New Book: The Baptized Muse

Karla Pollmann, The Baptized Muse (Oxford University Press, 2017)

ISBN 978-0-19-872648-7

https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-baptized-muse-9780198726487?cc=gb&lang=en&

This book focuses on early Christian poets, mainly from the 4th to the 6th centuries and writing in Latin, whose works have so far been too often dismissed as epigonal. The book chooses a fresh approach by highlighting the intertextual and exegetical means by which early Christian poets achieved a culturally competitive and highly influential standard in writing poetry directed specifically at an educated (would-be) Christian audience for their edification and education. This book will not only fill a considerable gap in our knowledge of the history of European literature, mentality and thought, but will also enable a better understanding of later literary artefacts in this tradition, from Beowulf to Milton’s Paradise Lost. Thus, in a general sense, this book contributes to the recently emerged interdisciplinary interest in looking at aspects of religion as cultural phenomena, and at the interrelationship of theology and literature.

With the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire increasing numbers of educated people converted to this new belief. As Christianity did not have its own educational institutions the issue of how to harmonize pagan education and Christian convictions became increasingly pressing. Especially classical poetry, the staple diet of pagan education, was considered to be morally corrupting (because of its deceitful mythological content) and damaging for the salvation of the soul (because of the false gods it advocated). But Christianity recoiled from an unqualified anti-intellectual attitude, while at the same time the experiment of creating an idiosyncratic form of genuinely Christian poetry failed (the sole exception being the poet Commodianus). This book argues that, instead, Christian poets made creative use of the classical literary tradition, and – in addition to blending it with Judaeo-Christian biblical exegesis – exploited poetry’s special ability of enhancing communicative effectiveness and impact through aesthetic means in order to disseminate the Christian faith. The book seeks to explore these strategies through a close analysis of a wide range of Christian, and for comparison partly also pagan, writers mainly from the fourth to sixth centuries. The book reveals that early Christianity was not a hermetically sealed uniform body, but displays a rich spectrum of possibilities in dealing with the past and a willingness to engage with and adapt the surrounding culture(s), thereby developing diverse and changing responses to historical challenges. By demonstrating throughout that authority is a key in understanding the long denigrated and misunderstood early Christian poets, this book reaches the ground-breaking conclusion that early Christian poetry is an art form that gains its justification by adding cultural authority to Christianity.

KARLA POLLMANN is currently Professor of Classics and Head of the School of Humanities at the University of Reading. She has also been appointed as Adjunct Professor of Theology at the University of Århus, Denmark, and Professor Extraordinary of Classics at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. She is internationally recognized for her monographs on late antique poetry, on Augustine’s hermeneutics, and a commentary, with introduction and text, on Statius, Thebaid 12. She was Principal Investigator of a major international and interdisciplinary project on the reception of Augustine through the ages, generously funded by the Leverhulme Trust, whose main result is the three-volume Oxford Guide to the Historical Reception of Augustine (OUP 2013). She is currently Co-Investigator of an Innovative Training Network sponsored by the EU, entitled “The History of Human Freedom and Dignity in Western Civilization” (itn-humanfreedom.eu). She is an internationally renowned speaker and her engagements include the deliveries of the 11th Augustine Lectures in Malta in 2007 under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Malta, the 4th Fliedner Lectures on Science and Faith in Madrid in 2013, and the 4th Dutch Annual Lecture in Patristics, at the Dutch Academy of Sciences in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 2014.

New Books from Classics

It has been a busy summer for the department and the Classics research division as we prepared for the new academic year 2016-7. Now we are fully back into the swing of teaching, and we are delighted to share some recent, exciting news with you.

We would like to kick off our updates with a little celebration of our most recent book publications. Over the last few months, in addition to dozens of articles and other formats, a number of important, impactful new books, authored or edited by colleagues from Reading’s Classics department, have been published:

  • Dickey, E. (2016): An introduction to the composition and analysis of Greek prose. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Fournet , J.-L. and Papaconstantinou, A., eds. (2016): Mélanges Jean Gascou: textes et études papyrologiques (P. Gascou). Travaux et Mémoires, 20 (1). Centre d’histoire et civilisation de Byzance, Collège de France – CNRS, Paris.
  • Nicholls, M. ed. (2016): 30-Second Ancient Greece: The 50 Most Important Achievements of a Timeless Civilization, Each Explained in Half a Minute. Ivy Press, London.

