Olharemos para essas belas coisas com certa melancolia, pensando naquele verso de Rilke que fala nos olhos das rendeiras deixados sobre as rendas. O que há nestes desenhos além dos fios! O que não se vê, sendo tão presente.
Cecília MeirelesCidade Líquida, in Crônicas de Viagem 2.

Every revision of antiquity is always archaeological, or, if you will, constitutes a reverse archaeology of the present from which we repose the question of origin (arche) […] Thanks to the cunning of Athena, daughter of Metis, Perseus was able to behead the monster by tapping her reflection on his shield. In this moment, the gaze (the Real) is replaced by the reflection (the Apparatus).
Yorgos TzirtzilakisMetis, in Liquid Antiquity, Brooke Holmes; Karen Marta (Ed.).

We would like to warmly welcome everyone interested in the Symposium “Reading, Seeing, and Hearing the Past”, a biennial meeting now in its 9th edition, with the theme “Dialogues between Archaeology, History, Literature, and Philosophy”.

The event was scheduled for last May in praesentia, like all of the previous editions. However, because of the pandemic the Symposium had to be postponed until November and to become virtual. This has actually made it possible to include respondents who will more actively participate, commenting on the presentations and moderating questions from the audience. While the virtual format may entail the danger of interruptions or other technical glitches, it also allows broader range of speakers to participate from a variety of locations. We would like to deeply thank all participants, as well as colleagues, students, and assistants who have made this virtual meeting possible.

During its sixteen years of existence, the Symposium has been co-organized with a large number of my colleagues. Symposia VII and VI resulted in scientific publications in the journal Nuntius Antiquus, with papers in Portuguese, English, French, and Italian:

VIII Symposium: Recepção, Tradição e Canibalização de Clássicos, Viçosa, November 2018, UFV/UFMG. Co-organizers: Jacyntho Lins Brandão and Edson F. Martins.

VII Symposium: Entre Aporias, Dilemas, Paradoxos e Labirintos, São João del-Rei, April 2017, UFSJ/UFMG. Co-organizers: Jacyntho Lins Brandão, Luiz Paulo Rouanet, Richard Romeiro. Publication: Nuntius Antiquus, 13-2

VI SymposiumEros e Helena, de Tróia a Vila Rica, Ouro Preto, August 2014, UFOP/IFMG/UFMG; Co-organizers: Guiomar de Grammont, Teodoro Rennó Assunção, Venúncia Emilia Coelho. Publication: Nuntius Antiquus,  12-1 

V SymposiumTravessias: prosa-poesia, filosofia-literatura, Diamantina, April 2012, FEVALE/UFVJM/UFMG. Co-organizers: Diego Mesti da Silva and Teodoro Rennó Assunção.

IV SymposiumEntre Platão e Homero, poesia e filosofia, Montes Claros, November 2010, UEMG/UFMG. Co-organizer: Anna Christina Silva.

III SymposiumAntónio Vieira – retórica em imagens e palavras, Florianópolis, October 2008, Fundação Cultural BADESC/UFSC. Co-organizers: João Lupi and Valmir Muraro.

II SymposiumElementos trágicos e épicos na tradição do cancioneiro nas obras de Glauber Rocha e Elomar, Florianópolis, November 2006, UDESC. Co-organizers: Márcia Ramos de Oliveira,  Allan Ghedini, Gláucia Assis Oliveira.

I SymposiumEscrever e narrar: textos, mensageiros e história da escrita na cultura greco-romana, Florianópolis, May 2004, UDESC. Co-organizer: Márcia Ramos de Oliveira.

The Symposium has undergone important transformations over time, but has nonetheless diligently and steadfastly maintained interdisciplinarity and dialogue between image and sound in (re)constructing the past and its own (meta)reflections on the past. Indeed, it is worth remembering that the first Symposium was born from an interest in discussing and spreading themes from ancient and medieval cultures – particularly themes connected with the Greco-Roman world and its reception (a bidirectional dialogue). The inaugural event, which I organized as Adjunct Professor at the State University of Santa Catarina sixteen years ago, was part of an educational project on the reception of the Classics in the Cinema; see the first Symposium.

It is also worth bearing in mind the difficulties of dealing with images (and material culture) in an environment which always privileged the written word. This is not only true in the field of philosophy, which traditionally considers the image auxiliary and subsidiary in relation to the concept (despite the widespread use of visual metaphors in the history of philosophy), as Emeritus Professor Marilena Chauí from the University of São Paulo shows in her thought-provoking text, Janela da Alma. For instance, the historian Lilia Schwarcz (Professor at the same university and Visiting Professor at Princeton University) in a recent interview (see from 16 min.), stresses the prejudice that her Masters thesis (Cientistas, instituições e questão racial no Brasil do século XIX) suffered for treating images as historical sources. Her defense of the dialogue with images as something more than mere ‘illustrations’ is a position we share, and which expresses the spirit of this Symposium in all its editions.

This edition includes colleagues from the field of archaeology and considers questions related to material culture. This flourishing interest in material culture (and its diffusion) follows on the first triennium of the project “Touching the Past”, organized by Erika Angliker and myself. Over three years, the project organized trips and classes in Greece, as well as the participation of volunteers in excavations at Strophilas, Andros (2017), Despotiko, Paros (2018), and Eleutherna, Crete (2019, in which two co-organizers of this Symposium, Júlia Avellar e Sandra Bianchet took part), and a visit to Tenea (2019). The excavations were directed by, respectively, Christina Televantou, Yannos Kourayos, Nicholas Stampolidis, and Elena Korka. The project’s main purpose was to offer students and professors who are not specialists in Archaeology the opportunity to gain experience in an excavation, and to visit museums and archaeological sites. This enabled the participants to come in contact with material culture and archaeological work, broadening their comprehension of antiquity through sensory experience. In 2019, we also organized a photo exhibition of the work of Natalia Velli on Despotiko (Casa do Brasil in Athens, 2019) and a colloquium on the Reception of the Classics in Brazil, held at the Brazilian Embassy in Athens (2019).

We have received, with great enthusiasm, confirmation of attendance of this Symposium from colleagues who are engaged in archaeological work in Egypt and Brazil. The dialogue between “our past” and the Greco-Roman tradition is a stimulating theme, and one which deserves close attention (cf. the recent book by Senior Professor André Prous of the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Arqueologia Brasileira: a pré-história e os verdadeiros colonizadorespublished in 2019). This theme is in line with the enlightening concept of Liquid Antiquity quoted in the second epigraph of this text. A dialogical reflection on these new philosophical approaches and their development is promising for interdisciplinary research, which brings together information on texts and objects of material culture.

Finally, we should note that we do not share Diotima’s opinion (in another Symposium, which advocates seeking a higher, heavenly, and non-pandemic form of love) about the need to move away from the world of the senses and its “trifles” in order to find “essential beauty entire, pure and unalloyed; not infected with the flesh and color of humanity, and ever so much more of mortal trash. What if he could behold the divine beauty itself, in its unique form?” (Plato, Symposium, 211e, translated by Harold N. Fowler). We wish to get closer not only to words, in order to see that “each one has a thousand of secret faces under the neutral face”, as Drummond (one of the greatest of Brazilian poets) says, but also to get closer to the things they represent, as well as to understand – even if in mirror-like manner, by reflection, with methodology as a helpful instrument – the glance which transformed stone, clay, mineral, voice, desire, and life into objects and words.

Maria Cecilia de Miranda Nogueira Coelho
Associate Professor at the Federal University of Minas Gerais,
General coordinator of the Symposium

Translation: Julia Avellar, Copyediting: Andy Redwood