Conference on the Context and Legacy of Hypatia

Behind the Symbol: the Context and Legacy of Hypatia

December 11-12, Princeton University

Sixteen centuries ago, in 415, the career of one of Antiquity’s most influential and memorable women came to a violent end in the streets of Alexandria.  In observance of this anniversary, we are organizing a conference at Princeton University aimed at new perspectives on Hypatia and her world.  We seek to get behind the symbol which Hypatia has become, in at least two ways: first and primarily, by studying her upon the wider historical canvas of late antiquity.  What conditions allowed for the rise, flourishing, and shocking demise of one of the ancient Mediterranean’s rare female philosophers?  How should we understand her role in the context of the educational institutions, social/political structures in which she moved and acted?  In particular, how did the groups and categories of Alexandria – Pagans, Christians, Jews, Greeks, Egyptians, intellectuals, administrators – interact?  What were Hypatia’s own distinctive intellectual achievements, and those of the school which she inherited from her father Theon?  Secondly, Hypatia has taken up as a symbol within various narratives and causes, from the fifth century onwards.  Does her death epitomize the turn from an enlightened Antiquity to the Dark Ages?  Is it a brutal manifestation of the tightening grip of the episcopacy on civil life?  Rather than simply debunking myths, we wish to study Hypatia’s role in forming the cultural reception of ancient philosophy and science, the city of Alexandria, the Christian(izing) Roman Empire, the role of women and gender in Antiquity, and more.  We accordingly welcome abstracts for papers offering new insights on the historical world of Hypatia, as well as with her legacy and reception across the range of cultural production.

Keynote Speaker: Edward Watts (UCSD)

Confirmed Speakers: 

David Frankfurter (Boston University)

Henriette Harich-Schwarzbauer (Basel)

Jennifer Westerfeld (Louisville)

Sebastian Gertz (Oxford)

Victoria Leonard (Cardiff)

Helmut Seng (Frankfurt)

Please send abstracts for 20 minute papers to by October 25th, 2015.   The conference will be held December 11-12 at Princeton University.  We will be able to offer limited reimbursement for travel and lodging expenses.

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