In addition to this, Dr Matthew Nicholls has also worked as a consultant for a delightful children’s book based on his best-selling 30-seconds Ancient Rome volume of 2014:

  • Holland, S. and Hill, A. (2016): Ancient Rome in 30 Seconds: 30 fascinating topics for time travellers, explained in half a minute. Ivy Press, London.

Here is a short little film that was produced on occasion of the book launch of ’30-Second Ancient Greece’:

Would you like to find out more about the impressive volume and range of our published research? Check out our institutional repository, CentAUR, following this link.

Reading Classics in the News

The past few months have been exciting ones for the Classics department owing to a blitz of media attention covering the publication of Professor Eleanor Dickey’s book Learning Latin the Ancient Way as well as the annual Reading Ancient Schoolroom.

It started in February with an article in the Guardian and lasted until April, when the CBC Radio Canada broadcast a half-hour interview with Professor Dickey; along the way we featured on national TV and radio as well as the Times, the Telegraph, and numerous European publications. The final tally was (as far as we know) 3 printed newspaper pieces, 11 online newspaper pieces in 6 languages, 2 national TV broadcasts, 2 BBC South TV broadcasts, and 6 radio broadcasts (4 in UK, 1 in US, 1 in Canada).

Here is the full list:

Wednesday 10th February

Thursday 11th February

Friday 12th Feburary

Saturday 13th February

Sunday 14th February

  •  BBC 1 TV, 2:24 am

Wednesday 17th February

Saturday 20 February

  •  Announcement of Naples ‘Presentazione libro’ sent out on Notiziario Italiano di Antichistica

 Monday 22nd February

Thursday 25th February

Tuesday 1st March

  •  ‘Presentazione libro’ in Naples (public event in which book was discussed by a pair of Naples Classicists; in Italian)

Monday 7th March

Friday 1st April

For more information on the Reading Ancient Schoolroom, see http://www.readingancientschoolroom.com.

Learning Latin the Ancient Way – Reading research in the Guardian

Learning Latin the Ancient Way, Reading Classics professor Eleanor Dickey’s latest book published this week by Cambridge University Press, has been reviewed in the Guardian. The review can be seen at http://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/feb/10/ancient-greek-manuscripts-reveal-life-lessons-from-the-roman-empire The book explores how Greek-speaking students in the Roman empire learned Latin, using the fragments of their Latin textbooks preserved on papyri from Egypt and in medieval manuscripts. In some ways these ancient Latin learners had an experience strikingly similar to that of modern students: they used grammars, dictionaries, and commentaries; they read Cicero’s Catilinarian orations and Virgil’s Aeneid; they memorized vocabulary; they looked up the hard words and wrote translations into their Latin texts.

Prof. Dickey's most recent book: Learning Latin the Ancient Way (Cambridge, 2016)

Prof. Dickey’s most recent book: Learning Latin the Ancient Way (Cambridge, 2016)

But in other ways the ancient Latin learners had a very different experience from that of their modern counterparts. Some of these differences come from the fact that ancient learners came to Latin knowing ancient Greek rather than English. So they struggled to learn the Roman alphabet, but they had no problems with the distinction between nominative and accusative cases. Other differences come from ancient educational conventions: ancient beginners started off with bilingual texts, easy Latin accompanied by a running translation. Of course the students could not translate the Latin for themselves as a modern learner might do, since a translation was provided; instead they memorized the Latin, rather the way a student studying French today might memorize a dialogue about ordering croissants in a café in Paris.

