The Anxiety of Influence and Appropriation

The Seventh Biennial Bryn Mawr College Graduate Group Symposium

December 4-5, 2009

Featured Respondent: Robert Nelson, Robert Lehman Professor, History of Art, Yale University

Sponsored by the Graduate Group, the Center for Visual Culture, and the Departments of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology, Greek, Latin and Classical Studies, and History of Art

Graduate Group


Jasmine Cloud
Temple University

"Damage Control: The Façade of San Marco and the Western Response to the Fourth Crusade"

Scholars have interpreted the renovation of San Marco and its piazza in the thirteenth century as a visual performance of Venice’s authority and legitimacy after 1204. Although indeed a manifestation of the city’s pride, the redecoration of the façade of San Marco, with Byzantine spoils from the Latin Empire and new mosaics, also declared Venice’s position pertaining to its actions in the Fourth Crusade. That is, the Venetians publicly asserted their right to the spoils of Constantinople in the face of critics who considered their actions barbaric and unjust. The western response to the taking of Constantinople vacillated between blaming the papacy and questioning the intentions of the Venetians. Venice answered this through the decoration of its most prominent civic space and the contemporary chronicle of Martin da Canal in the 1260s. Canal’s chronicle features two critical elements in this response: the first Venetian version of the events in the Levant and the reformulation and codification of the Marcian legend. The thirteenth-century façade mosaics of the translation of the body of St. Mark from Alexandria reminded the viewer of Venice’s prior legitimate acts of furta sacra (sacred theft). As shown by Thomas E. A. Dale, Venice had previously used visual means to assert its primacy over Aquileia. The concurrent revision of the Marcian legend and the redecoration of the church functioned as a response to those uneasy about the actions of Venice and the Crusaders in the Latin Empire, and asserted Venice’s legitimate ownership of the spoils.

Taylor Coughlan
University of Cincinnati

‘Parroting’ Ovid: Sappho, Voice, and Poetic Influence in Heroides 15

Ovid’s Heroides 15—the letter from the abandoned lyric poet Sappho to her lover Phaon—is a unique example in extant ancient literature of one author consciously writing in the voice of another. As such, Heroides 15 has become a central text in recent studies of the Ovidian poetics of imitation and allusion, especially the relationship between the elegiac persona and the literary canon (Verducci 1985; Davis 2005; Rimell 2006). This paper explores the poetic tension between writing in the voice of another poet and maintaining poetic originality. I will argue that Ovid exploits this tension—namely, the expectation of allusion to Sappho—to affirm the innovation and primacy of his poetic program.

At Heroides 15. 110-16, Ovid has Sappho recount to Phaon her physical reaction to his absence. For any reader familiar with Sappho’s oeuvre these lines would immediately evoke the pathos of Sappho’s original lyric (fr. 31. 7-10). While the context is reminiscent of Sappho, the language used by Ovid’s Sappho to describe her symptoms recall, instead, the lines of Ovid’s own Amores 2.6 in which he describes the final words and actions of Corinna’s parrot, who represents a metaphor for the elegiac poetic persona (Boyd 1987). Indeed, throughout Heroides 15 we find allusions to Amores 2.6 in the place of Sapphic tropes or language. This repeated self-allusion—a literary bait-and-switch of sorts—completely undermines the initial poetic conceit of Heroides 15: i.e. Ovid writing in the voice of Sappho. Instead, Sappho, stripped of her lyric voice, becomes another elegiac parrot, and the result is a questioning of the reliance on allusions to canonical texts for poetic success (cf. Catullus 51 and Horace Odes. 1.13 on Sappho fr. 31).

