The Handbook of Handbooks for Artists and Classicists

It is the first day of classes here at Ohio State and I am gearing up for two exciting courses that I am teaching in coordination with the exhibition that I am curating for the Ohio Art League at the Riffe Gallery: Come Along With Me. The exhibition brings together 18 artists from across Ohio and explores how the mundane and formative experiences of their lives are transformed into lessons for their communities via their artworks.

A major inspiration for this exhibition was the genre of ancient philosophical handbooks, from series of maxims (e.g. Epicurus’ Principal Docrtines and Epictetus’ Enchiridion) to fully-fledged handbooks of Platonism (Alcinous and Apuleius). Other texts include guides for the self and others, such as Seneca’s De clementia and Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, self-consciously literary summaries of various philosophical arguments (e.g. Lucretius’ De rerum natura and Cicero’s De finibus) as well as weird and wonderful guides as objects, such as Diogenes of Oenoanda’s Epicurean inscription and the ekphrasis of the Tablet of Cebes. Capping it all is the excessive and playful ‘biodoxographical’ work of Diogenes Laertius! We will be reading these texts in y Graduate seminar Ancient Philosophical Handbooks: Lessons, Lives, Communities and students from both Classics and Art will be taking the class. Our aim will be to think about how studying the methods and uses of these ancient guides to the philosophical life, there will be a focus on the creative life in general, not only in antiquity but today. While I am still working on the syllabus and readings, for now here is a sneak preview of the cover of The Handbook of Handbooks (echoes of Documenta 13’s The Book of Books?) the collection of texts we’ll be reading in the class.

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