Indeed the texts read by ancient beginners have much more in common with material read by modern French learners than with that read by modern Latin learners. Ancient students studied short dialogues and narratives about daily life: buying clothes, buying food, having lunch, borrowing money, and visiting sick friends. Of course, ancient daily life was not quite like modern daily life, so the dialogues also cover going to the public baths, winning court cases, making excuses, getting into fights, taking oaths in temples, and coming home drunk after a Roman orgy. Just like their modern counterparts, these dialogues were written to teach students about culture as well as language; therefore they offer us priceless insight into life in the Roman empire as Romans saw it.

Learning Latin the Ancient Way provides extracts from all types of ancient Latin-learning texts: bilingual dialogues, alphabets, grammars, dictionaries, annotated copies of Sallust, word-lists to Virgil, prose composition exercises, Aesop’s fables, stories about the Trojan war, letters of congratulation for sending to successful legacy hunters, an explanation of the Roman law on manumission, etc. Portions originally written in Greek have normally been translated into English, but the Latin remains in Latin; this means that modern students can experience and use these texts as their ancient counterparts would have done (or ignore the English and treat the passages like any other translation exercise). A few passages lack word division and punctuation, to make it clear what reading was really like in antiquity.

Professor Dickey hopes that her book will be used by modern Latin teachers and students (it is suitable for learners who have already done at least one year of Latin) and that it will enable modern learners to enjoy the ancient Latin-learning materials, which are now able to be used once more for their original purpose.

Copies can be purchased from Cambridge University Press (to whom Professor Dickey is very grateful for pricing the book at an affordable £18, a sharp contrast to most of her previous books): http://www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/classical-studies/classical-languages/learning-latin-ancient-way-latin-textbooks-ancient-world?format=PB.

Reading’s Latin Inscriptions: New Book by Prof. Peter Kruschwitz

We are delighted to announce the publication of a new book by Prof. Peter Kruschwitz with Reading’s very own Two Rivers Press:

WotWThe book contains an anthology of 48 Latin inscriptions that are on display in Berkshire’s county town of Reading (as well as an extra four that have disappeared some time ago!) – covering some 1,800 years of Latin in use as a language of authority, of the church, of business, of learning, and – of course – as a language to honour the dead.

The book, showcasing the very finest examples of a body of some 200 inscribed Latin texts altogether from the Reading area, is the result of several years of fieldwork (about which Prof. Kruschwitz has occasionally blogged on his blog ‘The Petrified Muse’) – and if you wish to follow his walking routes, there is even a handy map that shows you the location of the various pieces that are covered in the book on Google Maps!

The book, beautifully designed and illustrated, is available from the publisher, Inpress Books, Waterstones, and – soon –  Amazon.

For anyone in and around Reading: Prof. Kruschwitz will be signing copies of his book at Reading’s branch of Waterstones next Saturday (12 September, 3-4pm) as part of Reading’s activities during the 2015 Heritage Open Days (further information can be found here).

A new exciting publication from one of our staff members has just appeared: discover the The Hellenistic ‘Far East’ with Rachel Mairs

RachelBookClassics students – and those with a taste for sub-par Oliver Stone movies – will know that Alexander the Great campaigned as far as the very edges of the world as known to the ancient Greeks, in Afghanistan and India.  A story which is less well know is that of the military colonists he left behind.  Greek and Macedonian soldiers were settled in remote garrisons, as well as ancient cities such as Samarkand and Bactra.  For almost three hundred years, the descendants of these soldiers ruled as kings in Central Asia and India, minting coins with Greek legends.

Like many of our current third-year dissertation students, I found that unanswered questions from my undergraduate studies made for a great research project.  What happened at the ‘fringes’ of the ancient world?  How did Greek settlers interact with local populations?  In areas where few ancient written sources survive, what other forms of evidence can we employ in historical research?  Why have ancient Greek olive oil jars been excavated in Afghanistan?

My new book The Hellenistic Far East: Archaeology, Language and Identity in Greek Central Asia has just been published by University of California Press.  It presents exciting, and little known, textual and archaeological material from Central Asia and India in the period after Alexander the Great.  Through this evidence, we can explore a complex, multiethnic, multilingual society in the contact zone between Greek and ‘barbarian’, settled and nomad, East and West.For those interested in finding out more, the Hellenistic Far East blog (www.bactria.org) has regularly updated bibliographical essays.

