Interaction in Imperial Greek Literature Workshop

This September, the University of Reading hosted a workshop, which showcased postgraduate research on the theme of interaction in imperial Greek literature. The workshop resulted from informal discussions at the Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Ancient Literature (AMPAL) 2015, where over two intensive days of presentations, only a single panel of three speakers was dedicated to imperial Greek literature. Identifying a desire to bring those working in this field together, Claire Jackson (Cambridge) and I came up with the idea for a one-day workshop. One advantage of this was that we were able to include researchers working on many different authors and texts in a single programme. While many of us regularly meet others working on our own author/s, we are usually less aware of postgraduates who work on other imperial texts. It was great to meet others who do so, hear their contributions, and make connections between authors, texts, and wider themes. Interest in the workshop was widespread, and the good turnout of Reading students, both undergraduates and postgraduates, was particularly heartening. Over three sessions, we were treated to papers on Plutarch, Lucian, Aelius Aristides, the novels, pseudo-Appian, and a wide variety of other literary sources, like papyri and inscriptions.

 

The first session explored intertextuality in two imperial Greek authors. Chrysanthos Chrysanthou’s (Heidelberg) paper suggested a possible allusion, hitherto unnoticed, in the prologue of Plutarch’s Demosthenes to Plato’s Theaetetus. This allusion to Plato’s dialogue, in which the life of the philosopher is juxtaposed with the life of the orator, is well placed at the very beginning of these Plutarchan Lives, since they deal precisely with men who oscillate between philosophy and oratory. The reference may guide readers, actively encouraging them to consider the philosophical value of studying rhetoric. Another author very well-acquainted with rhetoric and its implications, Aelius Aristides, was the subject of the next paper. Francesca Modini (King’s College London) examined his oration To the Rhodians. In it, the author/speaker compares himself in his mission of persuading the Rhodians to restore civil concord to the archaic lyric poet Terpander, who famously resolved a civil war in Sparta with his music. Francesca demonstrated, however, that the allusions go beyond the surface level of explicit references like this. She pointed out that it is a whole series of often subtle allusions to earlier authors (of both poetry and prose) and mythical or historical events that enrich the reader’s experience.

 

In the second session, two Nicks (Nick Wilshere and Nicolò d’Alconzo) shed light on different aspects of works by Lucian. Nick Wilshere (Nottingham)gave a close reading of Lucian’s short piece, Hercules, in which the Greek narrator, travelling in Celtic lands, encounters a painting of Herakles or ‘Ogmios’, which he has difficulty interpreting. A local Celtic ‘philosopher’ comes to his assistance, and the two men compete to display their cultural education (paideia) by quoting Homer. Nick analysed the delicate interplay between the two; how each character uses the particular lines he quotes, embedding them in a new context. Nicolò (Exeter) journeyed from Lucian to the Greek novels, pointing out that various features of Lucian’s dialogue, the Amores, have counterparts in the novels. For example, both the Amores and Xenophon of Ephesus include similar voyages from east to west. Other elements common to each include the appearance of temple attendants as characters, settings in ‘Platonic’ gardens (like in the Phaedrus), and the device of describing or interpreting art.

 

The two papers of the final session each dealt in different ways with the literary tradition, its reception, and those who utilised it for their own ends. Chris Mallan (Oxford) dealt with Pseudo-Appian’s Parthica, a text previously neglected by scholars, dismissed as a product of the Byzantine period. Yet references to a projected Parthica in Appian’s own work, and similarities between this text and Plutarch’s Antony suggest, Chris argued, that the author of the Parthica was more probably familiar with Appian’s work, and wrote in the second century A.D. This author may have appropriated Appian’s name for legitimacy, which raises questions regarding literary imitation and imposture at the time. Dan Jolowicz’s (Cambridge) paper challenged the widespread assumption that Greeks in the imperial period were not interested in reading – or enjoying – Latin literature. He drew attention to some Greek inscriptions that seem to refer to Greek poets composing in Latin, papyri with texts (like Virgil) designed for Greeks wishing to learn Latin, and references in the literature to Greeks reading Latin works.

