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HOME: DEPARTURE AND DESTINATION

October 4-5, 2013

 

Abstracts

There's No Place Like Home: Disrupted Returns and Redefinition of Home in Statius' Thebaid
Dianne Boetsch, Bryn Mawr College

Statius' Thebaid, an epic poem which portrays the tension between the two sons of Oedipus, Eteocles and Polynices, as they vie for the throne of Thebes, has been read variously as a poem of madness, delay, hatred and furor, and inescapable heredity. I argue, however, that this poem, relating the events leading up to Polynices' destructive return to Thebes which incites civil war, is an epic of dysfunctional and disrupted returns and homecomings. Polynices' own bloody and devastating homecoming certainly sets the stage and the tone of the entire epic, but his return to Thebes is not the only journey that is highlighted over the course of the poem. Statius takes what is a seemingly straightforward and central theme of homecoming in the poem and reduplicates, complicates, and manipulates this incident by presenting the reader with various replications and distortions of returns enacted by different characters throughout the poem. These scenes include Laius' return to Thebes as a shade, Tydeus' return to Argos from his embassy to Thebes, and Maeon's return to Thebes after the slaughter of his fellow warriors. These episodes, which in many ways mirror and foretell Polynices' own eventual return, depict journeys filled with numerous disruptions and arrivals which are often met with a disturbing and dysfunctional reception. In some cases, however, such as with Tydeus and eventually Laius, the return is not ultimately a failure, but a triumph or a release. The difference that Statius illustrates in these scenes that do not end with destruction is that these successful characters are able to renegotiate their definition and associations of home and have found a sense of belonging. Polynices, on the other hand, represents a figure with a complete inability to adapt and renegotiate these parameters and his determination to pursue his old home in Thebes is what drives the action of the epic. Statius' multifaceted presentation of this theme, through these secondary characters of the epic, highlights the depth of Polynices' displacement and his disruptive homecoming. His failure to redefine his sense of home and belonging is therefore what truly encapsulates the magnitude of the Thebaid's devastation.

 


 

Negotiations of Community and Identity Within a Foreign Garrison: A Case Study of Hellenistic Painted Grave Stelai from Sidon
Emma Buckingham, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

During excavations carried out in 1897, several painted stelai dating to the Hellenistic period were uncovered in the garden of Bostan el-Amoud, in a suburb at the south end of Sidon. These stelai served as funerary monuments for foreign mercenary soldiers in the service of a Hellenistic monarch. Although the mercenary stelai were discovered outside of their original context, they likely would have been originally set up in a group, not interspersed among citizen funerary markers, since they display distinct similarities with one another. It is probable that they belonged to a mercenary cemetery not far from the place of their discovery, serving a separate community with separate customs. This supposition is made more likely by the fact that the mercenaries were from various areas of the Greek world, and were stationed together in a garrison in Sidon, far from their original homelands.


In this paper, I suggest that the paintings on these stelai and the accompanying inscriptions represent soldiers attempting to assert their identity as outsiders stationed in a foreign land, while at the same time negotiating their relationship to the territory in which they were stationed. The painted stelai are iconographically and stylistically Greek, although constructed of local limestone. Identity plays an important role among the stelai, which not only portray the individuals in mercenary dress and indicate their status through the use of identificatory tokens, but also distinguish the various soldiers and indicate their diverse origins through inscriptions. A specific style was chosen that isolated and abstracted the painted depictions and associated iconography, clearly marking the unique identity of the deceased and unambiguously conveying the social and ethnic status of the depicted individuals to the viewer. This group of stelai sheds light on the motivation for particular representations and the identity not only of those soldiers depicted on the stelai, but also of those individuals who dedicated and created the monuments; individuals who, no doubt, also interacted with the citizens within their own communities. The stelai serve a company of mercenaries that, despite the various origins of those involved, nevertheless assert a communal identity within a foreign land, spatially emphasized by their isolation from local necropoleis and their disregard for the normal funerary customs of the area.


