Vomitorium Watch

Alas … after going over a year without catching an example of the egregious misuse of the word,  Will Self in an opeddish thing in BBC Magazine (of all places):

For what I think we require, as a society, is some sort of collective vomitorium. Not, you appreciate, that I expect you – like those mythical Roman patricians – to void the contents of your stomachs then limp groaning back to the dinner table.

… oh, and by the way, the Roman patricians weren’t mythical either.

CONF: The Classical Body

seen on the Classicists list:

The Department of Classical Studies at The Open University warmly invites you to a one-day seminar on the theme of The Classical Body, to be held on Saturday February 2nd 2013 at the OU Regional Centre in London (Camden Town) 10am-4.30pm.

The conference charge will be 7 pounds (for catering costs). To register your interest and receive a booking form, please email Jessica Hughes on jessica.hughes AT open.ac.uk by January 15th 2013. Speakers and topics are listed below.

We hope to see you there!



Phil Perkins (OU) – ‘Images of Birth in the Ancient Mediterranean’

Helen King (OU) – ‘Reading the Bearded Lady: Phaethousa of Abdera’

Sue Blundell (OU) – ‘Both Feet on the Ground: Stepping Out in Ancient Greece’

Mark Bradley (Nottingham) – ‘Foul Bodies in Ancient Rome’

Rebecca Fallas (OU) – ‘Promoting Fertility: Regimes for Fertility in the Ancient Medical Texts’

Emma Bridges (OU) – ‘Bodily Mutilation and Despotic Power in Herodotus’ Persian Wars Narrative’

Emma-Jayne Graham (OU) – ‘Dying Disabled in Ancient Rome’

A map of the Camden area can be accessed via this link: http://www3.open.ac.uk/contact/maps.aspx?contactid=1

CFP: Translating Myth

seen on the Classicists list:


Date: 5-7 September, 2013

Venue: firstsite, Colchester, UK

An international conference organized by the Centre for Myth Studies at the
University of Essex, supported by the Department of Literature, Film, and
Theatre Studies and the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies.

The Centre for Myth Studies at the University of Essex is pleased to
announce an international conference to be held from 5 to 7 September 2013
at firstsite, the home of contemporary visual arts in Colchester. We invite
proposals for papers (of 20 minutes duration), or panel sessions (three
papers), exploring the theme of ‘Translating Myth’. The organisers would
particularly welcome interdisciplinary contributions, especially ones that
bridge the domains of literature and psychoanalysis, but we encourage
submissions on all aspects of myth that involve the idea of translation.
‘Translating myth’ is to be taken in a broad sense as encompassing any topic
that addresses the process of conversion or transfer of cultural sources
construed as mythic. The organizers list the following keyword combinations
as a stimulus to thought, but, as it always is with myth, your own ideas
should allow the imagination free rein in deciding on the possibilities
offered by the conference theme:

Accommodation and assimilation; adaptations of the classics; anamnesis and
orality; archetypes, prototypes, stereotypes; astrology and astronomy; babel
and fable; boundaries and interfaces; chaos and creation; enchantment and
ecstasy; gender and hybridity; genre and media; illud tempus and terra
incognita; interdisciplinarity and multiculturalism; identity and
intertextuality; mask and mandala; migration and transfer; monad, binary,
triad, quaternity; mythos and logos; omens and oracles; register and
revelation; resistance and change; rites of passage and cultural transfer;
roots and rituals; sacred and profane; stage and screen; storyteller, poet,
shaman, auteur; theories, poetics, dialectics; transformation and
transposition; versions and motifs; zero and hero(ine).

PLENARY SPEAKERS: David Hawkes (Arizona State University), Miriam Leonard
(University College London), Harish Trivedi (University of Delhi).

The deadline for proposals is Friday 25 January, 2013. Proposals should take
the form of a title for the paper and a 250-word abstract, accompanied by a
brief biographical note, including institutional affiliation where
appropriate. To submit a proposal, or for more information, please write to
Dr Leon Burnett, Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies,
University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, Essex CO4 3SQ or, by e-mail,
to mythic AT essex.ac.uk.

It is planned to publish a selection of papers on ‘Translating Myth’ after
the conference.

Note: Thanks to the generosity of the Bean Trust, a limited number of
bursaries are available for speakers contributing to a panel session on the
place that William Blake occupies in the field of myth. If you wish to apply
for one of these bursaries, please indicate in your proposal.

CJ Online Review: Smith, Virgil

posted with permission:

Virgil. By R. Alden Smith. Blackwell Introductions to the Classical World. Chichester and Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. Pp. x + 210. Hardcover, £70.00/$99.95. ISBN 978-1-4051-5949-4.

