Imperial Fictions

Do25Mai(Mai 25)14:30Sa27(Mai 27)15:30Imperial FictionsThe Cultural Entanglements and Multiple Temporalities of Alexander’s AfterlivesVeranstaltungsartKonferenz


Organised by Andrew James Johnston, Wolfram Keller, and Jan-Peer Hartmann, project “Imperial Fictions”, Research Area 3: “Future Perfect” in cooperatin with Sonderforschungsbereich 980 “Episteme in Bewegung. Wissenstransfer von der Alten Welt bis in die Frühe Neuzeit”.

Few historical characters had such an impact on the premodern imagination as Alexander the Great. Indeed, between the fourth and sixteenth centuries, the fourth-century Greek Alexander Romance was probably the world’s most widely read secular text. Translated into a myriad of different languages, including the majority of the European vernaculars, this text — and the many adaptations it spawned — enjoyed an unrivalled popularity for more than a thousand years. But even before the Greek Alexander Romance was written, Alexander had long been transformed into the hero of countless legends, bridging the divide between history and fiction, inhabiting and often conflating such diverse generic and conceptual spaces as fairy-tale, imperialist propaganda, and religious prophecy. He appears in the Qur’an and the Shanameh, and his name was appropriated by European rulers such as the Popes, the medieval kings of Scotland, and the nineteenth-century Czars. The Alexander material thus displays a supreme degree of cultural adaptability and ideological flexibility, a capacity for realigning historical and cultural boundaries, for making the peripheral central and vice versa, but also for establishing new traditions and concomitant temporalities. 

»Imperial Fictions« examines these forms of cultural and ideological adaptability with a special emphasis on the ways in which the tensions between the historical and fantastical inherent to so many Alexander narratives construct new temporalities. The workshop aims to investigate how these temporalities are exploited for the purposes of imperial self-fashioning, how they participate in ideological projects to legitimate — but also to subvert — power by exoticizing it. As the temporalities of history and romance, prophecy and fairy-tale, travelogue and chronicle clash, jostle and converge in pre-modern (but also in modern) Alexander adaptations, the Macedonian conqueror becomes a cultural crucible generating and staging as well as questioning and re-defining new temporalities in a sheer endless succession of ideological appropriations. 


Thursday, 25 May

14:00-14:30 | Jan-Peer Hartmann, Andrew James Johnston, Wolfram Keller (Freie Universität Berlin / EXC 2020): Opening Remarks/Introduction

14:30-15:30 | Su Fang Ng (Virginia Tech): The Malay Alexander and Universal Time

15:30-16:00 | Coffee

16:00-17:00 | Christine Chism (UCLA): A Concourse of Secrets: Alexander and the Kitâb Sirr-al-Asrâr

18:00-20:00 | Beatrice Gründler (Freie Universität Berlin / EXC 2020): Alexander in the Textual Traditions of Kalīla wa-Dimna

Different venue: Hörsaal 2, Habelschwerdter Allee 45,
14195 Berlin

Friday, 26 May

10:00-11:00 | David Ashurst (Durham University): Imperial Rhetoric in the Old Norse Alexanders Saga, Its Foreignness and Purposes

11:00-12:00 | Wolfram Keller (Freie Universität Berlin / EXC 2020): Time and Empire in Kyng Alisaunder

12:00-14:00 | Lunch

14:00-15:00 | Joanna Martin (University of Nottingham): The Emotional Landscapes of Scottish Alexander Romances

15:00-16:00 | Russell Stone (Boston University): Porus and the Limits of Alexander’s Authority

16:00-16:30 | Coffee

16:30-17:30 | Catherine Gaullier-Bougassas (Université de Lille): The Fundaments of Alexander the Great’s Empire in French Medieval Narratives

17:30-18:30 | Venetia Bridges (Durham University): Fictional Temporalities: Alexander the Great in Twelfth-Century Texts and their MSS

19:30 | Conference Dinner

Saturday, 27 May

10:00-11:00 | Henry Ravenhall (Cambridge University): Alexander and the Surviving Image: The Politics of Repetition in Paris, BnF, fr. 24364 (Roman de toute chevalerie)

11:00-12:00 | Maud Pérez-Simon (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle): Alexander Through the Kaleidoscopic Looking Glass in the Middle Ages: The Manuscripts of the Roman d’Alexandre en prose

12:00-13:00 | Lunch

13:30-14:30 | Giulia Gilmore (Durham University): Wondrous Horrors: Gog, Magog, and Eschatological Boundaries in the Medieval Alexander Legend

14:30-15:30 | Andrew James Johnston (Freie Universität Berlin / EXC 2020): Alexander and the Monsters: Beowulf, the Nowell Codex, and the Wonders of the East

Time & Location

May 25, 2023 – May 27, 2023

Schwendener Strasse 8
14195 Berlin

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25. Mai 2023 14:30 - 27. Mai 2023 15:30(GMT+02:00)

Freie Universität Berlin

Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin

Freie Universität Berlin