Department Colloquium: Verity Platt (Cornell) "The Stones of Posidippus: Elemental Media"

Thursday, January 25, 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: Verity Platt, Professor of Classics and History of Art, Cornell University

Abstract: This paper draws on theories of media to explore how Posidippus' Lithika ("poems on stones") exemplify an experimental phase in the emergence of what we now call ‘ekphrastic epigram’; as such, they are both intensely object-oriented and highly aware of processes of transmission, whilst exploring the full potential of epigram’s liberation from stone. Posidippus’ focus on precious gems incised in intaglio so that they can function as seals is a very particular choice in the history of text-object relations, drawing directly upon the aesthetic, material, technological and conceptual roles played by seals within Archaic and Classical Greek culture. Close readings demonstrate Posidippus’ intense preoccupation with materials, technologies of making and processes of transmission that are closely tied to both artistic practices of carving and stamping and philosophical models of perception. As complex artefacts that compress ideas about the relationship between materiality, culture and aesthetics into miniature form, the precious stones of the Lithika are ideal ‘epistemic objects’. In Posidippus’ hands, both gems and literary epigrams function as diaphanous yet self-reflexive miniature interfaces between the physical and metaphysical, the phenomenal and the noumenal.