Selected bibliography
Boyd, B.W. 1987. “The Death of Corinna’s Parrot Reconsidered: Poetry and Ovid’s Amores.” CJ 82.3: 199-207.
Davis, G. 2005. “From Lyric to Elegy: The Inscription of Elegiac Subject in Heroides 15.” in Batstone and Tissol (eds.), Defining Genre and Gender in Latin Literature. Lang. 175-91.
Rimell, V. 2006. “Co-creators: Heroides 15.” in Ovid’s Lovers: Desire, Difference and the Poetic Imagination. Cambridge. 123-55.
Verducci, F. 1985. Ovid’s Toyshop of the Heart. Princeton.

Stella Diakou
Bryn Mawr College

"From Tomb Robbers to Private Collectors: Thievery of Cultural Heritage in the 21st Century"

Thievery, “the committing or practice of theft,” of art and antiquities has been a common theme since ancient times. However, during the last 20 years, along with an increasing anxiety on the subject of cultural heritage, there has also been an expansion in the relevant literature. Archaeologists, art historians and other scholars have become more aware of the theft of cultural heritage that continues to take place even in the 21st century.

The preservation, protection and promotion of cultural heritage appears to be the aim of almost all interested parties. In this paper I will look at the issues that are at stake here: who is the owner of cultural heritage? What constitutes legal ownership of cultural heritage? How does the term cultural property fit in the relevant discussions? What is the role of source and demand countries in the continuous stealing of cultural heritage? Who supplies the black market in art and antiquities? What is the role of museums, auction houses and private collectors in the preservation and protection of cultural heritage?

These issues will be presented against the background of the legal framework for the protection of cultural heritage. Using specific examples I will look at the development of this legal framework at an international and national level. Moreover, I will examine the evolution of museums’ acquisition policies and codes of ethics and how these influence the demand for art and antiquities.

Daniel Dooley
Johns Hopkins University

"Epicizing Epigrams and Epigrammatic Epics: Homeric Elements in Hellenistic Poetry"

The little-known epigrammatist Pollianus plainly proclaimed his hatred for imitators of Homer, whom he considered plagiarists, mere “robbers of another’s verses” (λωποδ?τας ?λλοτρ?ων ?π?ων, Anthologia Palatina 11.130). This sentiment was widespread during the Hellenistic period, when Callimachus and some of his contemporaries championed succinct, original compositions over long-winded works that borrowed copiously from the epic tradition. However, such contemporary criticism ignored the fact that just as Hellenistic sculpture almost depended on its ability to respond to archaic motifs, Homer’s influence was practically inescapable within the Hellenistic literary milieu (cf. Fowler, 156ff.). Moreover, the appropriation of Homeric elements was not equivalent to straight plagiarism, as epic material was in fact heavily reworked during this period.

This paper explores the various borrowings and transformations of Homer through the lens of three case studies. First, Callimachus, despite his professed aversion to epic, is studied for his learned adaptations of Homeric language and imagery. By contrast, Apollonius Rhodius adopted the formal appearance of epic verse for his Argonautica, but he simultaneously drew upon Attic tragedy and achieved further novelty through his untraditional portrayal of Jason. Finally, Homer’s texts formed the basis for the mythological and topographical allusions of Euphorion, an author who in late Republican Rome was both revered and defamed for his exuberance. Far from finding Homer’s Hellenistic imitators guilty of unoriginality, we should recognize and appreciate the diversity of uses to which these poets applied their ancient model.

Selected bibliography
Fowler, B.H. The Hellenistic Aesthetic (Madison, Wisc.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989).
Gow, A.S.F. and D.L. Page, The Greek Anthology: Hellenistic Epigrams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965).
Lightfoot, J.L. Parthenius of Nicaea: The Poetical Fragments and the Erôtika Pathêmata  (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).
van Groningen, B.A. Euphorion (Amsterdam: A.M. Hakkert, 1977).

