Seth Bledsoe

Humanities Initiative Fellow
Period of Stay: 
September 2016 – June 2017
Religious Studies
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Germany
Project Title: 
Political Ideologies and Identity in the Ancient Mediterranean: A Theoretical Approach to Jewish, Egyptian, and Greek Narrative Traditions
Project Abstract: 

This monograph will bring together narrative texts in Aramaic, Greek, and Demotic from Persian and Hellenistic period Egypt in order to explore the various ways that local communities respond to empire and life in a multi-cultural context. The specific aims of this comparative analysis are twofold: (1) to assess how views of kingship, the divine, and appeals to authority come into conflict when a subjugated group must graft in to their worldview an external, imperial ideology that often challenges such claims; and (2) to describe and explain the depictions of rival groups who are also in competition for material or ideological space under such a hegemony. To be sure, this study will show that the picture drawn here is not simple, i.e., conflict (or contrarily, outright assimilation) is not necessarily the response in either the vertical (power v. subjects) or horizontal (coexisting groups), and even if a groups resists, the means by which it does can be more subtle. For this reason, analysis of narratives can be helpful, for it is often through fanciful legends or stories that societies play out their most compelling concerns and, simultaneously, reaffirm and renegotiate their worldview. Drawing on a variety of theoretical approaches—e.g., narrative theory, memory studies—this study will open up a more fruitful discourse among ancient Mediterranean communities by illuminating their hitherto unrealized similarities in literary topoi and rhetorical strategies for (re-)shaping political ideology and constructing identity.

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