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Zoographein: Depicting and Describing Animals in Ancient Greece, Rome, and Beyond

Sunday, September 10, 2017 - 9:00am
Friday, September 8, 9:00-4:45 ILR Conference Center, 229 Saturday, September 9, 9:00-5:00 A.D. White House Sunday, September 10, 9:00-5:00 A.D. White House Zoographein Program Schedule The Cornell University Departments of Classics and History of Art and Visual Studies in Collaboration with the Research Network Zoomathia present Zoographein: Depicting and Describing Animals in Ancient Greece, Rome, and Beyond Greek and Roman culture is replete with verbal and visual descriptions and depictions of animals, from Herodotus’ gold-digging ants or Pliny’s bestiary to Greek vase painting or the decoration of Roman houses and gardens. Research on ancient zoological knowledge has traditionally centered on identifying animal species in texts and images, determining the various sources of such knowledge, and relating these inquiries to their broader socio-historical and philosophical contexts. While these approaches can be fruitful, they often operate on the assumption that verbal and pictorial testimonies always record and illustrate specific information, echoing concrete ancient zoological knowledge. This conference takes a decisively different approach. We propose to consider depictions and descriptions of animals as methods of inquiry in and of themselves, rather than illustrations of knowledge ex post facto. Thus, for instance, Aristotle’s account of gregarious animals at the start of Historia Animalium may serve as a mode of understanding humans’ position within the animal world, rather than an account of ancient discoveries. In addition, ancient zoographers’ views might have been shaped by encounters with animals in contexts and media other than 'scientific' study or simple observation in nature. In this sense, we seek to consider visual and textual sources as creative and active modes of representation and thereby forms of knowledge production, rather than reflections of it. Sponsored by the Departments of Classics, History of Art and Visual Studies, Sage School of Philosophy, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, History, Religious Studies; Archaeological Institute of America; Cornell Institute of Archaeology and Material Studies; Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program; and the Cornell Dairy Center for Excellence.

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