Tag Archives: classics


Anyone done any work on Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown project?

It seems that there was some commentary in Syllecta Classica (which is on my To Be Read pile) but I know very little about Reception in music so I’m looking for some broad thoughts…

It is a ‘modern folk opera’ based on the Orpheus myth and I heard about it on the Radio; partly because, although it was started a while ago, she is planning a stage show which might eventually come to the UK.

I am hoping to actually sit down and listen soon but I would welcome thoughts from any classicists who’ve heard it or can offer some background on the various Orpheus poems/operas etc already out there.

Thinking about collaboration – Classics & Law

I have been thinking a lot recently about how to justify spending money on conferences… (there have been some family related things recently which mean we are being cautious about cash!)

And it occurred to me that what would make it better is if my partner and I could go together.
She is a law lecturer and – though her specialisms are a long way from mine- some of the most glorious moments of our courtship involved arguments about the meaning and relevance of Sophocles’ Antigone to social reform and protest movements and the place of Roman inheritance law in modern society.

Over the last few years we have seem the decline in interest in the classics within law degrees as increasingly not only have they dropped Latin terms but also they focus on practical skills over ‘history of the legal system’, ‘comparative law’ and ‘law and culture’. There can be little doubt that there is lots for students to get to grips with and ancient legal systems are hardly a priority but it is also difficult to believe that acknowledging the processes of development doesn’t help prepare future lawyers for work in a multi-cultural jurisdiction and that by applying skills learnt in Reception they are better equipped to deal with juror bias…
It would be nice to just present a paper on the importance of classics to the study of law, it would even be nice to consider the role of law the development of heritage management and translations but what about how the study of law itself offers something to classicists?

 Is there something in the way that we analyse the impact of media etc on contemporary law-makers that is of relevance to considering how it might have affected ancient ones? Similarly, we are increasingly looking at the role of economic pressures on writing and interpreting laws – how has that crossed over into classics? Have we compared how The Eumenides & Antigone are taught by classicsts and how they are taught by lawyers?
I don’t know enough about research into ancient law to know how much impact legal anthropology and sociology have had on it but now I’m curious…


Just a few more little bits and pieces to finish up..
If you have followed this far you cannot be truly surprised that my memory and notes for this stage in the proceedings are truly failing. Sorry to the speakers..
My final event of the conference was the screen & media panel – a slightly odd pairing that covered representations of Promethean figures and re-workings of the Roman Empire both over multiple genres.

The first paper was delivered via Skype, a brave move that was only slightly hampered by technical issues. In it Jarrid Looney, who is currently finishing up his doctoral thesis, offered a broad ranging summary of the uses of the Prometheus myth – you can find the paper itself (or at least a version of it) on Academia.edu (here). I found Jarrid and his topic engaging – although perhaps the paper itself felt a bit too broad-reaching for a conference it offered me the opportunity to rethink the links between modern examples of uses of the name. He argued persuasively that Prometheus made a useful metaphor for some kind of catalyst for change in both positive & negative ways depending on whether he was a gift-giver or defying the Gods, or something else. In particular I was drawn to the way that Looney was able to connect multiple examples to the original myth via Shelley’s Frankenstein and its anxieties about technology and hubris.  I would have liked a little more of a chance to hear him talk about the possible reasons both for this theme and also for why some traditions more deliberately link themselves back to individual parts of the classical myths than others… always a tricky topic.

The second paper from Dan Goad was about how Ancient Rome influenced particular depictions of Empire in fantastica. He started by talking about the Romulans in Star Trek and contrasted them with the Trevinter Imperium from the Dragon Age computer games. It would be fair to say that Romulans-Rome as a comparison is neither new nor subtle and that it has been made extensively and openly. Goad focused on the way that the Roman aspects of the Romulans were largely connected to their militarism and interest in political intrigue – and how that in turn was a large part of Romulan self-identity. I was much more interested in how that contrasted with the Trevinter Imperium specifically because the Imperium is a kind of collapsed or collapsing Rome with Trouble on its borders. He suggests that Rome makes a useful model within Dragon Age because of the way that it can be shown to continue to have influence even after it no longer has physical power – this of course is a powerful idea for Reception scholars and delightful to see it being used in models of Rome.
Unsurprisingly Goad concluded by emphasising the multiplicity of images of Rome and the way that its scale makes it a fertile ground for modelling all kinds of things.. including Empire.

It seemed a fair note to end the proceedings on and left plenty of thoughts for the future.


Ok, like readers trying to follow my commentary, I was by Monday morning somewhat tired and jaded which meant checking out of the hotel and lugging my bags up the hill took me a little longer than planned and I was several minutes late for the first paper of the morning.
On this basis I apologise that I think I missed some of the nuances that the speaker was trying to suggest.