Ruth Erickson
University of Pennsylvania

"The Real Movie: Reenactment, Spectacle, and Recovery in Pierre Huyghe's The Third Memory"

Reenactment has emerged as a key artistic strategy in recent years. It operates through the mechanism of repetition and alienation, where the reconstruction of a source event entails that event’s transformation. For the most part, contemporary artists deploy reenactment for two critical purposes: to “rewrite” history by offering a forum for other viewpoints traditionally kept outside the “grand narratives” and to deconstruct the images and accounts that have comprised these narratives. These aims are central to what Robert Blackson calls reenactment’s “emancipatory agency.” However, as much as reenactments may correct the passivity of mediation and representation with the action of enactment, they also rely on the production of new images to re-produce events. This paper situates reenactment within histories of performance and appropriation and, through Pierre Huyghe’s The Third Memory (2000), explores how this technology of representation manipulates pre-existing cultural forms and knowledge.

To create The Third Memory, Huyghe invited John Wojtowicz to direct a reenactment of his attempted bank robbery twenty-eight years after its occurrence. Widely covered by the media from the outset, the robbery had become inextricably linked with, if not eclipsed by, the popular Hollywood film based on the event—Dog Day Afternoon (US, 1975). To reenact the robbery, therefore, meant to reenact the robbery’s mediatization and cinematic narrativization, thereby  producing a new form, a third memory, distinct from journalistic fact and Hollywood fiction yet influenced by these prior representations. By analyzing these films as well as a 2004 documentary about the robbery, Based on a True Story, I trace a series of reenactments and argue that Huyghe uses the tactic to mediate between recovery and spectacle.

Nicholas Genau
University of Virginia

"An Appropriation of Victory: Calixtus II and Spolia at Santa Maria in Cosmedin"

Throughout its fertile history, Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome has been an architectural emblem of various historical, religious, and political individuals and groups. Although not as monumental as the major pilgrimage churches of Rome or equally significant basilicae, Santa Maria in Cosmedin reflects certain contemporary trends in architectural and artistic programs expressed in the more famous churches throughout the city. Upon entering the basilica, the astute visitor is immediately struck by the heterogeneous collection of capitals, shafts, and bases that constitute the colonnade of the nave. Most exceptional are two historiated capitals displaying personifications of Genii and Victories, which, as examples of spolia, teem with exegetical significance, especially in consideration of the twelfth century renovation of the church. This paper first argues that these two historiated capitals were taken from the Altar Maxima Herculis Victoris, one of the most sacred sites in ancient Rome, over which Santa Maria in Cosmedin was built. Based on the association of the church with the Great Altar, therefore, it will become clear that the capitals served as symbols of the church’s twelfth century patron, Pope Calixtus II, whose papacy (1119-24) marked the end of the Investiture Conflict, fought between the Roman Church and the Holy Roman Empire over the right of investiture, or the appointment of bishops. Thus, Calixtus, in appropriating Santa Maria in Cosmedin and its spolia into his fledgling political sphere, was continuing a centuries long tradition of evoking Hercules as a symbol of victory, as well as furthering the political mode in twelfth century Rome of retranslating the pagan past into present Christian ideologies.

Nate Harrison
University of California, San Diego

"The Pictures Movement, the Copyright Act of 1976, and the Reassertion of Authorship in Postmodernity"

This paper will reevaluate Sherrie Levine’s and Richard Prince’s early appropriations within the context of their poststructuralist theorization, and in particular the “death of the author” discourse historically linked with the avant-garde activities of New York’s Pictures Movement. Held at Soho’s Artists Space in the Fall of 1977, Douglas Crimp’s exhibition Pictures (after which the movement is named), is often cited as the inauguration of postmodern appropriation and its critique of the centered author-subject––a figure rigorously defended in modern art history through to Abstract Expressionism. Rather than maintain the exhibition as a founding moment however, this essay will instead situate the beginnings of postmodern appropriation within the context of legal history, linking it to an event that preceded Pictures by a year: the passing of the Copyright Act of 1976. Doing so will enlarge appropriation art’s social, economic and political framing, which in turn can assist in more thoroughly analyzing the theoretical moment within which appropriation art has been historicized. The paper will conclude that, given American copyright law’s de-individuation of the author, Levine’s and Prince’s gestures invite a reading at odds with a poststructuralist critique. Rather than undermining any romantic notion of authorial originality in a culture of the copy, the works reasserted the very productive core of the romantic authorial mode––one premised on the author’s singular ownership of the work through his or her labor.

