Department Colloquium: Richard P. Martin (Stanford) "Self-fragmenting Artifacts and Comic Pragmatics"

Thursday, February 8, 2024 - 4:45pm to 6:15pm

402 Cohen Hall, 249 South 36th St.

*4:15-4:45 pm: Coffee and cookies in Cohen Hall 2nd Floor Lounge. All are welcome.

Speaker: Richard P. Martin, Antony and Isabelle Raubitschek Professor in Classics, Stanford University

Abstract: This talk explores one domain in which the “fragment” has been of increasing concern--ancient comedy—through case-studies from Euripides, Aristophanes, and Menander. Using several perspectives (ethnography, philology, sociology of literature), I outline a theory of  “pre-quotation” –speech designed to be excerpted, repeated, memorized and memorialized—and ask: to what extent can this be applied to all verbal art (or music and film)? Do all temporally linear art-forms of a certain length— beyond say the length of a haiku— aim at a “fragmentable” moment? To what extent can cognitive science be useful in making distinctions between attention- focusing devices and those related to long-term memory retention? Can we think of certain linguistic mechanisms as aimed at  inducing an acceptance of “background” (simple exposition, unmarked language, neutral rhythms, focus on detail via ekphrasis, realism, enargeia) while others are designed to foreground and imprint affective highpoints or key information? Within this framework, the construction of comic pre-quotation is examined in detail with attention to relevant work in rhetoric, paroemiography and studies of epitomizing. The result is a better understanding of dramatic art as it relates to the dramas of everyday life.