The Outsider Within

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentationscience to science / art to art


Anacharsis represents the archetypal foreigner, the wise stranger, the critical mirror of the "other"; and also a comparative model, on both a personal and socio-political level. "Foreignness" is not only a political or cultural state of being: it can be moral, ethical, the mark of an outsider. In this talk I will outline some general observations on the figure of Anacharsis ancient and modern, before considering his relevance in the early modern period.
The idea of an "outsider within", negotiating social convention and morality in pursuit of self fulfilment, underlay the notion of libertinism in eighteenth-century literary culture; but it overlapped with idea of the wise outsider, epitomised by Shaftesbury's "Ethiopian", whose gaze reveals the ridiculous. These tropes coalesced among the 'travellers to antique lands': From the archaeological adventurers of the Dilettanti, to Mary Shelley's Anglo-Italians, these were figures who chose to be foreign - performing a libertine, transgressive cosmopolitanism - daring their own compatriots to condemn them. The echo of Anacharsis, as traveller, philosopher and satirist, can be found throughout this tradition.
Period11 Jun 2021
Event titleThe Legend of Anacharsis in Antiquity and Modernity
Event typeConference
LocationLiverpool, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Anacharsis
  • cosmopolitanism

Fields of Science and Technology Classification 2012

  • 601 History, Archaeology
  • 602 Linguistics and Literature
  • 603 Philosophy, Ethics, Religion