CfP.pngDemocratising Classics

Celtic Conference in Classics, University of St Andrews, 11-14 July 2018

This panel aims to explore the “democratisation” of Classics in academia and the creative arts in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and to consider the impact of this process on Classics as a discipline, on classical receptions produced during this period, and on the interaction between art and academia.

Classical texts are now widely available in translation, allusions are rife in mass media, and comparisons between ancient and contemporary politics abound. But despite the presence of classical antiquity in popular discourse, Classics is not yet open to all. Barriers remain for students who want to study Classics at a high academic level—particularly if they have not had access to a traditional education in Latin and Ancient Greek. In the UK today, Latin and Greek teaching provision in schools varies greatly, and remains heavily concentrated in independent schools. Initiatives like the “Advocating Classics Education” and “Literacy Through Latin” projects, however, show there is significant interest in ensuring Classics is truly open to all students.

An overall interest in exploring Classics beyond the confines of elite institutions and social groups has been borne out in recent scholarship, such as Hardwick & Harrison (2013) on the “democratic turn” in Classics, and Stead & Hall (2015) on the role of class. Post-colonial receptions of classical material have played an important role in the destabilisation of the elite Western canon and its cultural hegemony, and increasingly innovative ways of discussing Classics with audiences far and wide (through platforms like the online journal Eidolon, blogs like Minus Plato, and hybrids of contemporary art and scholarship like Liquid Antiquity) have also begun to push all Classicists, not just Classical Reception scholars, to question the assumptions and biases that underpin their discipline.

Central to this debate—and to the process of “democratisation”—are creative practitioners, including translators, writers, visual artists, musicians, and filmmakers. Practitioners are often at the forefront of shaping the wider public’s engagement with Classics, and frequently spearhead new ways of approaching classical antiquity which later permeate academic debate. Practitioners also have varying levels of traditional classical expertise: they might inhabit both the “creative” and “academic” spheres, but their work may also challenge ideas of “authenticity” and “ownership”, as in the case of Vincenzo Monti’s Italian translation of Homer’s Iliad (1810) and Christopher Logue’s War Music (1959-2011), produced with little knowledge of the Greek language. In some cases, the classical source is ignored or elided altogether. Recent Georgian, US and Egyptian productions of Antigone have used Jean Anouilh’s Antigone rather than the Sophoclean original as the “primary source” for their own twenty-first century adaptations.

Is this democratisation in action? Has Classics moved beyond its role as the “intellectual furniture of the well-to-do-middle class” (Brecht 2003: 77)? If so, what have been the implications for the discipline? Who was and is tasked with the translation of ancient works, with teaching others about classical antiquity, and with shaping the future of the subject? What has been the impact of “democratisation” on creative responses to the classical world, and how do these responses feed into academic debate and practice?

We invite interdisciplinary approaches to and global perspectives on the practice, study and interpretation of Classical Receptions in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We welcome both individual and collaborative papers from literature, philosophy, history, art and archaeology, as well as other disciplines. Papers are invited on topics including (but not limited to):

  • Notions of democracy, authenticity, ownership and expertise in classical receptions and scholarship
  • Points of convergence and friction between the creative arts and academia
  • Twentieth and twenty-first classical receptions that confront ideas of “incomplete”, “inauthentic”, or “partial” knowledge of the Classics
  • Classics, class, and elitism
  • Challenges to the “classical canon”
  • The impact of post-colonial studies, and gender and sexuality studies in Classics
  • Classical reception in contemporary art, books, music and films
  • The history of classical scholarship
  • The role of Latin and Greek within the study and reception of Classics
  • Teaching and studying Classics today worldwide
 Organisers:
Jenny Messenger, University of St Andrews (jlm30@st-andrews.ac.uk)
Rossana Zetti, University of Edinburgh (rossana.zetti@ed.ac.uk)