 

Our own colleague Ian Rutherford gave the very entertaining keynote address, which examined interaction between Greece and Egypt. In particular, he focussed on a passage from Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius of Tyana, in which Apollonius and some followers visit the cataracts at the source of the Nile. Noting that it is impossible not only to take but even to imagine the road to the source itself, Philostratus evokes a poem by Pindar on the subject of the divinity who guards the Nile. Ian’s talk prompted much discussion on Philostratus’ account of the visit to Egypt, the reference to Pindar, and Greek perceptions of Egypt and Ethiopia.

Following the keynote address, a group discussion brought together some of the themes that emerged throughout the day. Topics that arose included the status of earlier literature in the imperial period and the effect of imperial allusions to it (i.e. Which earlier Greek texts were widely read? How familiar would an audience be with works referenced implicitly or explicitly in imperial texts?), the long-standing relationship between philosophy and rhetoric, and levels of difficulty and/or nuance in texts (which could potentially separate educated from uneducated or Greek from non-Greek). Questions relating to performance and identity, and the expression of shared identity were also explored.

Personally, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the workshop was being able to engage with so many different texts, many of which I had encountered only cursorily or not at all. The range of authors, works, and genres represented at the workshop demonstrates just how rich the field of imperial Greek literature is. It is clear that there is still much to consider in this very fruitful area. I hope that future events like this will continue to provide opportunities to disseminate such invaluable research.

The organisers gratefully acknowledge the generosity and support of the Graduate School and the Classics department at the University of Reading, the Jowett Copyright Trust, and the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, without which this workshop would not have been possible.

In order to reach other researchers working in imperial Greek literature, share ideas, and advertise upcoming events, participants decided that a network should be created. This network, SIGIL (Studies in Greek Imperial Literature) is aimed at postgraduates and early-career researchers, but anyone interested in the field is most welcome to join.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sigilreading

Twitter: SigilReading

 

Photos courtesy of Joe Watson.

Reading Classicist publishes a book in Dutch

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Professor Eleanor Dickey’s book ‘Stories of Daily Life in the Roman World’ has been published — in Dutch! This book focusses on a subset of the ancient Latin-learning materials she published in ‘Learning Latin the Ancient Way’, the ancient dialogues about daily life in Rome, and provides translations and introductions for people who are interested not in learning Latin, but in Roman culture. It is illustrated with dozens of drawings of objects referred to in the texts; these were enormously fun to produce and gave real focus to all her trips to museums and ancient sites over a period of several years.

Although very fond of the Dutch language, she actually wrote the book in English, and it will be published in English by Cambridge University Press, eventually. (Probably 2018 or so, given the speed at which Cambridge works: the final version of the book was handed in in April 2016 and has been in a queue ever since.) But meanwhile an enterprising Dutch Classicist, Vincent Hunink, got in touch and asked about opportunities to do a book on the dialogues for a Dutch audience. So she sent him a draft of the book, and he translated the dialogues themselves from the original Latin and Greek, while Arian Verheij, a Dutch translator, translated the portions originally composed in English. Eleanor believes that the result looks absolutely splendid in electronic form, though she has not yet seen an actual copy of the book.

For more information see http://www.singeluitgeverijen.nl/athenaeum/boek/in-een-romeins-klaslokaal/

Clytemnestra in your living room? Greek Tragedy on the Small Screen

It’s not often that the ancient Greek adulteress and murderer graces the cover of the Radio Times – still less often does she wear a costume that combines Minoan art with Doctor Who.   But Diana Rigg’s 1979 performance as Clytemnestra was just one of dozens of extraordinary TV events enjoyed by audiences in Britain between 1958 and 1990.  During these years, British TV channels regularly screened productions of Greek tragedy, beaming the ancient stories of war, revenge, and heroism directly into the home.  In spring term 2017 we have the unique opportunity to watch three films of Greek tragedy that were first shown on the small screen.

 

Our films are carefully chosen to pursue the theme of the Trojan War and its aftermath, which is also the theme this year of our Part 2 core module in ‘Ancient Drama’.  We follow the story from the sacrifice of A1gamemnon’s daughter Iphigenia, which permits him to lead the Greeks to victory in the war, through the return of Agamemnon to face his vengeful wife, and finally into the next, doomed generation, where another daughter, Electra, waits to take her revenge in turn.  We have managed to obtain the coveted ‘F’ rating for all these films, since they all have central female roles, and one was also directed by a woman.

