ElAnt v1n5 - The Personal Voice in Classical Scholarship, A.P.A.

Volume 1, Number 5
October 1993



Organizer-Refereed American Philological Association Panel on Co-Organizers: Judith P. Hallett, University of Maryland, College Park Thomas Van Nortwick, Oberlin College

We are pleased to announce that the APA Program Committee has accepted our proposal for a panel on "The Personal Voice in Classical Scholarship," to be presented at the 1994 meeting of the APA in Atlanta, Georgia. The personal voice has been defined by Nancy K. Miller (in Getting Personal: Feminist Occasions and Other Autobiographical Acts [New York] 1991) as "an explicitly autobiographical performance within the act of criticism." One of us, employing the metaphor of landscape, has recently called the process of writing autobiographical responses to works of literature an act of "painting one's self into the scenery." To write or speak about one's research from an personal and autobiographical standpoint acknowledges and explores the unique relationship between the distinctive background of the researcher on the one hand, and the questions which she or he poses and privileges in the course of scholarly investigation on the other. Consequently, the personal voice differs from the discursive practices -- and from the pose of "objective detachment" -- traditionally adopted in the public presentation of research within an intellectual community.

In a paper which she presented at the November 1992 conference on "Feminism and Classics" at the University of Cincinnati, and which she provocatively entitled "Our Voices, Ourselves," Marilyn Skinner observed that classical studies has traditionally enforced "unusually rigid taboos against speaking of oneself in print." Nevertheless, and as Skinner also remarked, a variety of classicists have begun to avail themselves of "autographics" in order to link their analyses of ancient texts and material evidence with their personal identity and experiences. Focusing upon such aspects of personal identity as gender, age, race, ethnicity, familial and professional role, and nationality, these studies examine a wide variety of writings from classical antiquity and embrace diverse methodological approaches.

The autobiographical reminiscence with which Bernard Knox has prefaced his widely-ranging Essays Ancient and Modern (Baltimore 1989) justifies its author's decision to teach and interpret Thucydides and the Greek tragedians as the outcome of his military service in the Spanish Civil and Second World Wars. In so doing, it eloquently expounds the values of liberal humanism. In his 1991 book on epic heroism, Somewhere I have Never Travelled: The Second Self and the Hero's Journey in Ancient Epic (Oxford 1991), Thomas Van Nortwick utilizes a Jungian perspective to illuminate his own life through looking at the portrayals of such literary heroes as Homer's Achilles and Vergil's Aeneas, and to illuminate the literary portrayals of these heroes by looking into the particulars of his own life.

As examples of "autographic" scholarly practice among classicists, Skinner cites the work of several feminist scholars, among them Amy Richlin's "Zeus and Metis: Foucault, Feminism, Classics," Helios 18.2 (1991) 160-180; Richlin recalls several painful personal experiences in pondering the "disappearance of feminism and Rome along with it from the postmodernist [and theoretically- based] discussion of ancient sexuality" by Hellenists who subscribe to the theories of Michel Foucault. An autobiographical approach also informs two essays in a forthcoming volume on feminist theory and the classics which Richlin has edited with Nancy Rabinowitz: Judith P. Hallett's "Feminist Theory, Historical Periods, Literary Canons and the Study of Greco- Roman Antiquity," and Shelley P. Haley's "Black Feminist Thought and Classics: Re-membering, Re-claiming, Re- empowering."

Our proposed panel invites papers which adopt, analyze or critique a personal and autobiographical standpoint in discussing ancient Greco-Roman literature, art and history; and in addressing issues of literary, artistic and historical interpretation. Of special interest are papers which take interdisciplinary and multicultural perspectives into account, which ponder the paradox of "autographic writing" into a system of assessment based on anonymous refereeing, and which focus on the benefits and dangers of employing the personal voice in the classroom. We hope to consider how the use of the personal voice bridges seemingly contradictory elements of scholarly discourse, such as the incompatibility between various styles of self-presentation (e.g. "exclusionary" exposition designed "to make a case" by demolishing the arguments of earlier researchers vs. "inclusionary" exposition which synthesizes earlier research and formulates new questions). We encourage participants to explore interrelationships between personal voice and various aspects of personal identity -- including (but by no means limited to) gender, age, race, ethnicity, familial and professional role, sexual preference and nationality.

Although the abstracts of proposed papers will be selected by the panel co-organizers, they should be sent to Professor William Ziobro, Secretary- Treasurer of the American Philological Association, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA 01610. Those wishing to submit an abstract should be APA members in good standing at the time of submission. No person should submit an abstract to more than one organizer-refereed panel.

Abstracts should be submitted in four copies and must be accompanied by the Abstract Submission Form (printed in the October 1993 APA Newsletter) indicating the title of the proposed paper and the name of panel to which it is to be submitted. Abstracts must be a minimum of 500 words and a maximum of 800 words including all documentation. Footnotes should not be used for the documentation; citations should be incorporated into the text. The author's name should not be included on any copies since the abstract will be judged anonymously.

The first paragraph of the abstract should address itself clearly to the panel topic and indicate the contribution to be made by the paper. The abstract should include not merely a statement of intent and conclusions, but also a summary of the argumentation and the most relevant bibliography. The abstract should also make it clear that the paper is suitable for oral presentation within a specified time limit.

The postmarked deadline for the submission of abstracts to the Secretary-Treasurer's office at Holy Cross is February 1, 1994.

COPYRIGHT NOTE: Copyright remains with authors, but due reference should be made to this journal if any part of the above is later published elsewhere.

Electronic Antiquity Vol. 1 Issue 5 - October 1993
edited by Peter Toohey and Ian Worthington
ISSN 1320-3606