Biographical inscriptions are one of the most characteristic textual genres attested from ancient
Egypt, continuously documented from the mid-third millennium BC to Roman times. Inscribed in
hieroglyphs, the formal, display-oriented form of the Egyptian script, these texts present aspects
of individual lives and experience, sometimes as narratives of key events, sometimes as
characterisations of personal qualities. Interpretation, however, has proven difficult. The range of
Egyptian texts that we conventionally term ‘biographies’ or ‘autobiographies’ frustrate
expectations associated with Western definitions of the ‘genre’. Egyptian biographical texts also
underwent significant changes in format, materiality, contexts, configurations of language, and
functions over the three thousand years of their history. Despite such variety, biographies are
intuitively recognized as a specific type of Egyptian written discourse, differentiated from other
types (e.g. literary or funerary) by particular constraints of decorum and specific functions.
Examining these issues in further detail remains a major desideratum.
This exploratory workshop will offer a context in
which to confront and debate current approaches to Egyptian biographies and self-presentation,
which have, until now, been developed mostly independently by specialists working on different
periods or in different frameworks.The whole will be structured
into thematic parts to encourage ‘conversations’ and debates between contributions.