 

Our first screening is Iphigenia at Aulis, the 1990 production directed by Don Taylor.  This was Taylor’s last drama for the BBC and also, apparently, the last Greek tragedy shown on British television. Taylor’s translations of the Iphigenia at Aulis and other plays by Euripides continue to be popular.  The film was shot by multiple cameras in continuous action, in a studio rather than on location, so there were challenges for the actors and for the technical crew.  The performance by Fiona Shaw as Clytemnestra, the mother who must see her daughter die, was much acclaimed; one critic said that ‘You do not often get a performance of this size on TV’.

 

Our second play is Agamemnon, the first play of the 1979 trilogy The Serpent Son, a translation of Aeschylus’s Oresteia.  Diana Rigg stars as Clytemnestra, but in this play the queen does not suffer loss – instead she turns the tables on her husband.  Agamemnon returns to Greece as the victorious general, having destroyed the city of Troy, but he must now pay the price for the sacrifice of his daughter.  Clytemnestra has waited at home a long time.  The stellar cast of the trilogy included Helen Mirren, Anton Lesser, Claire Bloom, and Billie Whitelaw, and the production also sparked interest because of its striking design and costumes, which channelled ancient myths through a sci-fi sensibility – the designer, Barbara Kidd, had worked on Doctor Who.  The production used the resources of TV in other innovative ways, too, as we shall see.

 

Our final film, Electra, was first shown on ITV in 1962, in Modern Greek without subtitles.  The film is of the production by Dimitris Rondiris and Peiraïkon Theatron, which had toured much of the world since its premiere in 1959.  The stage production was adapted for television by Joan Kemp-Welch, one of the first women directors to work in television in the 1950s.  She thought that the film would be a hit on TV, despite the language barrier, because it was a production that seized the emotions, rather than appealing only to the intellect.  Rondiris himself said that ‘The audience will cry, as our audiences all over Europe have cried. They have not understood a word, but they have cried’.

Come and join us for this unique series.  All the films are shown in the Minghella Cinema at 7 pm.  You can buy tickets for all three at a special reduced price.

 

Wednesday January 25th: Iphigenia at Aulis

Wednesday February 1st: Agamemnon

Wednesday February 8th: Electra

 

Tickets start at £5.  Reduced rates for concessions, RFT members, and for the series as a whole.  Please see http://readingfilmtheatre.co.uk  or contact b.e.goff@reading.ac.uk

 

Thanks to our colleagues at Reading Film Theatre, the Department of Film, Theatre and Television, and the University Arts Committee 2 3

Revolutions and Classics

Revolutions and Classics, hosted by The Classical Reception Studies Network and the Legacy of Greek Political Thought Network with the support of the UCL Department of Greek and Latin and the Department of Classics at the University of Reading, was held at UCL on the 22nd of July 2016. Inspired by recent trends in classical reception research, particularly on the political significances of antiquity for subsequent cultures and societies, this one day workshop explored the manner in which classical texts and artefacts are deployed in modern societies undergoing radical change. The event brought together seven speakers from a range of academic disciplines, including Classics, French, and History, which resulted in resulted in a fruitful variety of theoretical and interdisciplinary perspectives. Participants included a healthy mix of established international scholars in Classical reception and postgraduate students from the US and UK. Papers analysed various revolutions from 17th century to the present day in various geographical contexts, including England, France, Mexico, and Greece. A portion of the day was also devoted to discussion of teaching across classical reception, classics, and politics. Two sessions, one featuring early-career researchers, and the second more seasoned scholars, featured five further papers addressing a range of important teaching issues, from incorporating classical reception within a wider context of liberal arts pedagogy to covering sensitive subjects in today’s classroom.

 

This one day-event thus combined important discussions of pedagogical matters with a timely research interest in the intersection between Classics and politics. One participant wrote the following of the experience: ‘I was there to hear most of the papers, and was impressed by their quality, variety, and overall coherence.  I learned a good deal, in the course of the day, about classical aspects of the English, American, French and Mexican Revolutions, as well as about a 20th-century revolutionary movement. The talks on teaching provided a good moving picture of experiments with the curriculum.’ Another participant commended the ‘intellectual and friendly atmosphere’ that the workshop had created. Some participants live tweeted the event, which can be seen at https://twitter.com/hashtag/classicsrevns?src=hash.

