‘My talk will explore a new framework for reading the transmission of the classics in the oeuvres of two authors from Italy and Argentina: Italo Calvino (Cuba 1923 – Italy 1985) and Alberto Manguel (Argentina 1948). It will examine how, after the model of J. L. Borges’ classicism, these writers plot the dissemination of the Greco-Roman canon through levels of absence, which may disclose traces of previous or implied presences, or even the intuition of vague presences, amongst other variations. In recalling the classical literary past as an invisible, eclipsed, placeless, forgotten or voiceless idea, these authors draw attention to an unstable yet urgent tradition, subject to a distinct mode of reception at the crossroads of Western and Western-peripheral (post)modernist writing. Often regarded as ‘global’ writers whose poetics encompass vast cultural networks while amplifying the landscapes of literature to the borders of the unthinkable, Calvino and Manguel are exemplary readers of absence. In their complex reimagining of the classics, from Homer to Lucan, they open vistas of a dissipating tradition without permanence in one place or time. Yet, my talk aims to show that these dissipating vistas also paradoxically disclose rich contents in the form of new readings of the transmission of antiquity in the cultural imagination.’
Laura Jansen is Senior Lecturer in Classics and Comparative Literature at the University of Bristol. She is the author of 'Borges’ Classics: Global Encounters with the Graeco-Roman World' (Cambridge, 2018), volume editor of 'The Roman Paratext: Frame, Texts, Readers' (Cambridge, 2014 and paperback edition 2017) and general editor of the monograph series 'Classical Receptions in Twentieth-Century Writing' (Bloomsbury). Her next monograph for OUP's Classical Presences series is entitled 'Classical Absences: Antiquity and its Dissemination in Calvino, Eco and Manguel'.