As Celina Gray has noted, "regardless of where people originated, what is important is how they sought to identify themselves in their new homeland. The use of the ethnic was a powerful means of gaining a sense of community." This assemblage, with its use of the ethnic and of ethnic identifiers in the iconography and style of the painted depictions, thus suggests the existence of a "home away from home" for the mercenaries: family relationships and ties with Macedonian and Greek roots are emphasized, while at the same time the physical presence of the memorials within the landscape of the city of Sidon suggests an acknowledgement on the part of the family members or compatriots of the deceased that this company of mercenaries was not just a temporary, but instead a permanent home, for the individual soldiers. The use of the ethnic and of ethnic identifiers in the iconography and dress among the Sidonian stelai reflects the mutability of ethnicity and culture that characterized the Hellenistic period; at a time when identity, individualism and self-awareness were important concerns, ties between individual and community were nonetheless emphasized and strengthened through the creation of such funerary monuments.

 


 

Affiliations at Home: Blackness and The Resolution of South Asian-American Marginality in Mississippi Masala
Dwight Carey, University of California, Los Angeles

In her 1991 film, Mississippi Masala, Mira Nair represents the United States as the only place where a South Asian family can construct a meaningful home. Set in 1990s Mississippi, the film follows the aftermath of a South Asian family's expulsion from Uganda and settlement in America during the Idi Amin dictatorship of the 1970s. This family's life in exile culminates when Mina (the only child) decides to flee Mississippi with Demetrius, an African-American man who is the love of her life. Mina and Demetrius leave Mississippi behind in search of a new home somewhere in the vast expanses of the American nation. Mina's search for a home parallels that of her father, Jay. After years of contemplating his house, life, and African friend (Okelo) in Uganda, Jay returns only to find his house destroyed and Okelo dead. His realization that everything he knew in Africa no longer exists propels him to reject Uganda and emphatically embrace his wife and his home in America. Pervious scholarship on Mississippi Masala has suggested the film positions romance as the vehicle for the resolution of prejudices that render South Asian-Americans alien and culturally unaffiliated with the United States. Yet these critiques have not interrogated the role of black masculinity in shaping the embrace of an American home on the part of Mina and Jay. This paper probes the under-theorized ways in which black maleness informs the modalities of home and national belonging articulated in the film. I contend that Mississippi Masala renders South Asians at home in America on the basis of their responses to the possibility or impossibility of intimacy with black male figures—one African-American, one African—in the adopted nation and the abandoned homeland. Through examining the film's representation of achieved or failed affiliation with black men, I will draw attention to the primacy accorded to blackness as the vector for the construction of an American home for South Asians in diaspora. In doing so, I will consider the film in relation to larger political projects of multicultural nationalism still relevant in the United States today. Thus, this paper will engage discourses of Asian-American Studies, African-American Studies, and visual culture to critique the vision of home presented in Mississippi Masala.

 


 

'Something of an architect': Thomas Cole and the House Portrait
William L. Coleman, University of California, Berkeley

The Anglo-American landscape painter Thomas Cole made views of country houses, or "house portraits‚" for three different patrons over the course of his career. These seemingly topographic images of specific buildings sit uneasily in an oeuvre distinguished by ambitious allegories and have received little mention in the scholarship of one of most studied artists of the nineteenth-century United States. The consensus seems to be that the house portraits were regrettable concessions to financial necessity with little relation to the rest of the artist's work. However, a strong body of textual evidence shows that Cole was unusually sophisticated as a critic and designer of architecture, that he understood intimately how buildings work and what they can mean, urging a rather different reading of these enigmatic paintings.


By placing Cole's house portraits in dialogue with the artist's letters and journals and contemporary writing about country life, I argue that these commissions were formative for Cole's conception of "home." His three surviving canvases of the estate of George William Featherstonhaugh show an artist conversant with the tropes of English house portraiture and explicitly transplanting statements that art-form makes about the political power rooted in the home to the New York wilderness. For Daniel Wadsworth, Cole envisioned home as a site of public beneficence and spectatorship. The pendant paintings of the Van Rensselaer estate participate in the transformation of home into immaterial nostalgia on the eve of the dissolution of the family's feudal rule. Each project has a great deal to tell us about the forces at work in the forging of ideal domesticity in the period.

