WORKSHOP: Ancient concepts of fiction and narrative in the imperial period and late antiquity

Ancient Concepts of Fiction and Narrative in the Imperial Period and Late Antiquity

Fiction in Transition

Date: 4th February 2022


Participants may access the recordings of this workshop here.

We are delighted to invite you to a one-day online workshop organized by the Novel Echoes ERC-project at Ghent University, as part of the Ghent-Kent-Lille cross-border research programme, taking place on February 4th 2022.


This is the first of a series of three workshops co-organised by the universities of Ghent, Kent, and Lille, organized with the aim of generating new insights on the distinctions between true, false, and plausible narratives in the Mediterranean region 100-700 CE, a period of transition from pluralist polytheism to a Christian Empire and from Antiquity to the Middle Ages. This period saw a flourishing of different kinds of narratives with differing claims to truth. How do such attitudes to truth, fiction, and lies and their interrelationship alter during this period and how is this manifest in the written narratives?


This first workshop explores in particular texts from Late Antiquity as an inflection point for these kinds of concerns. Recent scholarship has done much to encourage a more diverse and productive approach to pagan and Christian literature rather than seeing the two as a strict dichotomy, but more work remains to be done on both the sheer breadth of underexplored texts from this period and the diversity of their engagement with questions of truth and falsehood. This workshop aims to explore this crucial transition period by looking at a variety of works which test the boundaries of such binary periodizations and open up a more nuanced understanding of fiction between and across such diverse narratives.


Please email Claire Rachel Jackson ( and/or Nicolò D’Alconzo ( to register and receive the link for the online workshop.

The poster may be downloaded here.


Programme: (All times given are CET)

9:45-10:00       Introduction

10:00-10:45     Claire Rachel Jackson (Ghent): ‘Fiction, Plausibility, and Miracles in Gregory of Nyssa’s Life of Macrina’

10:45-11:30       Rachel Bird (Swansea): ‘From the Divine to the Ridiculous? Narrative Technique and the Suspension of Disbelief in The Life of St Mary of Egypt’

11:30-12:00      Break

12:00-12:45      Jason König (St Andrews): ‘Autopsy and truth in The History of the Monks in Egypt, Palladius’ Lausiac History, and Theodoret’s Religious History’

12:45-14:00      Break

14:00-14:45      Katherine Krauss (Oxford): ‘Fiction in the Historia Apollonii Regis Tyri’

14:45-15:30      Nicola Schmid-Dümmler (Zürich): ‘Revisiting Musaeus and Achilles Tatius: Seductive narratorial voices’

15:30-16:00      Break

16:00-16:45      Julie Van Pelt (Ghent): ‘Journeys Between History and Fiction: the Life of Makarios the Roman’

16:45-17:30      Stephen Trzaskoma (New Hampshire): ‘Praeparatio Martyriologica: Displays of Truth and Novelistic Virtue by Sts. Kerkyra and Romanos’

17:30-18:00      Round up discussion

18:00-19:00      Virtual drinks reception


The next workshop will be organized at the University of Kent on February 25th 2022, with details to be circulated in the near future.

The workshop series is organized by Ruth Webb (Lille), Anne Alwis (Kent), and Koen De Temmerman (Ghent), with funding generously provided by the 3i research fund of the University of Lille.