The Flamboyant Fake: Frederic Clark - The Fortunes of a Fraud from Antiquity to the Enlightenment
“Liars Must Have Good Memories”: Thinking with Forgery, in Renaissance Europe and Beyond
In recent years, examinations of forgery have proliferated across various academic fields and disciplines, so much so that it is now possible to speak of something like “forgery studies” as a coherent enterprise. Studies of this sort have revised some traditional narratives, particularly older triumphalist tales of the emergence of philology, historicism, and “rational criticism” in Renaissance Europe. Since at least the eighteenth century, if not before, Renaissance critics—including Lorenzo Valla and Erasmus—were celebrated for their debunking of forgeries, and their supposed attacks against falsification and dogmatism alike. Yet forgery and falsehood still flourished in the Renaissance, just as they do in our own age. This talk will use the new insights of forgery studies to examine the complexities of criticism itself, and the paradoxes it often entails. When, if ever, are forgeries good to think with? And how ought critics respond to the ubiquity of forgery across historical periods? Finally, what light can Renaissance scholarship shed on our current situation in the early twenty-first century?
Frederic Clark is Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of Southern California. He is a cultural and intellectual historian who specialises in the afterlife of classical antiquity in medieval and early modern Europe. He received his BA from Harvard University, an MPhil from the University of Cambridge, and his PhD from Princeton University. His research examines how the reception of the ancient past has informed—and continues to inform—practices of humanistic scholarship, including approaches to forgery and the critical tools used to detect it. Clark is the author of The First Pagan Historian: The Fortunes of a Fraud from Antiquity to the Enlightenment (Oxford University Press, 2020), and co-editor of Thinking in the Past Tense: Eight Conversations (University of Chicago Press, 2019). His articles have appeared in such venues as The Journal of the History of Ideas, Viator, Past & Present, and The Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, among others.