Tableau or explore the bibliography in her article, “A Bibliography of Cuneiform Tablet Editions in United States Colleges and Universities through 2020” in the Journal of Open Humanities Data.
Archaeologist and Egyptologist Sarah Parcak joined NPR’s “Here & Now” to discuss climate change, archaeology, and the unveiling of ancient cultural heritage due predominantly to drought. As WBUR notes, “With the new discoveries, archaeologists are talking about the safest and most ethical ways to preserve and study them.” You can listen to the episode here.
The SCS Blog has two important posts, one on harassment and discrimination in Classics and the other on job ads. The report on harassment and discrimination in the field was co-authored by current COGSIP chair Caroline Bishop and former COGSIP chair Jason Nethercut and endorsed by the other members of the committee. The other post, on “Reading and Writing Classics Faculty Job Ads” is by T. H. M. Gellar-Goad and is the “first of a three-part series that gathers perspectives on key steps in the job search process.”
Over at Papyrus Stories, Jennifer Cromwell discusses “Urine, Torn Clothes, and Ethnic Tensions in Ptolemaic Fayum,” through the lens of a papyrus from Crocodilopolis, Fayum (Medinet al-Fayum) dating to May 11, 268 BCE.
On 11 May 218 BCE, a Greek man living in the Fayum was walking through the streets of the village Psya. Suddenly, from above a shower of human effluence poured down upon him, drenching him to the bone. The culprit? An Egyptian woman. But was it an accident or a malicious act by a local against a foreign interloper?
On display now in London at University College London (North Cloisters, Wilkins Building) is “Christian Art and Faith in the Ethiopian Empire,” an art exhibition which looks at Ethiopian religious wall paintings and demonstrates “how they highlight the value, history and significance of the early artistic heritage of Ethiopia.” As UCL notes, it was co-curated by conservators working for the Ethiopian Heritage Fund, UK-based scholars from Ethiopia and Eritrea, and members of the ITIESE project (UCL History of Art Department and Hamburg University): “It underscores the fact that this remarkable heritage is currently endangered and in urgent need of protective measures to enable its longevity for future generations.”
Over at the LARB Quarterly (Summer 2022), Stephanie Wong has an article on her non-romantic relationship with the Archivo General de la Nación (AGN) in Mexico, where she is currently doing dissertation research. She also reminds us that—like museums—archives are not neutral.
But by nature the Archive refuses all objectivity. Literal prison or otherwise, no archive is neutral: the arbitrary, monstrous forms which archives take are almost always in service of past and present violence.
Lectures, Events, and Conferences
On Thursday, September 22, 2022 at 5:00 pm ET, medievalist and Black Death scholar Monica Green will be giving the annual Riggsby Lecture at UT-Knoxville. Her talk, “A Mediterranean Divide: Islamic versus Christian Experiences of the Black Death” will be webcast live here.
Over at the WCC, there is a whole slate of events for September. On Tuesday, September 13, 2022 at 8:00-9:30 pm ET, the WCC/CANE Careers Initiative: Overview of K-12 Teaching, A Panel Discussion will take place online. The next day, Wednesday, September 14, is the the WCC Cohort Mentorship Program Launch at 5:00-6:00 pm ET. Then, on September 29, 2022, is the WCC Archaeology Series, Session 2: Community-Engaged Archaeology is from 12-1:30 pm ET, organized by Nadhira Hill.
On September 14, 2022 at 7 pm CT, Sarah Derbew will talk about her new book, Untangling Blackness in Greek Antiquity, with Nell Irvin Painter, in a special event sponsored by the University of Iowa Department of History. Register here.
On Friday, September 16, 2022, the Association of Ancient Historians (AAH) is hosting a “Practicing Queer Pedagogy” panel from 12:00-1:30 pm ET online. Evan Jewell, Deborah Kamen, Anise Strong, and Eliza Gettel will discuss how to be welcoming to queer students in the ancient history classroom. Register here.
New Antiquity Journal Volumes (by @YaleClassicsLib)
Archiv für Papyrusforschung und verwandte Gebiete Vol. 68, No. 1 (2022) NB: María López Martínez “The Pontic Princess Calligone, the Queen Themisto, and the Amazons in the Black Sea.”
Historiae No. 19 (2022) #openaccess NB: Ricardo Martínez Lacy, “"¿Cortés, lector de Julio César?”
Journal of Ancient History and Archaeology Vol. 9, No. 2 (2022) #openaccess
TAPA Vol.152, No. 2 (2022)
Erudition and the Republic of Letters Vol. 7, No. 3 (2022)
Near Eastern Archaeology Vol. 85, No. 3 (2022)
Journal of Early Christian Studies Vol. 30, No. 3 (2022) NB: Sam Ottewill-Soulsby, “ First Cities in Late Antique Christian Thought”
Digital Scholarship in the Humanities Vol. 37, No. 3 (2022) NB: Anna Foka, et al. “Visualizing Pausanias’s Description of Greece with contemporary GIS.”
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