Individual projects in AncNar - Annika Domainko
|The research project "Experience and Teleology in Ancient Narrative" (AncNar) is funded by a Starting Grant awarded by the European Research Council (ERC) (FP7) 01.02.2013-31.01.2018 under grant agreement n°312321|
The transition from the republic to the principate after a century of turmoil and civil war is usually considered the most crucial breaking point in Roman history – a process which is, nevertheless, not least characterised by the protagonists’ effort to disguise the change as continuity. The result was a balancing act between continuity and discontinuity, between tradition and innovation, and a tension between the past on one side and the present and the future on the other. As a consequence of this public climate, time as a central category of human life was raised to the surface of consciousness and emphatically experienced. This is the starting point of Annika Domainko’s project. Her work pursues three main goals: First, it analyses how Latin literature of this period reflects upon and conceptualises time and history. Secondly, it intends to reveal the importance of narrative form for these conceptions. In a third step, it brings both aspects back together in order to shed light on the way in which narrative serves to come to terms with time, temporality and the openness of the future as experienced ‘in between’ the Roman republic and principate.
One very peculiar example for the interaction of narrative and the imminent gap between experience from the past and expectation for the future is Velleius Paterculus’ historiography. In stark contrast to the political, social and military insecurity in the early empire, Velleius’ work sketches Roman history without any indication of revolutionary change or inner and outer threat, but instead as inspired by a strong teleological drive aspiring to the first principes. This teleological conception of history is not least based on narrative form: Velleius’ text is characterised through its strong monophony. No one but the main narrator is allowed to tell Rome’s history and in doing so, he draws heavily on his retrospective knowledge about the outcome of things. Due to narrative features of this kind, Roman history is presented to us as a closed space without room for controversies; a space in which only one outcome is possible. The contemporary experiences of uncertainty and an open future are re-configured and presented as ephemeral symptoms of the only natural course of things. As a result, the imminent gap between experience and expectation is closed. Narrative thus reveals itself as a means of coming to terms with the uncertainty of historical causalities.