Linguistics Colloquium: Talk by Dr. Bryan Brinkman

Linguistics Colloquium:  Talk by Dr. Bryan Brinkman
Date and time
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM, September 30, 2022

This work examines a particular class of religious graffiti from Pompeii and suggest the role these graffiti played in the creation of sacred space within ostensibly mundane public places. In doing this, I demonstrate how these informal writings challenge certain notions of the relationship between ex voto texts and sacred space. Beyond categories of “civic” or “household” as loci of devotional practices, these texts reveal how public space could be utilized as a site for votive performance. These behaviors are indicative of what Stanley Stowers refers to as the religious mode of “everyday social exchange” in which religious behaviors are aspects of the practical skills utilized on daily basis (Stowers, 2011). What is more, these inscribed prayers were often located in places with a high frequency of graffiti. I suggest that the inscribing of a graffito in one of these locations was likely viewed as an efficacious means of producing dialogue, given the inherent dialogic function of public graffiti (Benefiel, 2010). As such, the graffito was seen as an appropriate medium through which to communicate with divinities who, like other inhabitants of the city, had access to the “public forum” afforded by these texts. These graffiti prayers illuminate certain religious practices that are otherwise difficult to identify as well as the spaces within which those practices took place.    

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