When I arrived Leimar Garcia-Siino was giving a very slickly competent talk on “The Resurgence of Mythology in Young Adult Fantasy” which I struggled rather spectacularly to follow. I recall only 2 key points: firstly that the Percy Jackson novels are representative of a broader trend towards re-appropriating mythology as an emotional and academically didactic tool in story-telling for young adults and secondly that, furthermore, our ongoing mythological consciousness creates a playful metanarrative which both reinforces and ultimately reinvents the mythological framework. I also remember thinking that if I was more awake it would have made an interesting (and far more theoretical) counterpoint to Schrackmann’s reading of Riordan partially because she looked at similar aspects of the conflict between ancient conceptions of heroism and modern values.
Overall, the paper was among the more theory heavy that I listened to and although the speaker had some interesting points to make about how we can utilise imagery whilst re-writing context I think I’d need to re-read it with some coffee to hand…

Next I dashed out to Tom Garvey’s paper on Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age. This paper reminded me a little of Brand’s paper on Watchmen in that it initially seemed strongly demonstrative in style (i.e. we were treated to a thorough explanation of why certain things should be considered classical references or allusions). However, this paper explored very different ground to most of the others that I heard at the conference because the speaker actively aimed to discuss the use of the text in a pedagogic setting. Specifically Garvey considered ways that Stephenson contrasts methods of teaching and learning within the book (and explicitly uses classical material both as exemplar and as methodology) and asked students to apply that to their own experiences and also suggested ways of reading Stephenson’s commenatry/critique of classicising education in contrast to his Eastern-philosophical leanings.
In Garvey’s exposition, Stephenson’s book  is a useful example of how embedded classical culture can be identified and played with for an audience prepared to deal with self-analysis – what Reception scholar can’t get behind that?

After the Break: Warhammer 40K…

Accidental Real Life

So I have turned 30 and been on holiday since the secondary schools started their new term but I haven’t “achieved” very much.

Non-academic work and the effort required to manage that, my shoulder problems, mental health and sleeping patterns, as well as attempts to look into new jobs have left me exhausted and deflated.
On the other hand a kind prod to write a paper for the Institute of Classical Studies Early Career Researchers Seminar series has re-kindled my research work and a new physio programme is helping towards a pain management regime.

Next steps include: finding someone to advise me on my Phoenicians article; writing the ICS paper; re-writing my CA paper as an article (and getting some advice on that); working on the possible business plan; changing pill intake; oh and, finishing my write up of SFF….

Wish me Luck

SFF & Classics (2)

Morning Day 2:
So, slightly more settled and with much less to do I began Day 2 [Storified Here] with the Greek Authors panel.

The first paper of the day, Stephen Trazkoma‘s discussion of Chariton’s Callirhoe as alt. history. As a young classicist this was the paper that I found easiest to follow even though it has been several years since I studied Greek novel. Trazkoma’s thesis was that Chariton’s dating in the novel has been misunderstood as lazy, careless or ill-educated whereas in fact (in his opinion) since the accurate dates in the novel appear to relate to events before 1 set point and all the variations or inaccuracies occur after the variation at that set point (namely 413 & the Battle of the Great Harbour) Chariton was in fact experimenting with writing alternative history. He suggested that this style allowed Chariton to re-imagine history with his hero in the key events and create a new local power structure.
This was both a fascinating use of modern categorisations to re-analyse ancient material and a comprehensive argument about the imaginative scope of an individual writer. From my point of view it was extremely convincing but I would happily defer to people who know the text better to spot flaws in his list of dates and events – definitely looking forward to the book..

The second paper was by Brett Rogers on Orestes & Aeschylus in Half Blood Prince and the rest of the Harry Potter series. With the exception of Nick Lowe’s plenary, this was undoubtedly the most theoretically focused talk that I listened to over the conference. As well as demonstrating his theories about the structural and thematic parallels with the Oresteia (such as the Orestes/Pylades/Electra – Harry/Ron/Hermione link & issues around nature of tyrants or kin-slaughter) Rogers was keen to discuss models of reception in terms of equivalence, allusion & ‘ghosting’ [See also Keen’s breakdown of categories & later comments about N. Lowe].
Rowling is clearly an interesting author to do this kind of study with since her classical education is well known and the choice of a passage from Libation-Bearers in Deathly Hallows even more strongly encourages us to go back to that text as a reading aid. However, the question always remains: what is the purpose of discovering possible allusions and echoes – what does it add to our understanding of the texts?

Finally we heard from Robert Cape on Sophocles in Silverberg’s Man in the Maze. As someone who hasn’t read any Silverberg since she was in her early teens, devouring dozens of novels a week but paying attention to very few and who remembers even less of them I was struck by the explicitness of his reworking of the Philoctetes story. Cape commented on the fact that it is possible to trace some of his understanding of Sophocles’ themes to contemporary scholarship and especially looked at some of the ways these were re-written to reflect social concerns such as whether emotional disability is a social problem and what happens if the thing which causes isolation from society is also what society needs.
Overall, the paper suggested to me more ways or re-reading Sophocles – and reminded me just how gloomy some social commentary can be especially when it now feels outdated in its gender and racial politics…

Next up: Whedonverse. Whereupon I am back to more familiar ground.