Memory and Marks: Commemorating, Transmitting, and Perpetuating, XIVe Rencontres internationales des jeunes chercheurs en études byzantines, October 6–7, 2023
Penned by Ammianus Marcellinus, the panegyric of Julian the Apostate exalts the mnemonic abilities of the emperor in the following terms: “if drinking a particular beverage could enhance the power of memory, Julian must have had the whole cask at his disposal, and he must have drank it dry before he was a grown man”. The propensity for memorization, the cornerstone of intellectual accomplishment, is among the celebrated virtues of encomiastic literature. More than a simple rhetorical tool, aiding in the ability to acquire and conserve knowledge, the notion of memory is found dispersed among a vast semantic sphere that reflects the linguistic diversity of the Byzantine world. The Greek term µνήµη (mnêmê) embraces notions of reminiscence and remembrance, and the gathering of impressions and events, suggesting the act of remembering as much as the material imprint of the past. The Syriac root ܕܵܟܹܪ (dākhēr) simultaneously implies the act of remembering, or calling to mind and the retracing or retelling of events, but also of commemoration. In classic Armenian, the term յիշատակ (yišatak) signifies both remembering, memory, and commemoration, but it also designates memorials, inherent to the notion of a monument itself. By using this one term, therefore, the notion of memory can elicit the idea a commemorating edifice. Finally, the act of remembering an event or a person is understood in a Coptic verb which bears witness to a particularly active conception of the mental process : ⲣⲡⲙⲉⲉⲩⲉ(erpmeeue), literally “to make a thought”. This term, which is used in the funerary domain as well as in literature, implies the idea of an intense and productive intellectual activity which requires effort. In this way, the topic of memory affirms itself as a major issue, within both religious and secular realms, throughout the entire mediterranean world. In the Christian East, as in Byzantium, the writing of history occurs through the inscription of recounted events through the propagation of biblical continuity. The connection of political and historical religious events in order to construct a collective memory, therefore, is elaborated throughout time; it becomes a legitimate way of affirming confessional and cultural identities. Necessary to the stability and the cohesion of a group, the perpetuation of the remembrance of charismatic figures – dedicators, founders, donors –, can be seen in both monastic and lay communities. In the collective arena, memory, particularly religious memory, is inscribed in both urban and rural landscapes. Ritual practices assure the perennity of certain spaces, such as sacred spaces, sanctuaries, and tombs, to say nothing of its role in the civic sphere. Perpetuated by literary and epigraphic sources, collective memory is also incarnate in spaces, objects, and images: countless material evidence, echoes of venerable prototypes or of contemporary faces, give shape to memory and focus its attention. Although it is difficult to accurately capture all of its forms, memorial experience is also revealed in personal and intimate spheres. In soliciting various sensorial channels and cognitive processes, images, inscriptions, and songs work together to elaborate, activate, and transmit memory. The privileged role of memorization, an essential tool in the learning and diffusion of knowledge, invites us to ask how it was used for creating and strengthening memories. What was necessary to retain? What place was given to classical culture? What hints do we have of the methods of assimilation and recitation of memorized knowledge? Finally, beyond the pedagogical dimension, individual memory can be expressed through the emotional attachment to places and to the deceased, of which epitaphs, graffiti, and pilgrim souvenirs leave tracks.
In this way, placed under the heading of Memory, the 14th Post-Graduate Conference inscribes itself within this dynamic understanding of remembering, in which different research disciplines are intrinsically involved. Places and images, archaeological, epigraphic and literary sources, are all pieces of evidence that may be used within a rigorous methodological framework to reveal the meanings and challenges associated with memory at all societal levels.
The presentations might follow in one of the following themes:
- The construction of collective memory: commemorations of events, legends…
- Collective forgetting: damnatio memoriae, anathemas, exile
- Spaces and memory
- Mediums for memory
- Memory and sensoriality
- Memory and tradition
- Memory and pilgrimage
- Memory, ritual, and liturgy
- Prototypes, souvenirs, and transmission
- Pre-Christian iconographic and cultural traces
- Spolia and reuse
- Remembering through images: narrative, cognitive, or visual processes
- Remembering through writing: colophons, notes, and inscriptions
- Temporal conceptions of memory
- Memory as virtue
- Practices of learning and recitation
- Inventing the memory of Byzantium
- Afterlife and reception of Byzantium
- Recherche methods: texts, archives and archaeological vestiges
The conference will be held in-person in Paris on October 6-7, 2023. Papers may be presented in French or English.