Seminar Plans

The following plan was distributed at the outset of the seminar that produced this web site (and the on-line discussion also archived here). At the time of the formal opening of this site (summer 1997), the intention is to continue to revise and expand the site in consultation with a few scholars, to welcome additional contributions and suggestions, and to revisit in a few months or next year the possibility of a follow-on seminar, with different participants, to build on the work that is here.

From January 1996:

The purpose of the seminar is to gather a group of curious and energetic colleagues and to set before them the task of interpreting and presenting Apuleius' Apologia to a contemporary audience. Tasks to be considered include revision of the Latin text now on the web site, preparation of a new translation with links to the translation, writing commentary on passages of the text, and undertaking researches into aspects of hellenistic cultural history reflected in the text. The work of the seminar will be designed, planned, and carried out by the members of the seminar together. Most members of the seminar will be doctoral students at the University of Pennsylvania, but interested parties elsewhere are invited to contact the seminar leader, James J. O'Donnell to express interest. The work of the seminar will begin 15 January 1996 and end in May of 1996; at that time the web site will be opened to the public. If there is work remaining on the text that seems important to pursue, a further iteration of the seminar will be conducted in the future. Work will be carried on in face-to-face sessions, by e-mail, and through collaborative construction of the web site, as it seems best. A private e-mail list will keep participants connected throughout the time of work.

It is important to emphasize that the text has been chosen not only because it is very lightly represented in the scholarly literature to date (mainly in discussions of magic: but modern representations of ancient magic are quite problematic and will form one of the objects of our common discussion), but because of the richness of the text and its capacity for opening lines of interpretation into the literary and social history of the ancient past. Apuleius also has a lively later afterlife, and study of that tradition may form part of the work as well.

The seminar is designedly not about the Metamorphoses, but the absent presence will doubtless be felt, and all participants will want to spend some time with that text and probably with Jack Winkler's luminous Auctor & Actor. The problem of dealing with a "minor" text by a famous author is itself one of the most interesting features of approaching this text today. If the Metamorphoses did not survive, then this text would be A.'s most famous work, and his reputation still solid. How is it different because we know his other book?

These and other issues will preoccupy us for the duration of this seminar.