 

Promoting Undergraduate Research in Classics

Many congratulations to Mathew Britten, currently a second-year undergraduate student in our department and president of the Reading University Classics Society, on getting his article ‘Don’t Get the Wrong End of the Stick: Lifting the Lid on Roman Toilet Behaviour‘ published in Reinvention: an International Journal of Undergraduate Research.

Well done, Mathew!

Mathew’s publication is the outcome of a presentation at the 2013 British Conference of Undergraduate Research.

Our department has a long history in supporting Undergraduate Research – a number of recent news items on this topic can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here.

 

Forthcoming Talk by Dr Katherine Harloe – Winckelmann: Art and Death in Enlightenment Europe’

Winckelmann and the invention book coverOn Wednesday 5 February 2014, Dr Katherine Harloe will give a public talk with Ian Jenkins of the British Museum on the topic ‘Winckelmann: Art and Death in Enlightenment Europe’.  Below she discusses some aspects of Winckelmann’s life and work, his death, and what led her to make him the subject of her recent monograph.

Around ten in the morning on 8 June 1768, a commotion disturbed the staff and guests at Trieste’s Osteria Grande.  The hotel steward, Andreas Harthaber, was first to react. He was cleaning the main dining room when he heard a loud thump from room 10 above.  Running upstairs, he threw open the door to see the guest of that room stretched out on the floor, a noose around his neck.  The inhabitant of the neighbouring room knelt above him, one hand on his chest, the other brandishing a bloodied knife.  On seeing Andreas the assailant jumped up, pushed his way out of the door and fled from hotel and city. Doctors were called but it was too late to save the victim, who died from his injuries some hours later.

Such was the unexpected and brutal end of a man who was known to the Osteria staff simply as ‘Signor Giovanni’, but was soon revealed to be a person of some consequence.  Among his effects were gold and silver medals bearing likenesses of Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria, and her son, the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II.  A passport, issued in Vienna some two weeks previously, identified its bearer as ‘Johannes Winckelmann, Prefect of Antiquities in Rome, on his way back to the Holy City’.

1024px-Johann_Joachim_Winckelmann_(Raphael_Mengs_after_1755) Wikimedia commonsThe notoriety of this murder is so great that the Grand Hotel Duchi d’Aosta, which now stands on the site once occupied by the Osteria Grande, still carries details of it on its homepage . The murderer, Francesco Arcangeli, had unwittingly killed one of the leading lights of Enlightened antiquarianism and connoisseurship.  Contemporary opinion of Winckelmann is best summed up in an early nineteenth-century French engraving, a copy of which is displayed in the case devoted to Winckelmann in the British Museum’s Enlightenment Gallery.  The main image, which is based on a portrait Winckelmann’s great friend, the neoclassical painter Anton Raphael Mengs, shows him dressed humbly, reading an edition of Homer.  Below, between copies of two of his most famous works (the Description of the Apollo Belvedere and the History of the Art of the Ancients), a legend declares ‘In the midst of Rome, Winckelmann lit the flame of the rational study of the works of the Ancients’.

My own fascination with Winckelmann began some eight years ago, when I was researching a project on changing conceptions of classical scholarship from the seventeenth century to today.  My experiences as an undergraduate classicist at Oxford, and then as a student of early modern history at Cambridge, had alerted me a strange disjunction between the notion of classics held by an early modern thinkers like Thomas Hobbes and those of my teachers and contemporaries.  In the early modern university, study of the Greek and Roman classics was an elementary discipline, taught to inculcate principles of good style and virtuous conduct through the study of uplifting examples.  This seemed a far cry from classics as I understood it, as a non-utilitarian, historical discipline aimed at recovering and reconstructing of the ancient world in all its aspect.

