Scholars on the imagination (and the mind) have tended to take as their starting point the Greek word phantasia, first attested in Plato, and extensively theorized in Aristotle. As a mediator of perception and understanding, a tool of memory and of rhetoric, and a vital component of emotion, Aristotle’s phantasia provided fertile soil for his interpreters, both ancient and modern, and Anne Sheppard’s recent book traces a ‘poetics of phantasia’ that developed over the next thousand years. This follows on the earlier work of Gerard Watson, and, most famously, Meyer Howard Abrams, whose 1953 treatise distinguished the classical mirror-imagination from the Romantic lamp.

We are interested in looking back to the period just before the emergence of theoretical critical vocabulary (phronesis, noesis, theoria…). How did Greeks in fifth-century Athens attempt to grasp and articulate the interface between the mind and the world beyond it? In our seminar series and conference, and the ongoing project, we are examining the relationship between external and interior worlds as revealed in the cultural artefacts, especially but not only a range of texts in various genres, of the classical period. These disclose a consistent and fertile concern with a generative and regenerative cycle of impressions, perceptions, deliberations and expressions that may loosely be termed ‘the imagination’; it is the discovery and elaboration of this faculty that provides new models for the construction of subjectivity within what has been called the Greek Revolution.

Contributors to the project include:

Xavier Buxton (Oxford) - Project Fear: The Eye of the Diver in Aeschylus’ Suppliants

Douglas Cairns (Edinburgh) - Phaedra’s Phantasy Other

Emily Clifford (CCC) - They do it with Mirrors? Reflections on/of Death and Painted Pots

Jas’ Elsner (CCC) - Introduction

David Fearn (Warwick) - Imagining Bodies with Gorgias

Luuk Huitink (Amsterdam) - “A Curious Approximation to the Romantic Spirit”: Phantasia in classical Greek historiography between distance and proximity

Leah Lazar (CCC) - An Imagining Community: the Culture of Public Inscription in fifth-century

Zacharoula Petraki (Crete) - Plato as an artist in the Republic

Tom Phillips (Manchester) - Vigilance to the Point of Magic

Karolina Sekita  (Oxford) - Morbid Phantasies: the ‘After-Death’ and the Dead between Imagination and Experience

Michael Squire (KCL) - Afterword

Guy Westwood (Oxford) - Imagining of Justice in Law Courts/Comedy

The following also contributed papers at the series and conference:

Anna Marmodoro (CCC) - Plato on phantasia

Verity Platt (Cornell) - Knowledge, Matter and the Indexicality of the Classical Impression

Naomi Weiss (Harvard) - Seeing and Feeling Prometheus on the Tragic Stage

Ava Shirazi (Princeton) - Phantasia and the Impossible Images