International Workshop | Imperial Fictions. The Cultural Entanglements and Multiple Temporalities of Alexander’s Afterlives
Organised by Andrew James Johnston, Wolfram Keller, and Jan-Peer Hartmann, project "Imperial Fictions", Research Area 3: "Future Perfect" in cooperation with Sonderforschungsbereich 980 "Episteme in Bewegung. Wissenstransfer von der Alten Welt bis in die Frühe Neuzeit".
Few historical characters had such an impact on the premodern imagination as Alexander the Great. Indeed, between the fourth and sixteenth centuries, the fourth-century Greek Alexander Romance was probably the world’s most widely read secular text. Translated into a myriad of different languages, including the majority of the European vernaculars, this text — and the many adaptations it spawned — enjoyed an unrivalled popularity for more than a thousand years. But even before the Greek Alexander Romance was written, Alexander had long been transformed into the hero of countless legends, bridging the divide between history and fiction, inhabiting and often conflating such diverse generic and conceptual spaces as fairy-tale, imperialist propaganda, and religious prophecy. He appears in the Qur’an and the Shanameh, and his name was appropriated by European rulers such as the Popes, the medieval kings of Scotland, and the nineteenth-century Czars. The Alexander material thus displays a supreme degree of cultural adaptability and ideological flexibility, a capacity for realigning historical and cultural boundaries, for making the peripheral central and vice versa, but also for establishing new traditions and concomitant temporalities.
"Imperial Fictions" examines these forms of cultural and ideological adaptability with a special emphasis on the ways in which the tensions between the historical and fantastical inherent to so many Alexander narratives construct new temporalities. The workshop aims to investigate how these temporalities are exploited for the purposes of imperial self-fashioning, how they participate in ideological projects to legitimate — but also to subvert — power by exoticising it. As the temporalities of history and romance, prophecy and fairy-tale, travelogue and chronicle clash, jostle and converge in pre-modern (but also in modern) Alexander adaptations, the Macedonian conqueror becomes a cultural crucible generating and staging as well as questioning and re-defining new temporalities in a sheer endless succession of ideological appropriations.
ProgrammeThursday, 25 May
14:00-14:30 | Jan-Peer Hartmann, Andrew James Johnston, Wolfram Keller (Freie Universität Berlin / EXC 2020): Opening Remarks/Introduction
14:30-15:30 | Su Fang Ng (Virginia Tech): The Malay Alexander and Universal Time
15:30-16:00 | Coffee
16:00-17:00 | Christine Chism (UCLA): A Concourse of Secrets: Alexander and the Kitâb Sirr-al-Asrâr
18:00-20:00 | Beatrice Gründler (Freie Universität Berlin / EXC 2020): Alexander in the Textual Traditions of Kalīla wa-Dimna
Friday, 26 May
Different venue: Hörsaal 2, Habelschwerdter Allee 45,
10:00-11:00 | David Ashurst (Durham University): Imperial Rhetoric in the Old Norse Alexanders Saga, Its Foreignness and Purposes
11:00-12:00 | Wolfram Keller (Freie Universität Berlin / EXC 2020): Time and Empire in Kyng Alisaunder
12:00-14:00 | Lunch
14:00-15:00 | Joanna Martin (University of Nottingham): The Emotional Landscapes of Scottish Alexander Romances
15:00-16:00 | Russell Stone (Boston University): Porus and the Limits of Alexander’s Authority
16:00-16:30 | Coffee
16:30-17:30 | Catherine Gaullier-Bougassas (Université de Lille): The Fundaments of Alexander the Great’s Empire in French Medieval Narratives
17:30-18:30 | Venetia Bridges (Durham University): Fictional Temporalities: Alexander the Great in Twelfth-Century Texts and their MSS
19:30 | Conference DinnerSaturday, 27 May
10:00-11:00 | Henry Ravenhall (Cambridge University): Alexander and the Surviving Image: The Politics of Repetition in Paris, BnF, fr. 24364 (Roman de toute chevalerie)
11:00-12:00 | Maud Pérez-Simon (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle): Alexander Through the Kaleidoscopic Looking Glass in the Middle Ages: The Manuscripts of the Roman d’Alexandre en prose
12:00-13:00 | Lunch
13:30-14:30 | Giulia Gilmore (Durham University): Wondrous Horrors: Gog, Magog, and Eschatological Boundaries in the Medieval Alexander Legend
14:30-15:30 | Andrew James Johnston (Freie Universität Berlin / EXC 2020): Alexander and the Monsters: Beowulf, the Nowell Codex, and the Wonders of the East
Time & Location
May 25, 2023 - May 27, 2023
Collaborative Research Centre
"Episteme in Motion"