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I cannot tell how the truth may be; I say the tale as ’twas said to me
Walter Scott


Aim of the Conference

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Conference funded by the Carlsberg Foundation and the University of Copenhagen, Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies

One of the most influential factors for preserving and propagating a collective identity is narrative traditions, especially the stories people relate when that identity is vulnerable. Through storytelling, people can fashion and interpret their world. They can confront their past and their contemporary situations and envision their future and by which means this future will come about.

Inspired by Eric Selbin’s model of the ‘Literature of Resistance’, the conference aims to discuss the possible narrative strategies by which Myth, Memory, and Mimesis are used as tools for shaping a collective identity. Here, myth signifies the body of stories through which a certain group of people relate their history, while collective memory refers to a movement within a cultural discourse that continuously combines and fuses the present and the past, fulfilling a social function in the cultural web in which it is integrated. Mimesis refers to a certain group’s inspiration by another – ancestors, contemporaries, or people in distant places and times – in making fundamental and transformational changes in their society. Together, myth, memory, and mimesis are powerful aspects of historical narrativity, especially when those seeking change integrate cultural symbols, heroes, and myths into the semantics of a heroic narrative in an attempt to exercise cultural dominance and legitimacy. It has been demonstrated (Sérida, forthcoming) that these concepts can be fruitfully applied to the Demotic heroic tales of the Inaros cycle, illustrating the refashioning of Egyptian history as a means of resisting cultural extinction in Roman Egypt.

In bringing together scholars from a wide range of disciplines, this conference aims to investigate how history was constantly rewritten and renegotiated through traditions of heroic literature in the pre-modern world. The speakers are asked to address myth, memory, and mimesis as narrative tools in heroic tales and to discuss the significance of these tools within their sociopolitical contexts. The cross-disciplinary approach will provide a comparative perspective for the utilization of heroic narratives as a means of cultural maintenance, and a reaction to oppression, conflict, and acculturation. The varieties of case studies will provide the basis for discussing the narrative strategies by which sociopolitical realities are reflected in the literary traditions and the degree to which such strategies are universal or culture-specific.