The legacy of ancient Greek politics, from Antigone to Xenophon (OUP Blog)

“This piece first appeared on the OUPblog April 14th 2016”.

What do the pamphlets of the English Civil War, imperial theorists of the eighteenth century, Nazi schoolteachers, and a left-wing American artist have in common? Correct! They all see themselves as in dialogue with classical antiquity, drawing on the political thought of ancient Greek writers. Nor are they alone in this; the idea that Western thought is a series of “footnotes to Plato,” as Alfred Whitehead suggested in 1929, is a memorable formulation of the extensive role of ancient Greece within modernity. Further reflection, however, will show that the West does not have an unbroken connection with ancient Greece, as knowledge of both language and culture declined in the medieval period – even the great Renaissance scholars sometimes struggled to master their ancient Greek grammar and syntax. Once the West does recover a relationship to ancient Greece, is its own role confined to writing “footnotes” under the transcendent authority of Plato? Perhaps we can reconstruct more varied forms of intellectual engagement.

One thing to remember is that the political thought of ancient Greek was not itself monolithic. The democratic experiment of classical Athens, the idealistic militarism of Sparta, the innovative imperialism of Alexander – such plurality of political forms gave rise to a wealth of commentary that ranged across the ideological spectrum. Moreover, texts that are not only political but have other identities too, like Athenian history or tragedy, also involve sustained reflection on the organisation of society and the workings of power. So the political writings of ancient Greece are not confined to Plato, or to Plato and Aristotle, and they offer a range of political positions.

Conversely, Western thought does not simply accept the authority of Greek texts, despite the huge cultural clout that the classical world undoubtedly wielded during much of European history. Instead, we can see later writers using the classical past as a partner in dialogue, to be variously embraced, rejected, modified, and sometimes transformed out of all recognition. For instance, recent research has shown how Xenophon has been understood as forerunner of Romantic exploration, American militarism, and Nazi ideology. From the opposite perspective, an appeal to the classical past has often shaped and altered the discourses of modernity, calling its basic assumptions into question. The study of this complex kind of engagement is currently undertaken by scholars in classical reception and The Legacy of Greek Political Thought Network enables classicists, historians, and political theorists to learn from each other how the classical past has been debated, interrogated, and contested in post-classical political writings.

The Network is interested particularly in studying the political work of ancient Greek writers other than Plato and Aristotle, and we also want to move away from debates about democracy to investigate how ancient writers have been deployed to pursue many other arguments. Topics studied recently range from the seventeenth century to the twentieth, taking in republicanism, colonialism, pedagogy, Aesop and Antigone. Pamphlets from the English Civil War include reflections on Sparta as ideal democracy, which challenge our current understanding of Spartan politics and imperial theorists of both Britain and France focus on Athens as paradigm of imperial power and decline, with considerably less interest in the city’s democratic identity. German pedagogues in the 1930s drew on Xenophon for characterisations of political leadership that they applied to the autocratic politics and culture developing in their own society, while Aesop provided a way of figuring radical politics for Hugo Gellert, an artist in 1930s New York. New readings of Antigone, via political philosophy as well as drama, enable further consideration of the relations between classical reception and political thought. The current political context presents challenges both relatively familiar and wholly surprising, but we can expect a dialogue with antiquity to continue.

 

 

Revolutions and Classics workshop

‘Revolutions and Classics’, a one-day workshop at University College London, Friday July 22nd 2016.

Researchers in classical reception are increasingly intrigued by the political significances of antiquity for subsequent cultures and societies the field has been energised by the recent publication of Classics and Communism (2013) and Greek and Roman Classics in the British Struggle for Social Reform (2015).

’Revolutions and Classics’ examines the manner in which classical texts and artefacts have been deployed in societies undergoing rapid and radical social change. This one-day workshop aims to foster interdisciplinary discussion of intersections between classics and revolutions; substantial time will also be given to discussion of teaching across classical reception, classics, and politics.

