Fear in Ancient Culture: A Call For Papers and a Virtual Tour as Classics UoR Hosts the 15th Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Ancient Literature (AMPAL).

Author: Dania Kamini. Edits: Bunny Waring.
Date: 19th March 2021.

Fear in Ancient Culture

The Department of Classics at the University of Reading is delighted to host the 15th Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Ancient Literature (AMPAL) on Thursday 17th – Saturday 19th June 2021. The theme for this year is Fear in Ancient Culture.

Given the current travel restrictions and social distancing rules due to COVID-19, this year’s meeting will be held online on Microsoft Teams. In these strange times, the Organising Team of AMPAL 2021 is determined to preserve the engaging and interactive character of the event. To that purpose, we aim to transform this online environment into a welcoming setup in which postgraduate students in Ancient Literature from across the world can gather again (albeit virtually) and celebrate another year of research on Classics. This event is described as AMPAL 2021 in shorthand, but it also stands as AMPAL 2020-2021 since it aims to bring together already confirmed speakers due to present in AMPAL 2020 and new speakers joining the conference in 2021.

Keynote Speech (18th June 2021, 5pm): Fear of Revenge in Euripidean Tragedy by Professor Fiona McHardy.

It is with great pleasure that we announce this year’s AMPAL Keynote Speech will be delivered by Professor Fiona McHardy (University of Roehampton). Professor McHardy will speak about the fear of revenge in Euripidean tragedy. Through the exploration of contemporary ideas about young children and babies as avengers, underpinned by comparative anthropology and psychology, this lecture unravels the dynamics of fear associated with children within both the plays of Euripides and their literary and social contexts.

Virtual tour of the Ure Museum

This year’s AMPAL also includes a virtual tour of the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, our departmental museum founded by Percy and Annie Ure. In addition to the museum’s permanent displays, we are proud to host an online presentation of an inaugural student exhibit, Fear Beyond Words designed specifically for AMPAL 2020-2021. To register for this, please visit: https://collections.reading.ac.uk/ure-museum/explore/online-exhibitions/fear

Call for Papers

Fear is a driving force behind human action, capable of pushing people to either exceed their own expectations or to prevent them from acting at all. As a powerful motivator, the emotion of fear had a pervasive presence in ancient life and thought. This is reflected in multiple ways throughout literature, juxtaposed with motivation, social interaction and power dynamics. Furthermore, as early as Aristotle’s Poetics, fear had already been understood as a ruling force and powerful notion for the construction of literary genres, especially tragedy. While evaluating the ancient literature as an integral part of understanding such a concept, the diverse influences of different fields of study, such as literary criticism, political theory, psychoanalysis, and philosophy, can add valuable insights.

In this context, AMPAL 2020-2021 invites presentations on fear from literary or interdisciplinary approaches. Questions as to how fear can be defined, the whos, how and whys of causing fear, how fear is related to other aspects of ancient thought, how the sense of fear grows or fades, how this notion forms the interaction among humans or between mortals and gods, and the role of language in the creation of a fearful or fear-free context, are all considered to be substantial aspects of this year’s theme.

Suggested topics on fear may include, but are not limited to:
– Fear and literary criticism, meta-poetical or reception analysis
– Fear and other emotions; fear disguised as other emotions; fear and the sense of respect; fear and related notions and experiences; fear and the five senses or other body reactions
– Cognitive and behavioural approaches to fear, and emotions in general
– Fear and the manipulation of memory
– Fear and the construction of myth and heroic profiles or/and social or political identity
– Fear and power play; the control of political dynamics; the promotion of political agendas and ideas
– Psychoanalytical approaches to fear; gendered fear; fear as a significant aspect of rites; fear as anxiety
– Fear of the other (Orientalism, Amazons etc.); philosophical approaches to fear; fear and the fundamental existential questions
– Depictions and illustrations of fear in ancient art and material culture
– Aspects, perceptions and depictions of fear in late antique and early Christian literature and thought; reception of the ancient concept of fear in early modern literature

