Fragments, Holes, and Wholes: Reconstructing the Ancient World in Theory and Practice

Fragments - Warsaw 2014Fragments, Holes, and Wholes: Reconstructing the Ancient World in Theory and Practice
Warsaw, Poland, 12th–14th June 2014

An international conference organized by the Scientific Committee on Ancient Culture of the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Classical Studies of the University of Warsaw, the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Warsaw, the Institute of Classical Studies of Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań

Invited Speakers:
Hans-Joachim Gehrke, Annette Harder, Wolfgang Kaiser, Dirk Obbink, Paul Zanker

U. E.: … [D]o you know why the Presocratics only wrote fragments?
J.-C. C.: No.
U. E.: Because they lived in ruins.

Umberto Eco and Jean-Claude Carrière, This Is Not the End of the Book. Tr. P. McLean (London, 2011)

Umberto Eco’s joke – rather a hermetic one – aptly summarizes the nature of the ancient world as seen from the viewpoint of the 21st century. More than ever before, we are aware that the ancient world which classical scholars strive to reassemble is not a consistent whole. It is the world of fragments among ruins, and as such it is essentially broken, a fact highlighted by the very etymology of the word ‘fragment’ (< Lat. *frag- ‘break’). When seeking for a metaphor that would describe this fragmentary reality, the archaeologist might compare it to a vase shattered into dozens of pieces. The reader of ancient literature – who keeps in mind that the Greek word for fragment is apospasma, which derives from the verbapospaô, ‘tear off’ – might think of Pentheus, torn apart by the Maenads. Yet regardless whether one’s concern is with gluing together the fragmenta of a broken artifact, or with tracing the apospasmata of ancient narratives or ideas, the task of the classicist always remains the same: it is the reconstruction of the shattered past.

We are inviting scholars from all areas of Classics to an emphatically interdisciplinary conference whose purpose is to encourage reflection on what is the essence of classical scholarship: Fragment, Non-Completeness, Lacuna, Absence, and the relationship of these phenomena to the Whole. The conference is intended to reflect the broad scope of the organizing institutions: the Scientific Committee on Ancient Culture of the Polish Academy of Sciences (whose areas of expertise include classical philology, ancient history, art history, archaeology, epigraphy, papyrology and ancient law), the Institute of Classical Studies and the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Warsaw, and the Institute of Classical Studies of Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań.

We hope to receive proposals of original papers that will explore various ways in which classicists approach fragmentary texts (broadly understood) and objects. The papers may present theoretical approaches to fragments and lacunae as well as relate the first-hand experiences of restorers resulting from work on particular case studies (such as literary texts, material objects, works of art, papyri and inscriptions). Although our main preoccupation is with ancient Mediterranean cultures (not limited to the Graeco-Roman world), we are also interested in how the visions of later poets and artists dealt with the fragmentariness of the ancient world, and hence we are eager to consider contributions pertaining to the field of classical reception studies. We hope that the conference will become a forum for established scholars as well as for those in the earlier stages of their careers.


If you wish to present a paper, please submit a 250–300 word abstract including the title to one of the email addresses given below. There will be two types of presentations: 30-minute and 15-minute papers (please indicate the preferred form in your proposal). If your proposal is accepted, shortly before the conference you will be required to provide a 2–3 page summary of your presentation, so that copies can be distributed to the participants in order to allow them to prepare for the discussion. At the conference, each presentation (both short and longer papers) will be followed by a 15-minute discussion. To ensure the interdisciplinary character of the event and to facilitate communication between the participants, there will be no parallel sessions.

We invite papers in English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish, but the working language of the conference will be English.

The registration fee for participants is 150 €; this includes meals and conference materials. Accommodation at special reduced rates will be available to the registered participants.

We plan to publish a conference volume based on papers presented.

For registration and enquiries, please email Conference Secretary, Jan Kwapisz (, or General Chair, Jerzy Danielewicz (

The conference will be held on June 12th, 13th and 14th, 2014.

Early expressions of interest – by the end of June 2013 – are encouraged and appreciated. If you wish to present a paper, please provide us with a provisional title by this date.

The deadline for submitting titles and abstracts (250–300 words) is October 31st, 2013. If you wish to act as a respondent, chair a panel or otherwise participate in the conference, please express your interest by this date (we may be unable to offer accommodation at reduced rates to those registering after this deadline).

The conference committee will select c. 25 papers. Authors will be notified of the result in the course of December 2013.

The 2–3 page summaries of the accepted papers will have to reach us by April 30th, 2014.


The conference will be held at the University of Warsaw, in the vibrant centre of the capital of Poland. Utterly destroyed during World War II, Warsaw is a city that was rebuilt from fragments into a new shape and is currently experiencing a period of rapid modernization: as such it provides a particularly appropriate locus for this conference. The participants will be able to explore the fragments of pre-war Warsaw during a walking tour which will follow the conference.

The University can be easily reached from the airport, which is just 15 kilometres (9 miles) from the conference site. Further information will be given to the registered participants.

Conference Committee

General Chair: Prof. Jerzy Danielewicz, University of Poznań
Secretary: Dr Jan Kwapisz, University of Warsaw (
Prof. Krystyna Bartol, University of Poznań (classical philology)
Prof. Tomasz Giaro, University of Warsaw (ancient law)
Prof. Włodzimierz Lengauer, University of Warsaw (ancient history)
Prof. Adam Łajtar, University of Warsaw (epigraphy and papyrology)
Prof. Karol Myśliwiec, Polish Academy of Sciences (archaeology)
Prof. Jakub Pigoń, University of Wrocław (classical philology)
Prof. Mikołaj Szymański, University of Warsaw (classical philology)

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