Frames and Framing in Antiquity II: Sources in Contexts – Materiality, Affordances, Entanglements, and Communicative Dynamics

Frames and Framing in Antiquity II: Sources in Contexts – Materiality, Affordances, Entanglements, and Communicative Dynamics

Elisabeth Günther, Classical Archaeology, University of Trier; Sven Günther, Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations, Northeast Normal University, Changchun
Vom - Bis
15.10.2021 - 17.10.2021
Url der Konferenzwebsite
Sven Günther, Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations (IHAC), Northeast Normal University, Changchun

Frames and Framing in Antiquity continued the discussion on the applicability of frame and framing theories to ancient studies from the first conference in 2020 and explored, in particular, links between different ancient source materials, contexts, and actors in order to understand their entanglements, communicative dynamics, and affordances from a frames and framing-perspective. The theoretical remarks of the two organizers, ELISABETH GÜNTHER (Trier) and SVEN GÜNTHER (Changchun) focused on the multimodal approach frame and framing theories offer, namely, that construction, or re-construction, of meaning does not only depend on the vocabulary used in a text – or the visual elements and composition of an image or object – but also heavily on the materiality of the sources themselves. Hence, the aspects of materiality, affordances, and the manifold entanglements of objects in the life of the ancients, including actions and rituals embedding them in human-object-interactions, was in the center of the three conference days. By comparing the different modes of setup in the recent selfie of politicians of the Green and Liberal Democratic Party pre-negotiating after the German Bundestag elections with the three different displays of the Res Gestae Divi Augusti in the cities Ancyra, Antioch, and Apollonia in the Roman province of Galatia and the likely setup in Rome at the Mausoleum they showed how such arrangements responded to specific local frames of expectations, yet also modified existing ones, hence framing the idea that should be conveyed intentionally in a specific way.

The first three papers touched on frames and framing in ancient literature. MA JIANCHENG (Changchun) emphasized that Tacitus depicted Livia, but also Agrippina, with a specific frame of hiding and enclosing the emperor and related this to Tacitus’ own historical experience of the hidden adoption of emperor Hadrian, organized by the Augusta Plotina, on the deathbed of his predecessor Trajan. AALTJE HIDDING (Oslo) looked at the legend of Diocletian as “fallen” Christ in late antique Egyptian hagiography and stressed how cognitive discourse analysis might shed light on the rhetorical framing of Diocletian as wicked persecutor. DOMINIK DELP (Tübingen) focused on the construction of Justinian as demon in Procopius’ Anecdota where different actions and behaviors of the emperor are used to subvert his achievements and to delegitimize his rule. The discussions after each paper as well as the overall panel discussion revealed how much literary studies depend on exploring literary models and predecessors, rhetorical structures, and expectations of the, usually well educated, audience, to understand the actual framing effects. Furthermore, the concrete linkage of discourse analysis, rhetorical topoi structures, and frame and framing theories was debated, especially in the light of different frame and framing theories having evolved in linguistics, social sciences, and communication studies, among others.
The keynote lecture by ALEXANDER ZIEM (Düsseldorf) addressed the question of frames, and framing, from a linguistic perspective. By showing how the frame-approach in his field has resulted in a clear working structure for analyzing language use, starting from the single elements and their linkage in sentences, he provided a potential transfer to the study of coinages, particularly by using the slot-filler-categories for the analysis of frames such as “coinage as historical artifacts” or “coinage as money”, to make researchers aware of the different perspectives on can have on a material.

This material aspect was further touched on during the second panel on epigraphy. IRENE BERTI (Heidelberg) used the different spatial framings of the setup of the “normal” fourth-century-BC poletai-inscriptions on the Athenian Agora, and the special context of the Attic stelai in the city Eleusinion reporting the sales of property confiscated from those condemned for the Herm-mutilation right before the Sicilian Expedition in 415 BC during the Peloponnesian War, to show how different the perceptions of these two monumental as well as documentary epigraphic setups might have been in its particular historical context. ZHANG DUODUO (Changchun) elaborated on the different opening formula in the Parthenon inventories and asked about the relation between the divine and human framework mirrored therewith as well as possible breaks of such common frames by mentions of regular checks of accounts and persons in the extant inscriptions. LUO FUXING (Changchun) concentrated on the question how Roman soldiers in Dalmatia framed their family lives after service in epigraphic language and iconography between “normal” Roman family and specific dependencies. The discussions focused on the specific spatial as well as iconographic framing effects in relation to conventions, the possibility to analyze also inscriptions with the frames-slots-fillers categorization, and agreed on the need to approach epigraphic material with a multimodal approach in order to comprehend the complex and entangled framework.

The third panel dealt with framing processes in ancient religion. IRIA SOUTO (Madrid) explored how frames can help to understand personal religions and personal beliefs in ancient Egypt, in her case-study for interpreting the lits clos in Deir el-Medina. By differentiating between the emic and etic perspectives she arrived at a clear methodological utility of frames and framing theories for understanding archaeological artifacts, objects, and structures without accessing them prima facie already framed by scholarly presumptions. KATELIN MCCULLOUGH (Chapel Hill, currently Tübingen) showed how different sacred spaces can produce different displays of women’s social identities. Her two case-studies, the urban Sanctuary of Apollo, and the extra-mural Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone in the city of Cyrene in Hellenistic and Roman times, made clear how the “tradition” of a specific sacred space provided the frame to anchor into by later generations, resulting in salience of specific aspects, in the Sanctuary of Apollo the position of a priestess and the associated prestige, and in the Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone the familial role and social connections. The discussion following the papers developed along the spatial frames as lived, ritualized, and thus communicative areas and the limits of contextualizing objects that hinders the analysis of affordances and long-term impacts.