Dan Leon
University of Virginia

"Who Wrote Arrian’s Anabasis? Source Criticism and the Destruction of Coherent Texts"

Though it is a complete text, Arrian’s Anabasis has been divided into fragments of texts assigned to earlier authors by generations of scholars attempting to reconstruct the lost histories of Alexander the Great. Such texts are sought as ‘superior’ historical sources (Tarn, Bosworth 1988) or as representatives of Hellenistic historiography (Pearson, Tonnet). While pursuing these goals, scholars have effectively obliterated Arrian’s role as author of the Anabasis by stressing the presence of material composed by other authors.

The perceived theft of Alexander’s horse (Anabasis 5.19.6) is one incident which source criticism has not explained adequately. Though the story involves Alexander’s genocidal rage, scholarship has focused on the lost source (Powell) or on the geographical problems presented by Arrian’s slight divergence from other accounts (Bosworth, ad loc.). This approach has revealed that all extant accounts share a source, but ignores Arrian’s manipulation of it.

In this paper I will demonstrate that, by relating the incident out of its proper chronological sequence and alongside Alexander’s grief at the horse’s death, Arrian creates a pair of episodes addressing the tension between Alexander’s military prowess and his inability to conquer death, a prominent theme in the Anabasis (cf. Stadter, pp. 86-88). Through this case study, I will suggest an alternative approach the text which highlights Arrian’s agency in the selection, adaptation, and presentation of his material. I will also demonstrate that the fragments contained in the Anabasis cannot be understood without reference to Arrian’s deployment of them, a conclusion which may have implications for other texts often considered ‘derivative’ historiography.

Bosworth, A.B. A Historical Commentary on Arrian's History of Alexander (2 vols.). Oxford, 1980-
----- From Arrian to Alexander: Studies in Historical Interpretation. Oxford, 1988
Pearson, L. The Lost Histories of Alexander the Great. New York, 1960
Powell, J.E. “The Sources of Plutarch’s AlexanderJournal of Hellenic Studies 59.2 (1939): 229-240
Stadter, P. Arrian of Nicomedia. Chapel Hill, 1980
Tarn, W.W. Alexander the Great, vol. 2. Cambridge, 1948
Tonnet, H. Recherches Sur Arrien: Sa Personnalité Et Ses Écrits Atticistes. Amsterdam, 1988

James Magruder, III
Johns Hopkins University

"Counterfeiting Romanitas in Late Byzantine & Medieval Cameos"

The Byzantine icon usually has been framed by historians as an expression of eternal ideals. However, Palaiologan engraved gems present a dynamic field on which the icon is reconfigured in terms of Roman revival. Perhaps, due to the loss of antiquities that followed the Fourth Crusade, Byzantium looked to recreate its Roman identity in Christian cameos that evoke late Antiquity. Transparent gems re-appear with newfound plasticity, and multi-layer cameos offer an estheticized interchange of figure and ground, light and dark not seen since the sixth century. Daring new narratives, such as St. Theodore and the hydra, re-interpret Christian history through Byzantium's pre-Christian past.

Just when narrative icons and icon covers were frankly declaring their intentions to display a true history of the sacred image, glyptics were transforming the icon's historicity through associations with Roman forms. Cameos in sardonyx and chalcedony present the Theotokos and Christ in the style of the Roman imperial family. Did the Byzantines mean to draw the analogy? Parodies of the Byzantine court in the Byzantine novel provide tantalizing links. Could the newfound love of sacred figures in high relief on transparent gems evoke the values of a neo-Platonic discourse? Large relief icons suggest that presence was at stake in both public and private. This paper explores Byzantine humanism in the world of personal and precious objects that engaged a freewheeling discourse of sacred and secular Romanness, fantasized and constructed. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then revival is the subtlest form of thievery.

