William Johnson: The Sociology of Publishing in ancient Rome
Abstract: To students of ancient Rome, the idea of literary "publishing" carries with it well-known oral features. These range from the consumption of literary texts in social contexts involving reading aloud to the use of formal recitation to present a work to an audience. In this paper, we will revisit and unpack these and other typical features, with a focus on the inevitably social dynamics involved in oral engagements with written text. The goal will be to situate the elements of written self-assertion within the sociological contours: not only how literary production fits within and helps to construct social networks, but also how the social group negotiates the fragile moment at which a piece of writing might be released to a potential public ("publishing"). What were the collective means by which written work was adjudicated and promoted? What were the avenues for a writer's sense of validation within the shifting dynamics of the social group? And how much of this had to do with the typically oral —that is, social— contexts in which texts were realized?