Session Title

Aspirations Unmet and Exceeded: Failure and Its Fruits in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Special Session

Organizer Name

Diane Shane Fruchtman

Organizer Affiliation

Indiana Univ.-Bloomington

Presider Name

Diane Shane Fruchtman

Paper Title 1

Epistolary Failure in Late Antiquity

Presenter 1 Name

Bradley K. Storin

Presenter 1 Affiliation

Indiana Univ.-Bloomington

Paper Title 2

The Failure Burns: Arson and Information in Late Antique Egypt

Presenter 2 Name

Martin Reznick

Presenter 2 Affiliation

Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York Univ.

Paper Title 3

The Apotheoses of a Defeated Warlord: Widukind as Christian Exemplar and Heathen Ideal

Presenter 3 Name

Mary Ellen Rowe

Presenter 3 Affiliation

Univ. of Central Missouri

Start Date

8-5-2014 10:00 AM

Session Location

Valley III Stinson 303

Description

What happens when an epistolary overture falls flat? When an aristocrat fails to take a hint and legal proceedings ensue? When a warlord is defeated but his followers and enemies alike cannot accept his failure or irredeemability?

Moments of failure--whether personal, social, military, political, or economic--produce re-evaluation and reconsideration, a scramble to recoup and an attempt to salvage the situation. Sometimes failure provokes significant change; at other times it is elided, explained away, or covered-up. Failure can be either destructive or productive, signaling the end of an endeavor or the start of its re-envisioned successor.

For historians, moments of failure captured in the historical record provide unique insight into the ordinary functioning of a society. Failures of etiquette, character, and all manner of military, political, or social aspirations drew comment from contemporaries and survive in the historical record precisely because they stood out so egregiously as violations of custom or as exemplars of how not to proceed.

We can, therefore, uncover and explore societal norms by examining those instances where those same norms have been breached, by studying the exceptions to the rule, and the monumental mistakes that drew comment from contemporary observers, as well as by assessing how failure was perceived, theorized, and processed by medieval commentators.

This session aims to explore the fruits of failure in the early medieval world.

--Diane Fruchtman

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May 8th, 10:00 AM

Aspirations Unmet and Exceeded: Failure and Its Fruits in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages

Valley III Stinson 303

What happens when an epistolary overture falls flat? When an aristocrat fails to take a hint and legal proceedings ensue? When a warlord is defeated but his followers and enemies alike cannot accept his failure or irredeemability?

Moments of failure--whether personal, social, military, political, or economic--produce re-evaluation and reconsideration, a scramble to recoup and an attempt to salvage the situation. Sometimes failure provokes significant change; at other times it is elided, explained away, or covered-up. Failure can be either destructive or productive, signaling the end of an endeavor or the start of its re-envisioned successor.

For historians, moments of failure captured in the historical record provide unique insight into the ordinary functioning of a society. Failures of etiquette, character, and all manner of military, political, or social aspirations drew comment from contemporaries and survive in the historical record precisely because they stood out so egregiously as violations of custom or as exemplars of how not to proceed.

We can, therefore, uncover and explore societal norms by examining those instances where those same norms have been breached, by studying the exceptions to the rule, and the monumental mistakes that drew comment from contemporary observers, as well as by assessing how failure was perceived, theorized, and processed by medieval commentators.

This session aims to explore the fruits of failure in the early medieval world.

--Diane Fruchtman