 


 

Ἀναθήματα Abroad: The Dedication of Votive Offerings in Sanctuaries away from Home
Nicole Colosimo, Bryn Mawr College

In the ancient Greek world, worshippers dedicated votive offerings, or anathema, to their gods in hopes of creating and maintaining a relationship that would bestow upon them protective benefits. To achieve this end, the ancient Greeks set up dedications in the sanctuaries and shrines which reflected their social, economic, and political structures and which were scattered throughout their cities, towns, and hinterland. Yet, at times worshippers preferred the assistance of deities whose sanctuaries were situated outside their homeland. This paper analyzes the various factors which may have enticed worshippers from dedicating votive offerings at their local sanctuaries and encouraged them to choose those found abroad. I explore the major opportunities for Greek worshippers in the Classical and Hellenistic periods to dedicate offerings away from their home sanctuaries, including the seasonal games and interstate competition of Panhellenic sanctuaries, the relief of illnesses found at the sanctuaries of healing gods, and initiation into mystery cults. Additionally, I address the pressures generated by laws, traditions, and customs that widely affected many ancient Greek cities and directed worshippers toward sanctuaries outside the reach of their home polis. Such aspects encompass the traditional dedication of First Fruits at Eleusis, Spartan restrictions on displays of wealth by private citizens, and the Athenian inclusion of its colonies and allies in major city festivals. I argue that, unlike sanctuaries located at home, those located abroad gave worshippers the possibility to express the relationship embodied in the votive offering in new and expansive ways. Dedicating votive offerings at these sanctuaries gave worshippers access to new levels of prestige while incorporating them into the political, religious and social identity of their fellow Greeks.

 


 

Constructing a Local Romanitas: The Negotiation of Civic Identity Through Foreign Cult at Puteoli
Erika Jeck, University of Chicago

Insofar as religion in the Roman world was an expression not only of Romanitas, but also of a more localized civic identity, the role of immigrants as both worshipers and residents (or even citizens) within the urban fabric poses a curious question: how did the possibility of multiple civic affiliations affect religious custom? As more people moved across the empire by will or coercion, these immigrant communities contributed pieces of their former homes in order to create new ones. Did the contribution of foreign religious customs and cults—and therefore an expression of cultural identity external to the host city—constrain the viability of civic religion?


Elaborating upon previous studies of the civic religious system that explain the eventual demise of pagan Roman religion on account of its inability to accommodate the needs of an empire, this paper seeks to investigate this potential instability by examining the religious life of merchants, foreign freedmen, and other transplanted populations living in the port city of Puteoli during the second and third centuries CE. By demonstrating how civic religion adaptedor failed to adaptto the arrival of these immigrant groups may offer a glimpse of possible patterns of tension and adaption within local civic religion.


In 174 CE, for example, merchants living in Puteoli were forced to request financial support from their native Tyre in order to maintain their traditional cult sacrifices. Unlike the Tyrian cults at Rome, the cults at Puteoli were patronized only by the Tyrians themselves, and thus were facing financial strain. This difference between the status of the Tyrian cult at Rome and Puteoli evidences how these cities developed along divergent paths with the growth of their respective alien communities.


By comparing the varying levels of religious integration among native and immigrant populations at Puteoli, this paper will examine how religion reinforced a political identity on a municipal level sometimes in conjunction with, and sometimes in opposition to, the broadening "imagined community" of Roman citizens across the Mediterranean.

 


 

Form, Function, and Memory: The Identification of Building F in the Athenian Agora
Catharine Judson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Building F, located on the western edge of the Athenian Agora underneath the later Tholos, has proved baffling to earlier scholars. There is no inscriptional evidence by which to identify the function or inhabitants of the building, and virtually no material contents to shed light on these problems; only the "domestic" area to the west of the main structure with its roasting pits and wells gives any indication of the type and scale of activity that took place in the complex.


