Call For Papers: Being Jewish, Writing Greek
Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge
Wednesday 6th September–Friday 8th September 2017
Deadline for abstracts (30 minute papers): Friday 30th April
Greek texts written by Jews in the Hellenistic and Imperial period occupy numerous positions within two traditions; Jewish liturgical, religious and legal texts combine with historians, poets, novelists and tragedians. Some are translations, others new compositions. Some are written for a Jewish, others for a non-Jewish audience. Much has been said about the historical as well as theological contexts and content of these works. However, relatively few studies have considered these Jewish writings in Greek as literary works.
In this conference, then, we want to bring together scholars from the fields of Classics, Biblical Studies, Jewish Studies and beyond to explore the literary aspects of these Jewish texts in Greek. The interdisciplinary nature of the conference is vital, as we seek to consider these texts as the product of two interacting cultural identities. We believe that a focus on form, in addition to content, has the potential to better our understanding of the negotiations of culture and identity which come with being Jewish, and writing Greek.
Confirmed Speakers include Jim Aitken (Cambridge, Divinity), Simon Goldhill (Cambridge, Classics), Sylvie Honigman (Ancient History, Tel Aviv), Nicholas de Lange (Cambridge, Divinity), Eva Mroczek (Religious Studies, UC Davis), Hindy Najman (Divinity, Oxford), Maren Niehoff (Department of Jewish Thought, Jerusalem).
The key issues we want to tackle include, but are not limited to:
How do we define Jewish literariness? what problems arise with setting it against a Greek literariness? Or is this distinction artificial?
(How) do works mark their indebtedness to both Jewish and Greek literary traditions?
What strategies do authors employ in translating ‘poetics’?
On what level is cultural identity negotiated in this literature; through lexical choice, through poetic imagery, generic form, or narrative structure? Are there conflicts in the relative ‘Jewishness’ or ‘Greekness’ of these forms within texts?
How are conceptions of Jewish literature in Greek thematised in the texts themselves? What part do literary personae and authorial voices play in articulating these conceptions?
How do texts shed light on, or even show awareness of, questions of literary canonicity in and between the two cultures? In other words, are there texts which could enable a re-evaluation of canonical forms in both literary cultures?
How do these cross-cultural texts reflect on and foreground the process of writing, composition, or translation. What sorts of conflict or synthesis can we detect? What might this say about the position of writing and literature in these two cultures?
How do Jewish inscribed forms differ from Greek ones? Does the epigraphical and inscriptional evidence – e.g. funeral epigrams and magical inscriptions - challenge the view of the manuscript tradition?
How do we distinguish Jewish from Christian texts? What methodological problems does Christian literature present for this project?
How might all this literary discussion in turn elucidate historical and theological issues?
Specific authors and genres which we believe deserve special attention include:
Letter of Aristeas
Demetrius the Chronographer
Dramatic fragments with Jewish content
Wisdom of Solomon
Joseph and Aseneth
Testament of Job
Testament of Abraham
Jewish inscriptions, e.g. funerary, dedicatory
Jewish magical texts
Josephus, e.g. Jewish Antiquities, Against Apion
The additions to Esther and Daniel
The way we choose to answer these questions has ramifications for our understanding of two different literary traditions in the ancient world, and how they were viewed and handled by each other. Yet, perhaps more importantly, by approaching afresh this rich group of texts, we can move beyond traditional single-disciplinary approaches to reconfigure our ways of analysing Classical and Jewish literature in a broader Mediterranean context. Finally, we hope this conference will contribute to wider debates about the nature and value of ‘literature’ across cultures, and challenge both ancient and modern narratives of literary history at large.
If you have any questions or queries, please do not hesitate to contact us at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org.