Zhanara Nauruzbayeva
Stanford Univerity

"Derivative Modernisms: Appropriation and Visual Artists in Post-Soviet Kazakhstan"

My paper presents an ethnography of “alternative modernisms.” Research with contemporary visual artists in post-socialist Kazakhstan revealed the important disparity of how Kazakhstani artists understood their own work in relation to how art interlocutors from outside Kazakhstan perceived the same work. Kazakhstani artists, effectively sealed off from the Western art world until the collapse of the Soviet Union, now consider themselves, in profound ways, as part of a global community of artists. Nonetheless, the most common term that their art encounters with art interlocutors outside Kazakhstan is “derivative.” Because most of the works produced by these artists is in a dialogue with the Western modernist tradition, their work is considered to have little unique contribution to the global history of art.

In this paper, I explore this divergence by focusing on appropriation as a creative practice. I investigate the social processes that shape how Kazakhstani visual artists come to understand their art-making as engaging with Western artists through interviews with two painters who produce their work in relation to French artist Jean Dubuffet and American artist Keith Haring. Their accounts offer an example of how post-Soviet artists establish intellectual kinship and affinity to a transnational community. As such, this paper presents artists’ counternarratives to the hegemonic claims built into the category of ‘alternative modernisms.’

Laura Pfuntner
University of California , Berkeley

"Creating Commagenian Kingship at Nemrud Dagi"

The tumulus of the Commagenian king Antiochus I at Nemrud Dagi (ca. 69 – 31 BC) is one of the most confounding monuments of the Hellenistic period. Built on a mountaintop high in the Taurus range, the monument’s sculptural program draws from the iconography of the Greek and Iranian religious traditions upon which Antiochus based his dynastic cult, yet the form and style of the images of Antiochus, his ancestors, and his gods are without close parallel in either tradition. Terms such as “syncretism” or “hybridity” are usually used to describe the monument’s relationship to Hellenistic Greek and Ancient Near Eastern art. However, these terms imply a simple blending of similar elements from static Greek and Near Eastern traditions, and do not leave room for change within traditions. They are also rather restrictive, since they do not account for the motivations of Antiochus in appropriating and manipulating tradition or explain why he might have chosen to depart completely from it in some instances.

This paper instead approaches Nemrud Dagi as an expression of Antiochus’ ambitions for himself and his dynasty, and as a creative answer to the special challenges he faced in promoting a dynastic cult in the turbulent late Hellenistic world. By drawing from (but not adhering faithfully to) the artistic traditions of the Hellenistic kingdoms and Achaemenid Persia, Antiochus promoted a new and distinct conception of Commagenian kingship that looked to the distant, imagined past rather than the troubled present in order to emphasize the beneficence, inclusiveness, concord and stability of his reign.

Catherine Roach
Columbia University

"'The Want of Artifice’: Allusion and Inclusion in Eighteenth-Century British Painting"

Sir Joshua Reynolds, President of Britain’s Royal Academy, encouraged his students to steal—but only under certain conditions. An artist who imitates a pre-existing motif, he claimed, “and so accommodates it to his own work, that it makes a part of it, with no seam or joining appearing, can hardly be charged with plagiarism… Borrowing or stealing with such art or caution, will have a right to the same lenity as was used by the Lacedemonians, who did not punish theft, but the want of artifice to conceal it.” Yet Reynolds did not practice what he preached: the thinly-veiled compositional allusions to classical works in his portraits were easily identified by an elite subset of his audience. At the same time, an even more blatant type of visual reference, inclusion, appeared in the work of artists such as William Hogarth and Johann Zoffany. The presence of a “seam or joining,” to use Reynolds’s term, distinguishes an inclusion (that is, an image-within-an-image) from an allusion. Bordered by a frame, an image-within-an-image announces itself for what it is: a motif appropriated from elsewhere, an object that is one with and yet fundamentally different from the rest of the painted surface. Like the allusions advocated by Reynolds, inclusion seeks to avoid accusations of plagiarism, but through announcement rather than concealment. This paper will examine inclusions and allusions as practiced by Reynolds and his contemporaries and argue that attention to the various modes of visual reference can reveal much about the relationships between artists and about the visual abilities of their audiences.