Because Building F is dated to the second half of the sixth century BCE and is prominently located in an area later associated with civic/political functions, it has been identified alternatively as the house of the tyrant Peisistratos and his sons, and as an early prytanikos oikos, anticipating the function of the Tholos. These suggestions (as well as that arguing for its function as the tyrants' house until it was converted into a civic space under the democracy) are based on anachronistic generalizations about the plan of the structure, the Greek tendency towards continuity of function in the same space over time (in this case retrojected onto earlier structures), and the historiographical tradition. The first part of my paper thus unpacks previous scholarly discussions of Building F and reassesses their usefulness in identifying Building F and its functions. For the purposes of my further discussion of the building, I accept the argument that Building F was originally the house of the tyrants and was then repurposed as a civic space by the democracy.


In the second half of my paper, I address the most problematic and most understudied aspect of Building F, namely its anonymity in an area of Athens for which we have a plethora of literary information. It was maintained for approximately forty years under the democracy in addition to its use under the tyrants and would thus appear to have been an important space. Why then was it cleared out and covered over in such a systematic fashion that no remembered traces of it appear in any of the later literary treatments of the tyrants and the Athenian Agora? I argue that this treatment is part of a broader pattern of deliberate preservation and erasure of Peisistratid monuments under the fledgling democracy. The polis preserved and repurposed the house of the Peisistratids as an act of negative memorialization: the members of the oikos were ejected from the city while the architectural oikos became a public and civic space under the new order. The need for this type of memorialization in the face of the previous regime decreased sharply in importance after the Persian War, however, as the Athenian democracy began to identify itself more in opposition to the eastern barbarians rather than their own tyrannical past. At this point, the house of the tyrants could be safely forgotten and the more architecturally suitable Tholos could be constructed in its place.

 


 

You Can't Go Home Again: Regulus and the Ideal of Rome
E. V. Mulhern, Bryn Mawr College

The Roman consul Regulus, facing certain death at the hands of his captors, and presented with the opportunity to stay safely at home in Rome, defies the urging of his friends and family and goes back, instead, to Carthage and his doom. Various authors, from Cicero to Silius Italicus, motivate all the components of Regulus' home, both his own house and Rome as a whole, to convince himhis wife, his hearth, the trophies he won in his glorious careerbut he ignores them all. Why? Simply: because he has made an oath. He swore to return to captivity if he did not do what his captors wished, and he refused to carry out their aims, considering them to be detrimental to the Roman state. In this paper I argue, using a variety of late Republican and Imperial authors, that this oath makes it impossible for Regulus to return to Rome, since to do so would be to destroy everything that made such a return desirable. However profound his nostalgia, to succumb to its call would betray his own honor, and, since individual honor is the cornerstone to his conception of Roman greatness, it would also damage the whole Republic. Regulus cannot bring himself to return to a Rome that is less than the one he left, because that would be no homecoming; still less does he wish to be the man who made Rome weaker. Therefore, he must deny what we often consider the most important physical parts of his homeits geography, its comforts, even the clothes he wears therein order for it to maintain its metaphysical valence. Paradoxically, Rome can only be Regulus' home if he never goes back.

 


 

A Final Dwelling Place: The Role of Death in Space, Place, and Home in Siberian Nomadic Communities
Emma Patten, Harvard Divinity School

Home is a multivalent and contested term, one which becomes exceedingly obscure when considering Siberian nomadic peoples. However, through the use of Heideggerian notions of space, place, and dwelling, we may identify those factors which contribute to a space being deemed a place, and, by extension, that place being recognized as a home. In the context of Siberia, a notion of home becomes apparent in the treatment of grave sites; death acts as a crystallization of previously unarticulated notions of stasis, of home. Through the process of dying, one becomes sedentary, akin in some ways to the land itself. Within this stasis, the senses of belonging and ownership paradoxically conflate, as the dead person both belongs to the land by being tethered to it, but simultaneously owns the land through exerting a consistent and unwavering influence on it. Thus home, as a sedentary location imbued with meaning and attachments, is attainable for Siberian nomads through the process of death.


