2017-18 Rice Seminar - Forgery and the Ancient: Art, Agency, Authorship
As an activity and a concept, forgery is immediately controversial. It calls to mind illegal, unethical, and dishonest practice, and it stirs debates over authenticity, value, authorship, and meaning. The growth of scholarship on forgery in recent decades means that a host of new questions can be applied to its study, a longstanding and crucial branch of humanistic research.
How, for example, can fresh perspectives on intentionality and meaning shift discourse on the perceived intellectual and financial value of a forged work of art? What might theories of culturally and historically determined authorship change about our understanding of the origin, creation, and function of a forged text? When is a perceived forgery not, in fact, a forgery – fraudulent, diminished, even tainted – and instead a creative act of impersonation?
This Rice Seminar will investigate these and other issues as they relate to the topic of forgery and the ancient. Scholarship on forgery touches nearly every age of history and every part of the globe, and it inevitably deals with the culture-period that the forgery references, the culture-period in which it is produced, and the culture-periods over which it is received. Consequently, the field is vast and requires an expertise that reaches across traditional scholarly boundaries of time, geography and field. We anticipate a Rice Seminar that is robustly interdisciplinary, bringing together art historians, literary critics and historians, working in a wide range of specializations.
A central part of this seminar is the role that notions of antiquity play in the drive to create, reproduce and pass works of art and text for ancient treasure and testimony. In different parts of the world, the antique begins and ends at different times, and it has diverse meanings for those who secretly recreate it. Consequently, the Seminar will cast a wide net, and it will have within its compass over three thousand years of ancient history on six continents. Furthermore, because the study of forgery necessarily involves the study of the reception of forgery, the Seminar will extend into the present. We expect that participants, invited lecturers, and Seminar conference papers will reach into times, places, and fields as diverse as Ancient Mediterranean artistic production, Medieval Christian, Chinese and Islamic manuscripts, pre-Columbian and modern Latin American art, Renaissance and Neo-Classical sculpture, museum and cultural heritage studies and more.