My attempts to account for this change led me back time and time again to Winckelmann’s name.  His researches in 1750s and 1760s Rome were key to transforming the academic study of classics, popularising the study of ancient objects and turning it from a mainly literary discipine into the holistic study and reconstruction of ancient cultures.  Winckelmann was the first to bring together interpretation of thousands of different artefacts from ancient Egypt, Etruria, Greece and Rome into an overarching story of the rise and decline of ancient cultures, and to connect differences in their characteristics and quality (‘style’) to the political and social conditions of their time.  Even if many of his judgements now seem to have been motivated by prejudice, the ambition of his historical ‘system’ – as well as some of its details, such as his broad distinctions between the archaic, classical and Hellenistic periods – have exerted a great influence on the concepts and categories of classical scholarship to this day.

Yet, in the eighteenth century as today, commentators were just as fascinated by other aspects of Winckelmann’s life and character: his biography, with its startling ascent from rags to riches, the overt homoeroticism of some of his most famous writings, and of course his bloody end.  Winckelmann inspired the generation of Goethe and Schiller; French revolutionaries hailed him as a champion of liberty; and in the early twentieth century he inspired novellas by German Nobel laureates Thomas Mann (‘Der Tod in Venedig’) and Gerhart Hauptmann (‘Winckelmann – das Verhängnis). My research to date has focused on Winckelmann’s impact on scholarship, but this Enlightenment life and personality is fascinating from any number of angles.

All are welcome to attend Dr Harloe’s talk in the British Museum’s Enlightenment Gallery on Wednesday 5 February at  1:15pm.

New Book by Prof. Ian Rutherford

Ian Rutherford: State Pilgrims and Sacred Observers

Ian Rutherford: State Pilgrims and Sacred Observers

We are delighted to welcome the most recent addition to our Faculty bookshelf: today Prof. Ian Rutherford‘s monograph ‘State Pilgrims and Sacred Observers in Ancient Greece. A Study of Theōriā and Theōroi‘ has just been published by Cambridge University Press (also available as e-book):

From the blurb: ‘For at least a thousand years Greek cities took part in religious activities outside their territory by sending sacred delegates to represent them. The delegates are usually called theōroi, literally ‘observers’, and a delegation made up of theōroi, or the action of taking part in one, is called theōriā.

‘This is the first comprehensive study of theōroi and theōriā. It examines a number of key functions of theōroi and explains who served in this role and what their activities are likely to have been, both on the journey and at the sanctuary.

‘Other chapters discuss the diplomatic functions of theōroi, and what their activities tell us about the origins of the notion of Greek identity and about religious networks. Chapters are also devoted to the reception of the notion of theōriā in Greek philosophy and literature.

‘The book will be essential for all scholars and advanced students of ancient religion.’

Currently, Prof. Rutherford spends a year as Visiting Scholar at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University, where he is working on his project ‘Hittite Texts and Greek Religion: Borrowing, Hybridity, Comparison‘.

Animals in the Classical world – New Book by Reading Doctoral Researcher

Congratulations to our doctoral researcher Alastair Harden on the publication of his book Animals in the Classical world: ethical perspectives from Greek and Roman texts.

Harden, AnimalsThe sourcebook is a collection of nearly 200 specially-translated excerpts from Classical authors from Homer to Plutarch. It  aims to contextualize modern animal rights debates within the civilizations of Greece and Rome, and to provide an introduction to the uses of animal imagery in Classical literature with the ultimate goal of understanding the place of the non-human animal in the moral and ethical parameters of the ancient world.

Topics such as warfare, science, farming, vegetarianism and public entertainment join the more traditionally-philosophical corners of this growing area of Classical studies, and passages are included from authors of all genres of Classical literature including poets, novelists and historians.

The book suggests that we can learn as much about ancient ethical parameters from a Homeric simile, a passage of Sophocles or a throwaway comment from Thucydides as we can from the nuanced language of philosophical discourse, if we look in the right places.

The book joins the Animal Ethic series published by Palgrave Macmillan (www.palgrave.com/philosophy/animal_ethics.asp) in conjunction with the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, which recently founded the new print Journal of Animal Ethics. The photograph on the cover was taken in the Ure Museum.