Tenuous and vacillating connections to land unoccupied by graves signify that people conceive of extreme attachment to a place only in the case of death and burial. Thus Heidegger's theory of dwelling remains pertinent, though not in the manner he originally intended. It instead is recontextualized to refer to another form of stasis within a meaningful placeperhaps even a more pure paradigm in terms of permanence. When functioning under the assumption that Heidegger's theories surrounding dwelling, space, and place remain salient, it follows that the most sedentary and meaning-imbued locality for Siberian nomads is the grave; thus, the notion of home is attainable through death and burial, actions which imbue the surrounding land with significance. The duality of belonging and ownership facilitates a comprehension of places as being fully steeped in meaning; it signifies being completely and inextricably intertwined with the land, engaging in a relationship that is not fleeting or inconsistent as the relationship with campsites is. This dialectic creates a home, as the ownership and belonging are ostensibly permanent; in turn, the most pure form of permanence is death. In terms of Heidegger's theory, the deceased have no reason to continue moving, searching for hidden secrets to be revealedthe most pervasive and essential secret of all has already been disclosed to them. With no ability and no theoretical reason to leave, the dead inherently possess a certain stasis, the search for which becomes manifest in humans' quest to reach or create a home.


For Siberian nomads, then, the grave, as a human's final destination, concentrates all the meaning of a life into a single, consolidated, stationary point, and it is here that the pursuit of home ends.

 


 

Interiority in René Magritte's Middle Class Interiors: A Site for Unconscious Revolution
Stephanie Peterson, City University of New York, Graduate Center

From 1927-1930 René Magritte rented an apartment in the Parisian suburb Le-Perreux-sur-Marne, the features of which (the wallpaper, wainscoting, and wood floors) had an impact on his oeuvre for years following his return to Brussels. Magritte's domestic spaces bear a dual signification: a metaphor for the subconscious and the location in which man can retreat from the working world. Although he was not directly promoting revolution, the home served as an accessible location for the mind to idle. Taking into consideration Magritte's burgeoning interest in dime-store detective novels and the Fântomas film series, I posit that Magritte's interiors operate in a manner similar to the enclosed-room fictional device frequently used in detective novels. The mystery novel led Magritte to further investigate vacant domestic spaces by examining problems concerning quotidian objects. Moreover, the interplay between exterior and interior worlds mirrors the function of cathectic energy in the subconscious, which protects against anxiety-inducing stimuli. As the study of his home evolved, Magritte began to focus on the material nature of the mass-produced decorative details in his home, which became increasingly defined and structurally controlled, speaking to their mechanical mode of production. I theorize that the combination of Magritte's focus on materiality, which derives from his personal experience working in a wall-paper factory, and his interest in vernacular literature imbues his domestic interiors with accessible imagery that suggest revolution through reverie.

 


 

The Role of Byzantine Domestic Space After 1453: The Case of Venice
Lana Sloutsky, Boston University

In 1453, Mehmed II conquered Constantinople and ended the millennium-long reign of the Byzantine Empire. The physical and psychological devastation and conversion of the Byzantine capital, which had been referred to as both New Rome and New Jerusalem since the fourth century, to Islamic Istanbul swiftly changed the city that was the embodiment of Byzantium. Starting in the 1440s, Byzantines from across the socioeconomic spectrum, but especially those of the upper classes, fled for the former Byzantine Commonwealth and Western Europe. Once abroad, these émigrés played a crucial role in preserving Byzantine culture and identity. My research focuses on several aristocratic women who made significant contributions to cultural preservation in part through their active formation and transformation of the domestic space.


This paper centers on Anna Notaras (d. 1507), a wealthy émigré noblewoman who was key for perpetuating the Byzantine identity in Venice. The Serenissima had strong historical, cultural, and economic ties to Byzantium and after 1453 became home to the largest and most prominent Byzantine colony. Notaras was the primary patroness of the émigré community and her house was considered its spiritual and cultural core. In this paper, I closely examine several objects of material culture that belonged to Anna by integrating a wide range of pertinent methodological systems including those put forth by Gaston Bachelard, Alexei Lidov, and the Byzantine theologian St. John Chrysostomos. Questions such as the role of women in the physical and conceptual formation of a post-Byzantine domestic space and the importance of the home for identity preservation, are also addressed.

 

 

 

 
Last Updated on 9/26/2013 by damoroso@brynmawr.edu