Shadows and songs: the fragment as creative impulse

Friday, May 12, 2023 - 5:00pm
Lori Hopkins
Enrico Prodi
Alex Silverman
Laura Swift
Lecture Theatre, Ioannou Centre, 66 St Giles, Oxford

Poster advertising the play Fragments: image shows a woman from behind, holding a wood-axe, she stands on ancient Greek text written on a giant fragment of papyrus, lit from above by an oversized black angle-poise lampWhy are fragments so compelling? How can incomplete information be used as a spur to creativity, and should we regard fragmentation of text as an opportunity rather than a problem? Join us for a discussion that brings together a papyrologist, a puppeteer, and a composer, to compare approaches to the fragment, and showcase recent artistic work inspired by fragmentary Greek literature. Open to all, no booking required.

The panel discussion will finish at about 6pm.

At 7:30pm, a performance of the play FRAGMENTS will take place at the Old Fire Station on George Street - the performance is a separate and ticketed event to this panel discussion, please see the Old Fire Station website for details.


Lori Hopkins is a puppeteer, and puppetry director on Fragments, a new play about papyrology, lost Greek tragedy, and the human urge to tell stories and piece together information. Lori performs with all kinds of puppets, but in her work for Fragments she has particularly explored shadow puppetry using overhead projectors and simple props derived from the world of papyri. The puppetry is inspired by the visual aesthetics of the fragment, and by the principle of patternicity (the phenomenon that leads humans to find connections between things) and pareidolia (the phenomenon of seeing faces in lifeless objects).

Dr Enrico Prodi is a Research Fellow in Papyrology, based at the Oxyrhynchus collection. He was trained in papyrology in Bologna and Oxford, and most of his research has focused on literary texts preserved on papyri. His current research project aims to study the production and circulation of non-canonical Greek poetry in hexameters in Egypt under the Roman Empire.

Alex Silverman is a composer and classicist who is interested in the modern and ancient performance of dramatic songs. Fragmentary texts have featured in his recent work, which has included the score for a film of the dawn chorus in Euripides’ Phaethon, and a new jazz setting of the Hellenistic Fragmentum Grenfellianum. In his research, he has undertaken reconstruction and interpretation of fragmentary recordings of early 20th Century musical performances of Aeschylus’s plays.

Chaired by Dr Laura Swift, Associate Professor of Greek Literature, Oxford.