(Re)Ordering the Gods. The Mythographic Web through Times
Online Workshop, Warburg Institute, SAS, University of London
25th-26th November 2021
Names and epithets, historical facts, images and attributes, rituals and monuments, bibliographical data, textual fragments, allegories, plants, places and recipes: these are samples of the wide material that the mythographic tradition deals with. How organise it? What data to choose, how to present it and what for?
This workshop will question the different forms of mythographic compilation. Many of them baffle our sense of order and classification. Interminable lists, crowded catalogues, fanciful genealogies, images saturated with symbols are far from the arborescent model that has organised knowledge since the Enlightenment, and it is tempting to close the case by referring to them as confused bundles.
We know, however, that the formatting of information plays a determining role in its meaning. By orchestrating the collection of ancient texts and/or images, by assigning an order to them, by transmitting certain sources or motives rather than others, and thus arranging different circulations in the treasure of ancient knowledge, the mythographic tradition presents itself as a creative enterprise. Manipulation makes sense. Reorder means updating and, to a certain extent, recreating the ancient heritage. Indeed, it could be argued that compilation is a form of thought and representation inherent in mythological creation, even in its artistic forms. Homer’s poems are themselves based on different modes of assemblage, and, as Ovid’s Metamorphoses, they were received as a mythographic encyclopaedia up to the threshold of the eighteenth century.
By visiting some of the compilation models developed since Antiquity, we will question the ways in which they re-arrange and give new meanings to the ancient pantheon. Poetics, iconology, hermeneutic and anthropology are intimately linked here. How could we describe the forms of mythographic compilation? What mental procedures underlie them? What intellectual operations do they require of their users/readers? To what extent a conception of the order of things can be read through their specific arrangement of data, how do they reflect a specific state of culture? These issues need to be raised through images and texts. Although these two domains obey their own logic, an important part of mythographic production is found at their interface, from the textual description of ancient works of art to the conception of new iconographic programs based on mythographic sums. Thus, we will be able to explore their specificities and connections through time.