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Bookish Circles 2018

Bookish Circles: Teaching and learning in the ancient Mediterranean

A series of collaborative colloquia and seminarsof the Heythrop Centre for Textual Studies

​In recent years classicists have taken a lead in refining the study of ancient literacy. Discussion is departing from older deterministic conceptions where orality and literacy were viewed as evolutionary stages in a linear process;  where attention focused principally on what percentage of people were literate; and where this literacy was a largely undifferentiated category. Prompted by insights from the social sciences and furnished with twentieth-century manuscript discoveries, recent commentators aspire to greater refinement in the social historical study of ancient literacy.

Contributors to projects like Encyclopaedism from Antiquity to the Renaissance (J. König and G. Woolf eds; Cambridge: University Press, 2013),  Ancient libraries (J. König, K. Oikonomopoulou and G. Woolf eds; Cambridge: University Press, 2013) and  Ancient Literacies: The Culture of Reading in Greece and Rome (W. A. Johnson and H. N. Parker eds; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) have begun to probe related questions. First, what kinds of literacy can be discerned and what purposes did they serve in various ancient contexts? Second, in what kinds of social circle were particular kinds of literacy at home?

Our purpose in the present project is twofold. First, we take up and pursue the task outlined above, to distinguish varieties of ancient literacy, the social functions they served and the circles in which they did so. Second, we draw into the discussion the ancient Jewish and early Christian materials. The combination of materials traditionally separated within subject areas can only improve our hopes for historical insight. Further, the trajectory of the discussion — so far largely conducted within classics — will illuminate areas of ancient Jewish and early Christian studies where a canonical perspective still hampers historical enquiry in some quarters. To this end, we explore ancient varieties of adult teaching and learning with a view to casting further light on what kinds of literacy served which functions in the ancient Mediterranean.

​Chapters to be announced in 2017. Please refer to the papers given at the Bookish Circles colloquia and seminars in 2016-2017 for indicative content.