The tales of Archaeology: Towards a Literary Memory Map of the Mediterranean Space, Rome
2-day Conference: 16-17 September 2021
Academia Belgica, Rome
In collaboration with Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia
Working languages: English, French, Italian
When visiting the Etruscan necropolis of Cerveteri, near Rome, in the spring of 1957, the protagonist of “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis” by Jewish writer Giorgio Bassani (Shoah survivor, 1916-2000) is suddenly and violently inspired to tell the story of his friends, the Finzi-Contini family, who were deported and assassinated at Auschwitz. The painful memory of the Shoah, and the impulse to tell about it, are inspired by the space of the necropolis as a place dedicated to loss, mourning, and silenced communities. Arguably, the fact that this is an Etruscan necropolis adds further shades of meaning to the archaeological site: it is in fact a place which remembers the extinction of a minority, apparently “wiped away” by the stronger (colonial) power of Rome. The fact that modern archaeology has rejected this violent version of the end of the Etruscans does not seem to impact on the symbolic and mythological value of the necropolis.
This powerful page by Bassani raises questions about the connection between the faculty of memory, archaeology, material culture, and the sphere of (literary) representation. How do archaeological sites function on the literary page and how do their meanings change over time? How is the “evocative” and “suggestive” nature of an archaeological site used in literary contexts (i. e. Gabriele d’Annunzio portrayal of Mykenes in La città morta, inspired by Nietzsche and Schliemann)? Is literature capable of highlighting the problematic and ever-changing meanings of archaeological spaces, and/or to change them (i. e. D. H. Lawrence uncovering the hidden meanings of Tarquinia in Etruscan places)? How does the historical, material information available on significant spaces interact with the symbolic nature attributed to them by fiction? How does this change over time, in connection with meaningful discoveries about ancient times, and with political and social change? Whose perspectives are evoked by fiction on places of ruins, destruction, colonization (i. e. in the problematic case of the “archaeological dream” of pro-imperialist writings by Louis Bertrand)? How can literary representations contribute to building a “memory map” at national, regional, and local level?
These questions have been addressed in the past by scholars dealing with the representation of ruins in modern literature, such as Francesco Orlando (Obsolete objects in Literary Imagination, 1993). This project, however, aims to reverse the traditional approach on archaeology as represented in literature, by focusing on how literature changes (or tries to change) the meaning or adds to the meaning of archeological spaces. Sometimes, authors take up the responsibility of reclaiming, changing or challenging the space of an archeological site through the medium of literature, and which arise from contested spaces, post-colonial contexts, and sites and times of political turmoil.
The “The Tales of Archaeology. Towards a Literary ‘Memory Map’ of the Mediterranean Space” conference will bring together scholars interested in the representations of archaeological spaces (sites, museums) in literature, from the fields of Modern Languages, World Literature, Comparative Literature, Memory Studies, Heritage Studies, Archaeology, Spatial Humanities, Geography, Cultural Studies, History. In line with other experiments about literature, memory, and archaeology (such as Basch’s La metamorphose des ruines. L'influence Des Découvertes Archéologiques Sur Les Arts Et Lettres 1870-1914, 2001, and Bachvarova, Dutsch, and Suter’s The Fall of Cities in the Mediterranean Commemoration in Literature, Folk-Song, and Liturgy, 2016), the conference will keep a pan-Mediterranean perspective (Southern Europe, North Africa, Middle East), welcoming contributions across the disciplines and from any geographical context within the proposed area. It will focus on case studies from the late-XIX to the XXI centuries. This project focuses on the stories of ancient and modern, migrations, material and cultural exchanges in the sites of memory on the shores across the Mediterranean and on the ways these are preserved by modern literature. Our goal is to dig into the interconnectedness which characterised the Mediterranean space since the dawn of civilization, and which is currently menaced by national and continental policies aiming to constrain migratory movements.
- Nicoletta Momigliano (Bristol)
- Christina Riggs (Durham)
- Marie-Laurence Haack (Picardie)
- Martina Piperno (KU Leuven)
- Bart Van Den Bossche (KU Leuven)
- Chiara Zampieri (KU Leuven)
- Teodoro Katinis (Gent)
- Marcello Barbanera (Sapienza)
- Sascha Bru (Ku Leuven)
- Leanne Darnbrough (KU Leuven)
- Franco D’Intino (Sapienza)
- Gianmarco Mancosu (Cagliari)
- David Martens (KU Leuven)