Critical Matter: Performance, Identity, and Object in Greco-Roman Criticism


LAC Burkhardt




For residence at the Department of Classics at Princeton University during academic year 2020-2021


“Critical Matter” offers a new theoretical framework for understanding the social and aesthetic stakes of literary criticism in Greco-Roman antiquity. While drawing on modern and ancient rhetorical and literary theory, this project also considers how literary criticism is inextricable from material contexts. References to objects and physical media crucially shaped the intellectual parameters of the critical tradition. The project considers as well how ancient critics relied on competing and evolving notions of cultural and political identity. Anxieties and tensions in how to define critical practice meant that its practitioners often appealed to the permanence or malleability of material culture as a means to anchor and to illuminate their views of literature and its cultural authority. Lastly, the project uncovers the ways in which ancient literary criticism was itself an artistic form that coopted the performative contexts of literature and its public stagings.