The workshop is hosted by The Classical Reception Studies Network and the Legacy of Greek Political Thought Network, with the support of the Department of Greek and Latin at UCL, and the Department of Classics at the University of Reading. In line with the aims of the Classical Receptions Studies Network, the day is designed to be especially useful for doctoral researchers and early career academics.

Confirmed speakers include Rosa Andújar (UCL), Carol Atack (Warwick), Emma Cole (Bristol), Nicholas Cole (Oxford), Susan Deacy (Roehampton), Benjamin Gray (Edinburgh), Adam Lecznar (Bristol), Jo Paul (Open University), Sanja Petrovic and Rosa Mucignat (Kings College London), and Luke Richardson (University College London).

There is no charge to attend, but registration is required; Interested participants should register via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/revolutions-and-classics-tickets-22796492924

Should you have any questions, please contact the organisers: Barbara Goff, University of Reading (b.e.goff@reading.ac.uk) and Rosa Andújar, UCL (r.andujar@ucl.ac.uk)

The organisers are very grateful to the A. G. Leventis Fund at UCL for their generous support, as well as the UCL Institute for Advanced Studies and CUCD.

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Reading Ancient Schoolroom returns on 27th and 28th January

Our wildly popular ‘Experiencing Ancient Education’ event, run last year as part of the Being Human festival, returns this year as a stand-alone event on 27th and 28th January. Staff and students are busy trimming pens and studying poetry in preparation for welcoming several hundred local and not-so-local participants to this historically accurate re-enactment of an ancient classroom. Participants will immerse themselves in antiquity, not only dressing as Romans and using papyri, wax tablets, and ostraca to write on, but also acting like Roman children and doing the type of exercises that they would have done. There are still a few places; if you would like to come, contact E.Dickey@reading.ac.uk.

For more information, see www.readingancientschoolroom.com.

 

Schoolroom in action 3

Visiting Roma Christiana

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There is no contest: Rome is now by far my favourite city. With its ancient monuments and plethora of excavated ruins, juxtaposed with new buildings, expensive cars and tourists on Segways, Rome is an unique place where one may simultaneously experience both the ‘modern’ and the ‘ancient’; and I am certain that this will draw me back soon (if the gelato, which is, admittedly, reason enough to go back, does not do so first).

In June 2015, thanks to a generous grant from the Classics Dept. Wardman Memorial Fund, I was able to undertake a trip to Rome as a part of my research into the effects of Christianity upon the city during the fourth century. The topic of my MA dissertation is specifically centred upon the extent to which its contemporary residents would have deemed their city to be ‘visually Christian’.

As one can imagine, since I was in the city primarily to study the early Christians, the majority of my time in Rome was spent ‘hot-footing’ around the city to various churches! Although no fourth-century churches now exist as they once did (sadly!), excavations beneath a number of currently-standing churches have uncovered their remains – it was these excavations that I was most interested in. Whilst a somewhat uncomfortable experience – going underground as a city endures 30ºC+ heat alongside sky-high humidity is not something that I would now recommend(!) – my forays were ultimately both enjoyable and fascinating as they allowed me to familiarise myself with and (in some cases) photograph the architecture and art of early Christian places of worship.

Central fresco from the Confessio in the Case Romane beneath SS. Giovanni e Paolo.

Central fresco from the Confessio in the Case Romane beneath SS. Giovanni e Paolo.

Thankfully, not all of my time was spent underground! Rather than spending my entire trip shunning the sunlight, I manage to visit several above-ground sites of significance. One of the most impressive was S. Costanza, which was originally built as a mausoleum. I also managed to visit the Forum Romanum (stopping at a few of Rome’s glorious cafes and restaurants on the way…) and take a look around: doing so certainly gave me a good idea of the appearance of the late-antique city centre.

Going to the Forum also meant that I could visit the fourth-century Basilica Nova, so that I was later able to compare its architectural features with those of the other fourth-century Christian basilicas I had visited. Further, I was also able to photograph the Arch of Constantine and familiarise myself with early fourth-century, non-Christian artwork.