Part one of the panel on framing ancient art and archeology opened with the paper by YAEL YOUNG (Ra’anana) on the representation of domestic objects in violent situations in Athenian vase painting. With the vases being set in the context of the symposium she argued that the unusual depiction of mundane objects in the context of the Thessalian Centauromachy and the attack conducted by Thracian women on Odysseus in the vase-paintings aimed at frame-breaking whereby the vase painters explored the limits of representation of the widely known mythological stories. SVEN GÜNTHER (Changchun) discussed the coinage of the Osrhoenian king Ma’nu VIII (Mannos) Philorhomaios struck at Edessa during the Parthian War conducted under co-emperor Lucius Verus (AD 161-166). The exceptional issuing of silver (besides the usual bronze) coin-types imitating mainly imperial coinage with the rather weak re-framing on the reverse by inscribing his own name adding “friend of the Romans” (philorhomaios) as legend and the analogies of the nearby produced Roman hyper nikēs-coinage led him to conclude that the king, being installed by and totally depending on the Roman authorities present, participated in the regional war-economy by financing Roman troops – what provided the main frame of reference. The discussion stressed the importance of studying the details of iconographies, their conventions and traditions, and the archaeological context to arrive at a deeper understanding of the framework and asked about the actual use of objects like vases with vase-paintings and coins in communicative situations such as the symposium or economic transactions that add another, potentially immersive frame to scholarly analysis.

Part two of the panel comprised three papers. LIDIA CHINÉ ZAPATER (Madrid) discussed the liminal, synesthetic, and time frames of Roman gardens for shedding light on the experiences within real and depicted garden structures. TOMMASINA MATRONE (Venice) explored how the framework of Middle Ground might help to understand identity formation, integration, hybridization, and entanglement phenomena in pre-Roman Campania, namely between locals and (arriving as well as settling) Greeks. The third paper of the Argo-project group around the presenter TORSTEN MATTERN (Trier) looked at how augmented reality within 3D-reconstruction of ancient Roman buildings meets the expectations and experiences of modern researchers and viewers. All three papers evoked intensive discussion on multimodality, the relationship of frame theory with the concept of affordances, and the immersive effects in ancient and modern times of specific setups and ritualized contexts that (could) le(a)d to the creation of narrations about the experiences with the other.

The final discussion pointed to the utility of using the toolbox provided by thinking in frames and framing as methodological device for the different fields of ancient studies due to their non-static nature and the potentiality of discovering linkages and entanglements not becoming visible with traditional approaches. The participants emphasized the high potential for interdisciplinary approaches that was also demonstrated during the three conference days: the terminology and toolbox of frame theories enabled for intensive cross- and inter-disciplinary discussions despite an extremely broad range of the case studies presented in the five panels. On the other hand, the participants emphasized that especially the inner structure of frames, i.e. slots and fillers, have to be defined as historical categories in a more distinct way to become useful tools; while the concrete relation of frame and framing theories to other theoretical players such as discourse analysis, affordances, and multimodality must be discussed, too. The intended publication of selected papers in the double-blind peer-reviewed Journal of Ancient Civilizations and a possible third conference on frames and framing in antiquity will hopefully shed more light on these remaining issues.

Conference overview:

Elisabeth Günther (University of Trier) / Sven Günther (Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations, Northeast Normal University, Changchun): Theoretical remarks

Panel I: Framing (in) Ancient Literature

Ma Jiancheng (Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations, Northeast Normal University, Changchun): Framing accusations against Livia (Tacitus, Annals 1.3–6)

Aaltje Hidding (MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society, Oslo): The legend of Diocletian. “Naming and framing” Diocletian in the hagiography of late antique Egypt

Dominik Delp (University of Tübingen): Framing threat. Procopius’ Anekdota in context of catastrophe

Keynote Lecture

Alexander Ziem (University of Düsseldorf): Why frames matter: a cognitive approach to analyzing and understanding linguistic (and other) artifacts

Panel II: Framing (in) Ancient Epigraphy

Irene Berti (Pädagogische Hochschule Heidelberg): Framing the poletai inscriptions: some hypotheses on the stelai of the Hermokopidai

Zhang Duoduo (Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations, Northeast Normal University, Changchun): Hieron and hosion interaction: a case study on the Parthenon inventories

Luo Fuxing (Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations, Northeast Normal University, Changchun): Integrating into family lives: frames and framing in the Dalmatian military inscriptions

Panel III: Framing (in) Ancient Religion

Iria Souto (University of Alcalà de Henares, Madrid): The case of personal beliefs in ancient Egypt: the framing theory in religious interactions

Katelin McCullough (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill): Sacred spaces and the framing of women’s social identities

_Panel IV: Framing (in) Ancient Art and Archaeology I

Yael Young (The Open University of Israel, Ra’anana): Re-framing the mundane: the representation of domestic objects in violent situations in Athenian vase painting

Sven Günther (Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations, Northeast Normal University, Changchun): Reframing Roman imagery in Mesopotamian Edessa? The case of Ma‘nu VIII Philorhomaios

Panel V: Framing (in) Ancient Art and Archaeology II

Lidia Chiné Zapater (University Complutense of Madrid): Roman gardens: framing space and time

Tommasina Matrone (University Ca’ Foscari, Venice): Middle Ground. Integration, hybridization and entanglement phenomena in pre-Roman Campania (Italy)

Rosemarie Cordie, Torsten Mattern, Maximilian Rensch, Sascha David Schmitz (University of Trier): Expectation and augmented reality: frames and framing of ancient buildings in 3D reconstruction

Final Discussion and Perspectives

[1] For a report, see here: