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Figura – Studies on the Classical Tradition
is a new international journal to be published online with unrestricted access, in order to disseminate current research and writing on the Classical Tradition’s repertoire. The journal will encompass studies of Antiquity’s visual and textual culture, as well as appropriations and transfigurations of this legacy in the ancient and post-ancient world. Post-antiquity may be taken to include the contemporary period, therefore the cut-off used as a frame of reference for content proposed by Figura is conceptual rather than temporal, which calls for a distinction in this respect.

Classical Tradition
It is useful to look at the multidimensionality of the notion of “classical” by taking an approach previously seen as negative. Classical here does not refer to a style encoded in the various historical classicisms whose shared features, so to speak, were preference for a high repertoire, a sense of centrality, unity, structural transparency, an ideal of simplicity, a liking for disciplined play between rule and variety. Secondly, classical here bears no relation to a psychology of perception that would see in it a constant of the spirit. Thirdly,  classical here would not be associated with any judgmental residue, in the ambit of a Classical / Anticlassical antithesis, in which the second term would be reserved for urges or drives of a creative, innovative, experimental, or subjective nature.

Once freed from these three senses of “classical” involved in overly specific perspectives, the notion of Classical Tradition may be defined more objectively. It refers to the historical process through which the cultures arisen from the Mediterranean Antiquity structured their mental coordinates, topics and argumentative procedures to constitute a repertoire of forms (visual, literary, rhetorical, mythological, philosophical, religious, scientific, musical, etc.) in an unceasing movement of crystallization, transmission and transformation of the meanings of the ancient models.

From this conceptual perspective, the purpose of Figura is to stimulate academic studies of specific phenomena and issues that are clearly delimited, but in the spirit of encouraging dialogue between different fields of knowledge and broadening debate, while heeding the autonomous – and at the same time interconnected – character of the spheres of visual and textual culture.

In short, it encourages research that does not lose sight of the various aspects of the term for which the journal was named – Figura – brought out by Erich Auerbach’s unfailingly contemporary 1938 essay[1]
. From exile in Istanbul, Auerbach enjoyed much greater range in narrating the gesture of a European word whose plasticity is inscribed in its own history. Its original sense was concrete and visual – “object modeled in clay” by a potter (figulus[2]), but more layers of meaning were gradually added, “encompassing sensible appearance and forms relating to grammar, rhetoric, logic, mathematics, and later even music and dance.” This unique ability of the word figura to host within its semantic spectrum everything from the most material to the most abstract translates the journal’s ambition of offering a platform for reflection on diversity within the unity of a tradition, or to put it another way, on the tension between identity and transformation in the longue durée, a tension expressed in the recurring image, from Ovid to Dante, of successive impressions of different signs on one and the same wax:

Utque novis facilis signatur cera figuris
Nec manet ut fuerat nec formas servat easdem,
Sed tamen ipsa eadem est…[3]

Editorial structure
Figura hopes to publish studies in archeology and art history while remaining open to aesthetics and the history of literature, music, rhetoric, philosophy and religion, prioritizing approaches that do not lose sight of Antiquity as the frame of reference in which phenomena studied are situated.

This editorial structure aims to offer a range of texts in which current studies and texts from the repertoire are balanced and correspond to each other, whether sources or significant markers in the history of reflection on the classical tradition.

Whenever possible, therefore, each issue of Figura will contain:

a. a thematic dossier;
b. occasional studies;
c. a commentary on an exhibition or a museological initiative;
d. a review of an essay or new publication;
e. a source or text from the repertoire, preceded by an introduction contextualizing it and justifying its relevance.

Figura will accept contributions in English, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.

[1] Cf. Erich Auerbach, “Figura”. Archivium Romanicum, 22, 1938, pp. 436-489, republished in Neue Dantestudien, Istanbul: I. Horoz, 1944.

[2] Cf. A. Ernout, A. Millet, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue latine (1932),  Paris: Klincksieck, 2001, p. 235:  “fingo, -is, finxi, fictum, -gere: proprement ‘modeler dans l’argile’, cf. figulus, ‘potier’ (…); fictor ‘pâtissier’ et ‘sculpteur’; (…) Varr., L.L. 7: fictor cum dicit fingo, figuram imponit [“The imagemaker (fictor), when he says fingo (I shape), puts a figura on the thing”].  Puis par extension: “façonner” (d’une manière générale, sens physique et moral)”.

[3] Ovid, Met., XV, 169-171, ed. G. Lafaye, Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1962, vol. III, p. 126. (“And as the soft wax is stamped with new figurae and does not remain as it was, nor retain the same forms, although it remains itself the same… “).

© 2013 • FIGURA - Studies on the Classical Tradition • ISSN 2317 - 4625