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.
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
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.
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), 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
Utque novis facilis signatur cera figuris
Nec manet ut fuerat nec formas servat easdem,
Sed tamen ipsa eadem est…
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.
 Cf. Erich Auerbach, “Figura”. Archivium Romanicum, 22, 1938, pp.
436-489, republished in Neue Dantestudien, Istanbul: I. Horoz, 1944.
 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)”.
 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… “).