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Guest Speaker: ” Signs of Aporrheta: Alternatives to Narrative Thinking in Late Antique Theurgy”, Renaud Gagné (University of Cambridge)

June 5, 2023 @ 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm UTC+0


Innumerable types of graphic marks populated the visual environment of Mediterranean cities in the later Roman empire. Different sign systems competed over every imaginable surface, from walls to papyrus, lead or gems, objects to clothes and bodies, for attention, recognition, and power. That vast repertoire of signs interacted with viewers in a thousand different ways, over and above literacy. Intelligibility was often the exception. A whole constellation of practices and discourses foregrounded the realm of the unintelligible, the aporrheton, and offered the audiences of the later Roman East competing modes for apprehending what is hidden within signs. Anchored in the prestigious, widespread language of Mysteries, this constellation of practices and discourses became a cornerstone in the development of a distinctive religious idiom of ineffability, something that exists beyond the capacities of language and narrative thinking. The idea that signs can reflect the inexpressible became a fertile ground for attempts to develop access to the hyperenchanted world of the latter ancient Platonists. We will look at one such tradition of claims on signs, namely the philosophical discourses and ritual practices of theurgy on charaktêres.


June 5, 2023
12:00 pm - 3:00 pm UTC+0


Kaplan Hall 348