From a hermeneutical point of view, referring to the author of a text is useful in many respects. Knowledge about the author helps to situate a work in time and space and to identify contexts; defining a work as the product of a (single) author can explain its coherence in respect of topic and style. The ‘speaking I’ becomes the target of the reader’s attribution of intentions and authority, especially when the rhetorical design of a text creates authorial figures or voices.
In recent years, studies in classical literature have focused increasingly on author roles, author figures and author voices as part of the rhetorical texture. Technical prose and exegetical literature in particular are attracting attention as discursive areas, where emphasising authorial activities and authorial voices is a rhetorical means to constitute authority. Common to most of the work to date is that scholars usually investigate author roles and authority in texts whose attribution to an empirical author is not questionable.
Our conference by contrast will concentrate on works whose authorial status is in question. The corpus of the extant Virgilian exegesis provides a good example. Apart from commentaries attributed to certain authors (Servius and Tiberius Claudius Donatus), it comprises various authorless, anonymous and pseudepigraphic compilations. The aim of the conference is to shed light on the possible consequences of such doubtful authorial attribution for the reading of these and other collective, authorless texts from an ancient as well as a modern perspective. Taking this as a starting point, we will concentrate on the following topics and possible questions:
1. Problematic authorial status and authority – the example of Virgilian exegesis
- What role do compilers and collectors play as ‘authors’ within Virgilian exegesis?
- Which authorial attributions can be observed on the side of readers (e.g. pseudepigrapha or references to sources)? How can these attributions be explained and what is their effect on the reading and reception of the explanations?
- How do producers and users of compilations deal with alternative or conflicting explanations and with contradicting authorial voices?
2. The “author” as an interpretive tool for exegetical texts
- To what extent can we talk about ‘authorial strategies’ in the process of transmitting and transforming exegetical literature?
- How can authorial roles help us to grasp the stratification behind these texts?
- How do assumed authorial roles or authorial activities (compiler, collector, falsifier, epitomator, glossator etc.) influence our reconstruction of textual genesis, for example, as represented in modern editions?
3. Figured authorial roles in exegetical texts
- Which authorial images, voices and personae can emerge from the specific form and argumentative structure of exegetical texts, and how do the texts differ in these respects?
- What kind of relationship can be seen between the construction of authorial roles in the commentary and in the work commented on?
- How does the construction or evocation of authorship contribute to authorising what is said?