The two-day conference aims to present a comprehensive, comparative appraisal of the structural features underpinning a human universal concern, uncertainty. This concern was commonly expressed in early text cultures through divinatory practices. For the purposes of this conference, divination will be understood as an activity devoted to uncovering the hidden significance of events and signs, with the latter being either directly observed in nature or deliberately obtained. We intend to broaden the widely accepted concept of divination as the mere act of foretelling the future. Such mantic activities may include, but need not be limited to, communication with transcendent realities conceived both as divine beings or as universal cosmic order.
Our investigation will focus on early text cultures, defined as pre-modern cultural contexts whose mantic practices can be reconstructed through the aid of written texts and archaeological material. In particular, we are keen to explore the importance of texts such as divination manuals, almanacs, oracular procedure and prescriptive texts, divination records or archives, and the close correlation between transmitted and excavated sources.
There will be two sessions each day and four sessions in all, each of which loosely focussed on a thematic macro-area (Middle-East, Far East, Greece and Rome, Medieval Europe). Each session will encompass three contributions of 45 minutes followed by general discussion. Participants are invited to consider the following questions:
Our confirmed key-note speakers will be Prof. Matthias Hayek (Paris Diderot), Prof. Bernhard Maier (Tübingen), Prof. Robert Parker (Oxford), Prof. William F. Ryan (Warburg Institute), Prof. Federico Santangelo (Newcastle), and Prof. Kenneth G. Zysk (København).
The Conference is sponsored by the ARHC-TORCH Grad Fund, The Centre for Manuscript and Text Cultures at Queen’s (CMTC), Pembroke College, and supported by the The University of Oxford China Centre.