Meeting 6, Trinity Term 2014

Meeting 6, Trinity Term 2014

Writing Agents in Early China (ca. 11-8 cc. BCE): Secretaries and Makers of Slabs

Maria Khayutina
Institute of Sinology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich
11 June, 2014, at 6.00 pm
The Memorial Room, The Queen’s College, Oxford

 

In a recent publication, Joshua Englehardt and Dimitri Nakassis call for “examining writing systems and early texts through the lens of the agency concept,” as this, among other things, can aid “archaeological interpretation of the historically particular subjectivities of past social actors” (Englehardt and Nakassis, eds., Agency in Ancient Writing, Cambridge 2013). Secretaries shi 史 and Makers of Slabs zuoce 作册, whose occupations included producing and handling written documents, are often mentioned in inscriptions on ritual bronze vessels from Early China, mostly dating from 11-8 cc. BCE. Well observable especially in the contexts of royal rituals, administration, or, sometimes, legal matters, the shi and zuoce have been often approached by historians with regard to their functions as writing officials and the functions of writing in the Western Zhou state (1046-771 BCE). The present investigation acknowledges a dialectic, interactive relationship between structures, including states, and practice of individual social actors, by whose agency social, political and cultural realities come into existence and are being transformed. It also warns against presuming the primacy of the state in the ancient Chinese society, which sometimes leads to blending out its overall social complexity. Exploring the activities of the shi and zuoce, it argues that they should be understood not just as passive functionaries, but rather as active agents in the Zhou society, whose influence reached, but was not limited to the domain of the state, and whose actions were conditioned by a number of objective and subjective factors. Inquiring about social background and standing of the shi and zuoce, the author complements the data of epigraphy by archaeological and art-historical data. This approach may allow for a deeper understanding of the role of writing and writing specialists in social, political and cultural processes in Early China.

Meeting 5, Trinity Term 2014

Meeting 5, Trinity Term 2014

Texts and Textiles. Manuscript Fragments in Medieval Dresses

Henrike Lähnemann
Newcastle University
4 June, 2014, at 6.00 pm
The Memorial Room, The Queen’s College, Oxford

 

In March 2011, fragments of 23 medieval manuscripts were discovered sewn into the hems of dresses. These garments were made in the late 15th century by nuns at the Cistercian convent of Wienhausen (Northern Germany) to dress up sculpture groups for feast days. The talk is going to explore this form of manuscript recycling as part of late medieval devotional culture.

 

Meeting 4, Trinity Term 2014

Meeting 4, Trinity Term 2014

“Gods and Writing in Ancient Greece”

Paola Ceccarelli
Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge
Wednesday 14 May, 2014, at 6.00 pm
The Memorial Room, The Queen’s College, Oxford

 

“Leaving to one side discussion of the arrival and diffusion, status and uses of writing in archaic Greece, I want to focus on representations of writing, and more specifically, of writing and the gods. My discussion is driven by a comparative agenda. A look at the Near Eastern tradition shows that the gods are portrayed as having played a central part in the invention of writing. My leading question will be to what extent it is possible to trace any connections between writing among men and the world of the gods in ancient Greece.”

Dr Paola Ceccarelli’s monograph study of Ancient Greek epistolography, Ancient Greek Letter Writing. A Cultural History (800 BC – 600 BC), was published by Oxford University Press in October 2013.