The Department of Classics at Reading invites postgraduates of every level to submit an abstract of 250-300 words for a 20-minute paper followed by 10-minute discussion by the 25th of April 2021. Abstracts should be sent as an anonymous PDF to readingampal2020@reading.ac.uk. Please include your name, university affiliation, programme, and year of study in the body of your email and not in the abstract. AMPAL 2020-2021 is open to all undergraduate and postgraduate students in any relevant discipline as well as to the general public. Details on the keynote speech will be announced in due time.

All Welcome!

Please note that although our website and email address will maintain 2020 in their titles, they will remain the main communication paths for AMPAL 2020-2021 as well.
Further information on AMPAL 2020-2021 and all relevant events can be found at its website: https://ampal2020.wordpress.com/. Please keep an eye on AMPAL 2020-2021 website for further announcements. Feel free to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and spread the word!

Reading Ancient Schoolroom 2017

Photo: Alex Wickenden

This year’s edition of the Reading Ancient Schoolroom ran for two weeks and welcomed several hundred schoolchildren to campus. Led by a team of specially-trained volunteers, some of them Reading students and others coming from as far away as Edinburgh to participate, the children experienced first hand what life was like in a Roman school. This year there was a focus on Roman mathematics (pictured above: maths teacher Dom O’Reilly with children from Dolphin School), but children also practiced reading from papyri, writing on ostraca and tablets, using quill pens, memorizing poetry, and studying Latin and Greek the way ancient children would have studied them. They also had the opportunity to sample Roman food made by our magnificent Roman cook, Reading undergraduate Charlotte Edwards, and special object handling sessions in the Ure Museum. For more information (and lots more pictures) see https://readingancientschoolroom.com/2017-schoolroom/. Schoolroom director Professor Eleanor Dickey was interviewed about the event on UKEd chat; you can listen to the interview at https://ukedchat.com/2017/07/17/ukedpodcast-episode-12/.

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.

Dr Matthew Nicholls on BBC 4

Catharine Edwards and Matthew Nicholls. - Photo Brian J. Ritchie / Hotsauce.

Catharine Edwards and Matthew Nicholls. – Photo Brian J. Ritchie / Hotsauce.

Dr Matthew Nicholls has been involved in three TV projects this year, helping to bring Roman history to a wide audience. The most recent, a three-part series on Roman imperial women, will air from May 29th on BBC 4, presented by Catharine Edwards.

The series looks at the colourful careers of the women behind the throne in ancient Rome, and its subtitle, ‘Mothers, Murderers and Mistresses’, hints at some of the stories it will tell. Dr Nicholls was asked to contribute to the first episode on the Julio-Claudian women, which was filmed in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. He was then asked back for episode 3 to talk about the turbulent lives and careers of the Severan women, all of whom were, confusingly, called Julia (Julia Maesa; Julia Avita Mamaea; Julia Domna, charismatic wife of the African emperor Septimius Severus; and Julia Soaemias Bassiana, mother of Elagabalus who, even by the high standards set by earlier emperors, was outstandingly depraved and incompetent).

Between them these women offer fascinating insights into the turbulent world of imperial dynastic politics, showing the very different ways in which imperial wives and mothers negotiated the impossible powerful-yet-powerless roles they inhabited, and how our (male) historical sources tended to portray them. Dr Nicholls also helped contribute to the maps for the documentary.

Earlier in the year Dr Nicholls also appeared in Simon Sebag-Montefiore’s documentary on the religious history of Rome, flying out for a day to film in an eerily emptied Capitoline Museum. He also used his digital reconstruction skills to create a series of reconstructions of Roman sites in Scotland for another BBC documentary, Rome’s Final Frontier. Along with colleagues in the Department of Classics he enjoys these opportunities to communicate his research work to public audiences, and is always glad to respond to enquiries.