Classics was well represented yesterday at UoR’s annual Doctoral Research Conference, held on 19 June, in which Nathalie Choubineh (upper right) and Luca Ottonello (bottom left) competed. This annual event, open to all doctoral researchers and staff from across the University, showcases the diversity of doctoral research undertaken at the University of Reading. Nathalie, who has passed her viva, subject to minor corrections, in April of this year, presented her research poster on Kretike, an aspect of ancient Greek dance that featured in her PhD thesis, written under the supervision of Profs. Barbara Goff and Amy Smith. Luca, who is a part-time PhD candidate, competed in the research image competition, with his digital reconstruction of the Temple of Bel in the ancient city of Palmyra. Palmyra is a case study for his PhD thesis that he is writing under the supervision of Prof. Amy Smith and Dr. Ian Ewart (School of Construction Management and Engineering). As well as meeting new people who shared their interests, both of them found the conference a welcome opportunity to think about ways in which to communicate their research to broader audiences. The Classics Department is proud to now display Nathalie’s poster in its hallway in the Edith Morley building, while Luca’s photograph is displayed with some of his 3D prints of Palmyrene architecture in the Ure Museum.
We are delighted to publish the programme of the previously announced one-day workshop ‘Revolutions and Classics’, co-organised by our very own Prof. Barbara Goff and Dr Rosa Andújar (UCL):
Friday 22 July 2016
IAS Common Ground, University College London
1000-1010 coffee and welcome
Chair: Rosa Andújar, UCL
1010-1040 Rachel Foxley , University of Reading, Innovation and revolution in seventeenth-century England
1040-1110 Nicholas Cole, Pembroke College Oxford, The Classics and the American Revolution — two centuries of controversy
Chair: Phiroze Vasunia, UCL
1120-1150 Sanja Perovic and Rosa Mucignat, King’s College London, The Legend of Pythagoras: Narrating Revolutionary Failure in Sylvain Maréchal and Vincenzo Cuoco
1150-1220 Sebastian Robins, Independent, Ancient Greek Texts in the Age of Revolution: John Gillies Orations of Lysias and Isocrates 1778 and Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics 1797
1315-1400 early career teaching roundtable:
Chair: Katherine Harloe, University of Reading
Emma Cole, University of Bristol, Classical Reception Pedagogy in Liberal Arts Education
Luke Richardson, University College London, Teaching the Classical Reception “Revolution”.
Carol Atack, University of Warwick, Precarity and protest: performing politics in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata
1430-1500 teaching presentations:
Chair: Barbara Goff, University of Reading
Susan Deacy, University of Roehampton, Black Athena in the classical classroom
Joanna Paul, Open University, tbc
1500-1545 discussion, followed by tea
Chair: John Bloxham, Nottingham and OU
1545-1615 Rosa Andújar, University College London, Plato and Pater’s Greeks in the Mexican Revolution
1615-1645 Benjamin Gray, University of Edinburgh, Studying the modern German Left as Ancient History: from Jean Jaurès to Alexander Kluge
1645-1715 Michael Simpson, Goldsmiths, University of London, Of Minotaurs and Macroeconomics: Greek Myth and Common Currency
The Classics section of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies hosted the 30th Biennial Conference of the Classical Association of South Africa (CASA) at the University from the 8th to the 11th July, 2013. Eighty national and international classicists attended and many of these were postgraduate students presenting papers for the first time. This is a very healthy sign and bodes well for the future of the discipline. Keynote addresses by Professor Barbara Goff (University of Reading, UK), Judge Deon van Zyl (CASA Patron), Professor Johan Henning (UFS) and Professor Christa van Wyk (UNISA, UFS) were well received at this very successful conference.
Photo: (from left to right) Judge Deon van Zyl, Mr Mike Lambert (CASA Chairperson), Prof Christa van Wyk, Prof Christoff Zietsman (Conference organiser), Prof Barbara Goff and Prof Johan Henning.
Last week saw the publication of my new book Your Secret Language: classics in the British colonies of West Africa (Bloomsbury 2013). It contributes to the Departmental research cluster in ‘Reception and Classical Tradition’, and to the Faculty research theme of ‘Language, Text and Power’. Above and beyond these aspects, I have found it a fascinating story to research and write.
The classical languages, literature and history formed part of the cultural equipment which European colonisers called upon in order to justify their imperial ambitions, but within the complex and assertive societies of nineteenth-century West Africa, classical education quickly became a weapon to use against colonisers. The Church of England, which was very early on involved in educating colonised West Africans, put a premium on teaching the ancient languages, including Hebrew, in order to enable converts to read and preach the Bible themselves, and missionaries were delighted when Africans showed themselves highly adept at Latin and Greek. They and the colonial establishment generally were less pleased when Africans used their classical training to qualify as lawyers, churchmen, teachers and journalists and then to agitate against colonialism. Several African commentators noted the ancient relations between Africa and Greece, anticipating Martin Bernal’s analysis by many decades and complicating the notion of the classical tradition.
In the early twentieth century the colonial establishment often reacted by trying to withhold classical education from Africans and teach them agriculture instead. Africans usually saw this as an attempt to keep them subordinate, as ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’, and put up prolonged and articulate resistance. The struggles over classical education continued, and eventually led to a situation in which Classics was the first degree offered in the post-war University of Ibadan. Although the subject lost most of its prominent position after independence, when Africans seized the opportunity to study many other subjects that colonialism had not imported, there are still departments of Classics in Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone, as well as in several other African states. We are planning to welcome one of the lecturers from Nigeria as a visiting researcher, who will be in Reading in 2014.
Researching this book, I have felt privileged to learn more about the history of my discipline and to see what it has meant within the making both of the colonial and the postcolonial eras. The history has also deepened my understanding of the West African adaptations of Greek tragedy about which I wrote in the co-authored Crossroads in the Black Aegean: Oedipus, Antigone and dramas of the African diaspora (Oxford 2007). In addition, I have felt proud to be part of a Department where ‘classics’ signifies both the ancient world and its varied manifestations in the modern.
Thinking the Olympics: the classical tradition and the modern Games (London: Bloomsbury/Bristol Classical Press, 2011) is the first book to focus on the theme of tradition as an integral feature of the ancient and modern Olympic Games. Just as ancient athletes and spectators were conscious of Olympic traditions of poetic praise, sporting achievement, and catastrophic shortcoming, so the revived Games have been consistently cast as a legacy of ancient Greece.
The essays here examine how this supposed inheritance has been engineered, celebrated, exploited, or challenged. Deriving from a range of disciplines including cultural history, classics, comparative literature, and art history, the essays address aspects of the Games as varied as oratory, praise poetry, ideas of victory and defeat, the athletic body, neoclassical painting and architecture, and contemporary advertising. The Athens Games in 2004 were widely represented as a return to ancient, and modern, origins; the Beijing Games in 2008, meanwhile, saluted a radically different ancient civilisation. What is the Olympic future for ancient Greece?
Barbara Goff and Michael Simpson have collaborated on several ground-breaking works on classical reception, including most prominently Crossroads in the Black Aegean: Oedipus, Antigone and dramas of the African diaspora (Oxford: OUP, 2007) and most recently ‘Voice from the Black Box: Sylvain Bemba’s Black Wedding Candles for Blessed Antigone’, in Helene Foley and Erin Mee ed., Antigone on the Contemporary World Stage (Oxford: OUP, 2011). They are currently working on a study of classics in the British Labour movement.