Classicising Learning, Performance, and Power: Eurasian Perspectives from Antiquity to the Early Modern Period

PAIXUE Symposium

Meadows Lecture Theatre, William Robertson Wing, Old Medical School (Doorway 4), Edinburgh EH8 9AG, UK
Liu Songnian (attr.), Literati gathering
Liu Songnian (fl. 1174-1224, attr.), Literary Gathering in the Western Garden, detail, © National Palace Museum, Taiwan, image no. K2A001466N000000000PAA 

The PAIXUE international Symposium explores how public performances of classicising learning (however defined in each culture) influenced and served imperial or state power in premodern political systems across Eurasia and North Africa.

*Programme and abstracts*

The term ‘classicising’, as understood here, encompasses wide-ranging aspects and forms of learning that are recognized as carrying on the legacy of a revered past (however defined), and thus considered authoritative. The focus of the papers are on performances that relate to texts or other media, composed in writing or improvised on the spot, as well as social and/or bodily performances such as habitus, ritualized behaviour and theatre. 

Aiming at encouraging scholarly exchanges among experts in different fields and cultures, the papers relate to the following three interconnected thematic strands.

Thematic Strands

Classicising learning and the social order 

  • Who were the main carriers (individuals, groups, social strata) of classicising learning, and what role did classicising learning play in the fashioning of social and cultural identity? How was access to classicising learning regulated? 
  • How did classicising learning play out in systems of patronage and in forms of social interaction among elite members of society? What was its importance in the formation of social bonds and networks? 
  • How did classicising learning relate to ‘un-classicising’ learning? 
  • Was there any relationship between classicising learning and social mobility? 

Classicising learning and the political order 

  • What was the place of classicising learning and rhetoric in public and/or political life, either at the political centre or in the provinces? How did classicising learning figure into the balance of power between centre and periphery? How did it play out in the shifting relationship and dynamics of power between rulers/ruling strata and subjects? 
  • Did classicising learning play a role in the state’s/ruler’s propaganda? Or, conversely, did it enable subversion of the political order? 
  • What role did classicising learning play in institutionalised mechanisms of advice-giving or of political (and social) advancement such as the examination system? And, alternatively, in the act of withdrawing from political life altogether? 
  • To which degree was classicising learning embedded in a functioning legal system?  
  • Did classicising learning play a role in inter-state relations/diplomacy? 

Classicising learning and the self 

  • What was the place and importance of classicising learning in theories and practices of education and learning in the system of schooling? 
  • What role did classicising learning and memorisation play in the ethical and emotional configuration of the learned subject? 
  • How did classicising learning shape the everyday performance of the learned self (be it socially-oriented or geared towards personal self-realisation?


Robert Ashmore (Berkeley), Floris Bernard (Ghent), Javier Cha (Seoul), Ming-kin Chu (Hong Kong), Christophe Erismann (Vienna), Bram Fauconnier (Ghent), Michael Fuller (Irvine), Elena Gittleman (Bryn Mawr), Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila (Edinburgh), James Hankins (Harvard), Florian Hartmann (Aachen), Michael Hope (Yonsei), Pascale Hugon (Vienna), Takeshi Inomata (Arizona), Ashton Lazarus (Kyushu), Marina Loukaki (Athens), Christopher Nugent (Williams), Daphne Penna (Groningen), Alberto Rigolio (Durham), Asuka Sango (Carleton), Jonathan Skaff (Shippensburg), Luka Špoljarić (Zagreb), Ariel Stilerman (Stanford), Justin Stover (Edinburgh), Elizabeth Tyler (York), Lieve van Hoof (Ghent), Griet Vankeerberghen (McGill), Milan Vukašinović (ANAMED, Koç), Elvira Wakelnig (Vienna), Stephen H. West (Arizona), Julian Yolles (Odense).

Programme and Abstracts

The poster,  programme and abstracts are available to download.