Reviewed by Christopher B. Polt, Carleton College

To introduce an author like Vergil broadly but briefly to audiences of students and scholars alike requires deep and sweeping knowledge, the practiced eye of a seasoned teacher, and writing that is both clear and engaging—all traits that Smith brings to his contribution to Blackwell’s series of Introductions to the Classical World. The centerpiece of the volume consists of three brief but heady studies of the Eclogues, Georgics, and Aeneid, each of which is analyzed using a different thematic lens; these are framed by four chapters that try to contextualize Vergil’s work within its literary and socio-political milieu and to explicate its winding journey from the poet’s death to today, and the volume closes with an ample selection of suggestions for further reading. Smith has produced an admirable and useful introduction that should become a standard starting point for students on initial and subsequent excursions into this complex poet, although as a whole the book suffers from a somewhat hazy sense of its audience and needs to be supplemented carefully for beginners to use it effectively.

The three central chapters offer lucid introductions to Vergil’s works that explicate each clearly while at the same time tying them all together through a sustained and wide-ranging analysis of Vergil’s relationship with prior literature and of the complex dualities that permeate each work. In Chapter 3, Smith examines the Eclogues in terms of “dialogue,” primarily between pairs of complementary and contrasting poems in the collection, but also between individuals within each poem and between Vergil and his predecessors, especially Theocritus. Using a series of readings of paired poems, Smith sensitively brings out the persistent presence of “two voices” throughout the Eclogues, illuminating the balance and tensions between rural/urban, male/female, life/death, and light/weighty poetry. He also touches briefly on Vergilian metapoetics, a topic that he takes up in greater depth in his fourth chapter on the Georgics. Here Smith analyzes the poem book by book through the theme of “wisdom,” especially poetry’s power to teach wisdom about common human experience. He maintains his focus on contrasting pairs and the balance of optimistic and pessimistic that he sketches in Chapter 3; rather than finding the same equilibrium displayed in the Eclogues, though, he shows that the narrative movement of the Georgics continually flows from positive to negative and back, highlighting the presence of both sides in human civilization. As with the preceding chapter, Smith keeps an eye on Vergil’s interactions with his predecessors, particularly Hesiod and Lucretius. In Chapter 5, Smith also analyzes the Aeneid book by book, paying special attention to the ways in which the theme of “mission” plays out in the poem and sets it apart from the Homeric epics. Vergil’s dualities remain a major interest of Smith’s here—Greek/Roman, Trojan/Italian, success/failure, heroism/humanity—but in place of the Eclogues’ balanced tension and the Georgics’ ebb and flow, Smith argues with clarity and nuance that the Aeneid works to reconcile these competing elements at it moves towards the telos of Rome’s founding.

These three studies can each be read individually with benefit and enjoyment, but much of their strength derives from the interesting ways in which Smith relates the poems to each other and to the three primary themes that he explores. Chapter 1 aims to set out some of these connections explicitly, though it manages this less successfully, as many of its sections are too compressed or vague (e.g., on Vergil’s “Model Reader,” whom Smith promotes as an ideal that readers should emulate but whose precise qualities he sketches only loosely), wander into relatively obscure and seemingly unconnected material (e.g., on Turcius Rufius Apronianus’ subscription in the Codex Mediceus), or require more knowledge than a novice reader would have (e.g., on Vergil’s poetic models). This last issue also detracts from Smith’s sketch of the historical Vergil in Chapter 2, which (quite refreshingly) avoids rehashing the standard narrative derived from the ancient vitae, but in doing so assumes the reader already knows a fair amount of this biographical information. His discussion of the socio-political context of the 1st century bce, however, is accessible and touches on many issues that are central to Chapters 3 through 5.

The real gem of this book comes in Chapter 6, where Smith offers a wonderfully concise and comprehensible overview of the Vergilian manuscripts with examples of textual problems that he teases out carefully to show why and how editors emend; teachers who wish to introduce textual criticism to advanced Latin students or to explain how Vergil got from ancient Rome to modern readers will find this section a superb resource. Chapter 7 rounds out the book with a rundown of some of the many ways in which Vergil’s work has influenced literature, visual art, music, and culture from his death up until today, with welcome nods to artists who rarely appear in Classical scholarship (e.g., Ursula LeGuin and the singer Dido), but as with Chapter 1’s outline of Vergil’s models, novice readers will likely struggle in the flood of unfamiliar names. Chapter 8 closes the volume with ample suggestions for further reading that will be especially useful for those teaching Vergil for the first time, including much readily accessible material that can be used to fill those gaps in Smith’s book that will present difficulties to newcomers to Vergil and Classical literature.

Classical Words of the Day