Technical Writing in Late Antiquity

Literary Strategies and Socio-Cultural Agendas


Thorsten Fögen (Durham University) []

Benjamin Thommen (Universität Zürich) [] 

Late antiquity (for the sake of convenience here very roughly defined as the time from the third until the sixth century A.D.) is extremely rich in technical literature, i.e. in texts that transmit knowledge. This ‘genre’ not only covers a variety of disciplines, but also different text types such as treatises, encyclopaedias, dialogues, letters and even poetic works. The conference panel intends to analyse and compare not only the literary nature and the instructional character of such works, but also their more general intellectual, socio-cultural and political notions. 

In addition, the panel will attempt to throw light on the fact that technical authors are often members of certain intellectual networks or even schools whose ideas and doctrines they engage with. This also entails that they may improve, expand, or revise established concepts normally associated with a particular group of individuals, and that this may lead to rivalry and polemics.

In comparison to previous centuries, the investigation of technical texts from late antiquity will also need to take into account the dichotomy between pagan and Christian. It may be asked to what extent a Christian agenda has an impact on technical and scientific discourse.

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