CFP: ‘Traditions in Fragments: the Classical Legacy in Italian Literature’, University of Oxford, 20 June

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Traditions in Fragments: the Classical Legacy in Italian 20th-Century Literature

Study Day, 20th June 2014

Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, University of Oxford

  Classical tradition, as a conceptual cluster in which aesthetic, anthropological and political ideas converge, is central to the study of 20th-century Italian literature. The Classics and their legacy are unavoidable forces in the literary discourse of the last century. Whether reinstating, questioning or establishing a new tradition, the Novecento helped to shape the notion of classical tradition itself. In different forms we find Ancient Greek and Latin classics in both poetry and prose, from the work of Pascoli and D’Annunzio, to the Hermetic translations of Quasimodo, down to the Fascist appropriations of classical antiquity, the essays of Calvino, and the trans-genre adaptations of Pasolini and Dallapiccola (not to mention the reinterpretations of Pavese, Sanguineti, Bemporad, or Zanzotto). Yet this widespread presence is still, for the most part, taken for granted. The few available studies are confined to monographic appreciations of individual authors. Generally these enquiries have remained isolated and fragmentary.

This Study Day proposes to begin mapping and interrogating the presence of the classical legacy in the Novecento. Topics of discussion will include, but are not limited to: dynamics of reprisal or rejection of the Classics and their legacy by modern authors, the concept of â€˜origins’ and archetype in 20th-century literary culture in Italy and abroad, genre and form, the Classics in relation to academic and popular culture in Italy, the relationship between translation and the classical legacy, and the reception of the Classics before, during and after Fascism. Gathering different scholarly contributions, we hope that this Study Day will provide a useful starting point for further research. The symposium setting will highlight similarities and differences between individual modes of engagement with the classical legacy. This may offer a new perspective on several aspects of Italian literature and culture in the 20th century, not least the role of literary traditions within the construction of cultural, authorial and national identities.

Call for Papers

Papers will investigate the presence of the Classics and their legacy in Italian literature of the 20th century. Possible topics of discussion include: 

Adaptations and appropriations of Ancient Greek and Latin works by 20th-century authors

Translations of ancient Greek and Latin works by 20th-century writers, including theory and practice

The reception of the Classics during Fascism

The role of the classical legacy in 20th-century poetics

The role of the classics and classical legacy in shaping authorial and national identity 

 Contributions in English and Italian are welcome. Please send an abstract of 250-300 words, a short biographical note, the speaker’s academic affiliation and any audio-visual equipment needed to Cecilia Piantanida at traditionsinfragments AT by 25 April 2014.

CJ~Online Review of Elmer, The Poetics of Consent

Posted with permission:

The Poetics of Consent: Collective Decision Making and the Iliad. By David F. Elmer. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013. Pp. x + 313. Hardcover, $55.00. ISBN 978-1-4214-0826-2.

Reviewed by Dean Hammer, Franklin and Marshall College

David Elmer’s book addresses two interpretive strands of the Iliad: one that explores its politics, the other the poetics of its transmission. Noting the fluidity of the “collective dynamics” of decision making, Elmer contends, “The formalization of these dynamics is rather a matter of the language and conventions of Homeric poetry,” conventions that permit the reader to see “more deeply into the process of collective decision making than the actors themselves seem capable of doing” (2-3).

Elmer addresses attempts to situate the Iliad in a particular historical context, critiquing the view of the poem as providing some window into, or reflecting on, the archaic or pre-polis world (9-10). Elmer, instead, draws on Nagy’s evolutionary model to understand the processes of “composition and textualization” (11) that both extend the poem’s composition into the sixth century and suggest the importance of this later reception in organizing the theme of consensus in the Iliad. The Iliad’s “representation of politics,” Elmer claims, does not reflect any particular historical context but is the result of a “long-term collective decision-making procedure” by which the poem is itself shaped by different audiences and performers. That is, the politics of the Iliad reflects its “implicit theory of reception” (12). To the extent that there is a political context, it is the Panhellenic festivals that provided “a real-life occasion for the assembly of large groups of people with divergent interests” (12).

The book is divided into three sections. The first section (comprised of four chapters) focuses on the formulaic conventions that govern scenes of collective decision making. In the first chapter, Elmer identifies five constituent elements of what he calls the “grammar of reception,” that is, the collective responses of others: silence, approval (by Achaeans), shout (by Achaeans), shout (by Trojans), and praise (26). Elmer situates these phrases within broader linguistic and cultural patterns to identify how formulaic discourse reveals ingrained patterns of speech and thought. Elmer extends the analysis in Chapter 2, focusing on the importance of epainos as not just a statement of praise, but also connected to notions of consensus.