Jessica Seidman
University of Chicago

"Modeling on 'Zeuxis Selecting Models': Catullus 51 and the Aesthetic of Eclecticism"

Although Catullus 51 is among the most famous poems in the author’s collection, it is unclear how much this “translation” belongs to Catullus at all: Sappho 31 is the primary source for the verses, but scholars have also detected echoes of everything from the Homeric Hymn to Diana (Knox) to the words of Phaedra in Euripides’ Hippolytus (Segal) to the lament of Theocritus’ Cyclops (Wray). This paper argues that the story of ‘Zeuxis Selecting Models,’ offers a useful comparison in helping us understand Poem 51 and the aesthetic of eclecticism at its core.

According to Cicero, when Zeuxis was commissioned by the people of Croton to paint a Helen, the painter did not choose one woman to be his model, but five “because he did not think all the qualities which he sought to combine in a portrayal of beauty could be found in one person,” (Cic.Inv.2.3). The segmentation of the body of Zeuxis’ Helen parallels the description of Catullus’ disintegrated body in Poem 51. This description offers a visual metaphor for the literary disintegration the reader detects. Just as Helen was too beautiful for any one human model to capture, so the effect of Catullus’ Lesbia is too powerful for any one literary model; the poet must pull from a variety of sources to give even a sideways glance at his beloved. Catullus’ literary thefts are the very point of his poem, not some lapse in his originality that must be overlooked or forgiven.

P. E. Knox, “Sappho fr. 31 L-P and Catullus 51. A Suggestion,” Quaderni urbinati di cultura classica 17 (1984): 97-102.
Charles Segal, “Otium and Eros; Catullus, Sappho, and Euripides' Hippolytus,” Latomus 48 (1989): 817-822.
David Wray, Catullus and the Poetics of Roman Manhood (Cambridge, U.K. ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001)

Melanie Subacus
New York University

“Translation and Appropriation of Vergil’s Aeneid

Anxiety is inherent in translation, and the line between originality and theft becomes even more blurred in the act of retranslation. As one moves further from the text, a dual source of anxiety emerges, first the relationship between translator and source text, and then that between translator and previous translators of the same text. Vergil’s Aeneid has been translated time and again, allowing translators to engage with the text as well as with each other. The translations of John Dryden and William Wordsworth are direct examples of such literary engagement. This paper will evaluate episodes from each translation and based on Wordsworth’s explicitly negative reaction to Dryden’s Aeneid, will evaluate the conscious similarities and differences as a reflection of both literary and political anxieties.

In his letters, Wordsworth, criticized Dryden’s translation extensively and Wordsworth’s own translation of Vergil can be seen as an attempt to supplant Dryden, who — some scholars would argue — has produced the best English translation to date. In his translation, however, Wordsworth will at times appropriates language directly from Dryden. He also chooses to compose his translation in the Neo-Classical heroic couplets which Dryden uses; a marked shift from the blank verse of the Prelude. Each translator was heavily involved in contemporary politics and each produced programmatic essays on the writing of poetry. For Wordsworth, this meant an emphasis on common language and everyday experiences, much different from the affected and courtly language of Dryden. In this paper, I will examine the presence of both high and low poetic language within the Aeneid that made the translation so appealing to both poets. Wordsworth’s opposition to the affected language of Dryden’s Aeneid produces a work very different, yet explicitly connected and engaged through undisguised appropriations, than that of his Enlightenment predecessor.