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Ancient cabinet of curiosities

Véronique Dasen (University of Fribourg/ ERC AdG Locus Ludi #741520)

Respondent: Dunstan Lowe (University of Kent)

22 March 2021, 16:00 p.m. (UK time)

For long the ancient perception of the ‘monster’ was opposed in an evolutionary perspective to modern times. This vision of a prescientific classical past, under the sign of the fabulous, where the exceptional being is either an object of terror, fascination or worship, is questioned. The ancient discourse on the function of the monster in the oikoumenê, the inhabited world, reveals an object of knowledge and memory within a specific epistemological context, at the crossroads of the history of medicine, politics, and of thaumata or mirabilia. The collection and exhibition of monstrous creatures, sometimes preserved in the form of anatomical preparations, reveal a mode of the transmission of knowledge that emerged in Alexandria. The taste for the marvelous was combined with scientific curiosity and the imperialist ambition of controlling the known world.

Véronique Dasen is professor of Classical archaeology at the University of Fribourg. She studied at Lausanne (Licence ès Lettres) and Oxford University (PhD). Her research is led in a multidisciplinary and anthropological perspective. Her research interests range from ancient iconography and material culture, the history of the body, of medicine and of magical practices to gender studies, history of childhood and ludic culture (games and divination, games and love, passage rites). She led several research projects on these topics, often with associated exhibitions.

She is currently leading an ERC advanced five year project ‘Locus Ludi: The Cultural Fabric of Play and Games in Classical Antiquity’.

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