The Letters of Alciphron : to be or not to be a work

10-11 June 2016, MSHS Sud-Est, Nice (France)

Important dates: 

  • 15th December 2015 : Abstract submission deadline
  • 30th January 2016 : Notification of papers acceptance
  • 10-11 June 2016 : Conference date


Dates and Submission

Prospective speakers are invited to submit abstracts of 500/600 words to and, before December 15th 2015, in an anonymous .pdf and .doc document, to be examined by a selection committee. The e-mail (entitled ‘Alciphron’s Letters Conference submission’) should give a brief biography including name, affiliation and contact details. Notification of acceptance will be given before January 30th, 2016. The languages of the conference are English, French, German, Italian and Spanish, but PPT presentation and handout would rather be written in French or in English. Young scholars and PhD students are strongly encouraged to submit a paper.


  • Michèle Biraud (BCL-UMR7320, Univ. Nice Sophia Antipolis, Institut Universitaire de France)
  • Arnaud Zucker (CEPAM-UMR7264, Univ. Nice Sophia Antipolis, France)
  • Secrétariat : Trinidad Acha (BCL-UMR7320)

Programme committee:

Conference fees

Regular inscription : 40€. Students : free



Call for papers

Many books and papers on epistolary literature have been published during the last decade, but none of them is specifically dedicated to Alciphron’s Letters. studies of his collection generally focus on intertextuality or on the sources of individual letters, discuss priority between Alciphron and Lucian, or consider the work in a rather documentary way. Among the most prominent writers of fictional epistolography who are his near contemporaries (such as Philostratus and Aelian), Alciphron seems to be the least valued, and many regard him as a ‘cursed rhetor’ (Vieillefond), a disappointing and decadent heir, only able to mimic an artificial version of classical Athens in a laborious, if not unskilled manner.

The four social types that are highlighted by the fictional letters of this collection have led scholars to examine Alciphron’s sketches in connection with the psychology of New Comedy, elements of which he transposes into the epistolary genre. But it is worthwhile looking for other kinds of intertextuality. What kind of relationship exists, for example, between these letters, which are often very concise, and epigrams, which frequently mention similar situations or characters? Can echoes be detected of the bucolic, satiric or erotic poetry of the Hellenistic and early Imperial periods? Is there any place in this work for pseudopopular registers such as proverbs, or for puns?
Scholars have often insisted on the heterogeneity of this rambling collection, not only due to the varying tones of the letters, but also because of the inconsistent structure and changing content of the book in the manuscript tradition. By adopting a more positive critical perspective, this conference on Alciphron aims to reappraise his work and intends to treat the Letters as a genuine and unified literary work, and to assess the originality of this opus. Did Alciphron design his “epistolary book” on the model of a poetic book, that is a unified work, in several volumes, with its parts ordered in an elaborate composition (either a truly rigorous architecture or a brilliant poikilia)?

Are there one or more types of enunciation and of narrativity characteristic of this author? Can we speak of a personal style, for example by the repeated use of some rhetorical figures, well-balanced constructions, or special rhythmical patterns? What has been looked for both by the author and the readers beyond this literary game of an epistolary fiction, revisiting the past through the prism of earlier works? These questions are just some avenues for debate and reflection in this meeting about a work that is halfway between rewriting and innovation.