My trip to Rome was ultimately incredibly helpful as it allowed me to learn a great deal about the appearance of the fourth-century city; this experience will doubtless be invaluably helpful with my MA dissertation. I would thus like to extend my gratitude to both Prof. Marzano and the entirety of the Classics faculty at the University of Reading for granting me the opportunity to travel to and conduct my research in Rome.

Christopher Pritchard
– MA (Res.), Classics

Welcome to our new Fulbright scholar

Reading Classics extends an enthusiastic welcome to Bill Beck, who will be joining us for the 2015-16 academic year. Currently finishing a PhD at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Bill has won a prestigious Fulbright award from the US government in order to come to Reading. During the year he will be working on a translation of the scholia (ancient commentaries) to the first four books of Homer’s ‘Iliad’. Professor Eleanor Dickey, who will be working with Beck, comments, ‘I am very excited about this project. The ‘Iliad’ scholia are a vital resource for our understanding of the text and ancient interpretation of Homer, as well as numerous other topics, and yet they have never been translated into any modern language. Since they are often challenging to read — a normal training in reading ancient Greek does not enable someone to understand them — the lack of a translation means that only an elite group of exceptionally well-trained scholars has access to this valuable material. Bill’s project will make these scholia available to a wide audience and therefore do a tremendous service to the field as a whole. And he is the ideal person to undertake it: a project of this nature requires someone with a special combination of skills as well as energy and enthusiasm, so very few scholars are in a position even to contemplate it. Bill could have asked to conduct this project anywhere, so I am particularly pleased that he wants to work with us!’

Professor Annalisa Marzano, head of Classics at Reading, comments: ‘I congratulate Bill on his achievement, which is even more impressive considering that he won the award in the ‘All Disciplines’ category where he was competing not only with other Classicists but with applicants from a wide range of fields. His future stay in our Department while he will be conducting his research is yet another sign of Reading Classics’ thriving research community and numerous international links.’

Bill Beck comments: ‘I am thrilled to have the opportunity to pursue this project, and I am delighted to be able to come to Reading and to work with Professor Dickey, who has been unbelievably supportive of my project from its inception. I’m very much looking forward to getting to know the rest of the Department, as well; with a text as varied as the ‘Iliad’ scholia are, I will no doubt have much to learn from everyone there. Hopefully, this work will help bring the margins a little closer to the center.’

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Dr Nicholls awarded a BA Rising Star Engagement Award.

Post from Dr Nicholls

I am delighted to have been awarded a British Academy ‘Rising Star’ Engagement Award (BARSEA). The BARSEA scheme is intended to allow humanities researchers at a relatively early stage of their careers to engage with the work of the Academy, and to organise events, training, and mentoring activities for colleagues in their own and other disciplines.

My application to the scheme was based on my work in digital visualisation. I have completed a large digital model of ancient Rome for use in research and teaching. I have developed that interest into an undergraduate module in which I teach undergraduates how to research and create their own digital reconstructions of our local town of Silchester. Last year this work won an award from the Guardian.

For the BARSEA scheme, I wanted to make contact with others engaged in similar work. Even within my own field of ancient history I know of several other visualisation schemes, and the recent REF – especially the impact case studies – show that this is true of other disciplines. There’s a lot to discuss for those of us working in this relatively new field – tools and techniques, aims, integration with existing research, new avenues of exploration. It would also be helpful to talk to those working in commercial digital studios, as there could be much to learn from each others’ approaches and techniques.

I know that I would find this sort of discussion helpful and interesting, and hope others would too. I proposed to the British Academy that I should use the funding offered by this scheme to find and talk to other projects, and bring them together for a colloquium, in Reading (next Easter) to discuss their work and how it helps their research.

The award scheme also supports training and mentoring events. As I have experience in teaching the software (SketchUp) that I use for a lot of my modelling, I thought it might be useful to offer a day workshop to researchers interested in exploring such techniques for themselves. This will happen in Reading next academic year, and anyone interested in participating is invited to contact me.

As well as running my own project, I look forward to working with my very distinguished fellow award-winners. They have a range of fascinating projects – law, oral traditions in African countries, energy ethics, and medieval multilingualism to name just a few – and we will be learning more about each other’s work at the Academy’s induction event in May.

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