On Friday morning we are going to ask ‘What is Classical Reception?’ (as opposed to just reception in general)

We are thrilled to have with us the programmers and course-runner for the first two taught MAs in Classical Reception, within the Department of Greek and Latin at UCL (Miriam Leonard) and within the Department of Classics at Oxford (Fiona Macintosh). After hearing their definitions, and a brief presentation of the carefully-chosen scope and emphases of these year-long programs (as well as about other initiatives eg at the OU, Bristol, or the new Classical Receptions journal) discussion will be opened up.

Can we assume some basic theoretical observations and positions as by now, ‘givens’ – or indeed, as the founding assumptions of the field? (As one might, for example, for Gender Studies, Film Studies, or Comparative Literature). If so, what would these be? As Classical Reception grads, are there basic issues on which we would all expect to agree, or basic knowledge we all might expect each other to have? (For example, that the very word ‘Classical’ is highly loaded, and why…we will all have our own list of these…) Are there some founding texts which all those working in Classical Reception might be expected to have read?

Are there some essential areas of inquiry which most Classical reception students would know about – eg:

the invention of the canon
Roman identity in relation to Greece
the advent of ‘public-ation’ (‘literature’ a relatively recent concept)
the impact of Christianity
the association of classics with class
the co-option of antiquity in the nationalisms of Germany, Britain, France, the United States and later Italy and the Third Reich
the post-colonial reaction to the symbolic meanings of classical antiquity as the symbol of the (male) establishment, the past, the West…

What for you is the most important thing about Classical Reception as an emerging field? What are the imbalances it redresses, or the most apposite reminders it makes, or the most useful theoretical questions it raises?

Who out there has come across the problem of not yet clearly-defined parameters and secondary literature (ie authorising and contextualising scholarship) so that  work on Classical Reception topics can be fairly marked by those outside the field? Tell us your stories, anxieties, caveats….

One of the great things about Classical Reception is that it is receptive to new thinking from left field, inspired by the bringing together of things which have traditionally been kept apart – eg English and Classics, Greek and Roman, visual and textual, popular and scholarly, practice and theory, history and theory. But the danger is that it is seen as just ‘everything’ that falls somewhere between Classics and English, or worse, as ‘Classics Lite’ (ie without thorough knowledge, or the languages). Tell us your stories here, too…

Does anyone think Reception in general reconceives the study of all cultures and literatures as a fundamentally comparative practice? (A subject reading another subject who is reading another subject who is reading another …)? How is Classical Reception more than just another another way of saying ‘everything is intertextual’? Or ‘all art is about other art’?

Has Classical reception always been happening, but just called by a different name? (Eg Literary Theory, Comparative Literature, Historiography, Cultural Studies, Sociology, Anthropology, Translation Studies, History of Classics, the Classical Tradition…etc). What are the advantages of it being its own, new, ‘thing’?


We will be discussing these issues on Friday morning and hopefully this blog can serve as a place for these discussions to continue after the conference.