In the third chapter Elmer argues that the opening scene frames the importance of collective decision making. In this chapter, provocatively titled, “Achilles and the Crisis of the Exception,” a reference to both Schmitt and Agamben in their respective discussions of the “state of exception,” Elmer contends that the opening scene operates as an exception to “traditional norms of decision making” (67). Elmer argues that while the state of exception does not apply to the politics since there is not “a formally constituted set of legal rules and governmental powers” that can be suspended, it does apply to the suspension of “the grammar of reception” (67).

In the suspension of a rule, the norm is reasserted (68-9). But in the meantime there is a crisis of interpretation: in how to respond and how to interpret those responses. Imposing “the state of exception” on the epic feels strained at times. Elmer, for example, contends that the “initial state of exception is, at its core, a failure of language” that extends to the disruption of poetic language “to the point that the ability of the formulaic medium to communicate the meaning of political action is undermined” (77). But the poetic language is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do; namely, communicating the disruption of political understanding and, most of all, trust. And it is doing so in a way not uncommon for social dramas, which function by revealing tensions or breakdowns in norms that are then reaffirmed or critically reassessed.

In the final chapter of this first section, Elmer reads the turmoil of Book 2 as a narrative trajectory for the crisis of the poem as a whole. There are moments where Elmer’s fusion of the poetic with the political leads him to treat the formulae as the foundation of community life. For example, Elmer argues that the “danger posed by Thersites” is “not just that he will undermine the stability of the Achaean confederacy but that he will undermine the poetic conventions that support the narrative of their expedition against Troy” (95). One of Elmer’s interesting insights in this chapter is a political (more than a poetic) one, though. He argues that quieting the “noise” of someone like Thersites is a precondition for opening up a space for “properly political speech” (97).

In the second section, Elmer explores the development of the epainos motif in the context of the Iliad’s three political communities: the Achaeans (Chapter 5), the Trojans (Chapter 6), and the gods (Chapter 7). He argues that consensus is never reached in the Achaean community but is displaced to the Trojans (in which there is consensus about an innovation that seals the fate of the Trojans) and the gods, who, Elmer suggests, function as “a kind of stand-in for the poem’s real-world audience” (173). It is this “fourth community,” the real-world audience, onto which “the Iliad projects the ultimate fulfillment of the epainos motif” and “which bears ultimate responsibility for the Iliadic narrative, just as the gods appear to do within the narrative itself” (173).

In the final section, Elmer seeks to provide evidence of how the epainos motif is resolved. In Chapter 8, Elmer interprets the final scene of Trojan mourning as “some indication of the perfected experience it projects onto its implied audience, but it cannot situate it among those [the Achaeans] who must remain imperfect” (203). It is “only in the later world of the poleis that their potential is fulfilled” (203).

In the final chapter, Elmer provides evidence for how we are to understand the audience or the dynamics of the transmission of the text, which is what the argument largely hinges on. Elmer explores aspects of the Iliad as a Panhellenic epic: the role of “passive tradition bearers” (206) as a check on tradition as performed, as well as what traditions go forward; interesting allusions in Plato to the epainos motif as referring to the role of collective values in the reception (and shaping) of the poem; and some suggestions about how this motif plays itself out in the Odyssey.

The book is remarkably well written and engaging, always seeking clear explanations of complex concepts. The book also synthesizes and extends the current state of scholarship on the Iliad, addressing, as well as any recent book, the different (often divergent) approaches to the politics and poetics of the epic. The argument is ultimately about the politics of poetics in which the Iliad appears as a meta-poem, reflecting more on the act of making poetry than on organizing political communities. To that extent, the analysis (and the themes) might be applied to all performances. Elmer even notes, “From this point of view, any performance can be thought of as a collective decision, insofar as its success-its ability to embody the tradition and so to shape future performances-requires the approval of the audience” (207). The claim is true in many respects, underlying how both politics and poetics are types of performances. But it is a much stronger claim to argue that the poetic themes of the Iliad emerge as a reflection on its own transmission. The reader will judge the plausibility of that connection but will be stimulated by the claim.

[©2013 by The Classical Association of the Middle West and South. All rights reserved.]

CONF: Greeks and Romans on the Latin American Stage

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Greeks and Romans on the Latin American Stage

International conference: 24-26 June 2014, UCL 

This international and interdisciplinary conference explores the rich and varied afterlife of ancient Greek and Roman drama in Latin America and the Caribbean, a topic thus far neglected in accounts of classical
reception. By focusing on texts that are relatively unknown in the Anglophone world, the conference aims to fill an important gap in the scholarship on the afterlife of classical tragedy and comedy. Our participants represent a diverse range of academic disciplines,
including Classics, Latin American Studies, Hispanic Literatures, and Theatre Studies. Papers will approach the topic from a variety of theoretical and interdisciplinary perspectives. Case studies to be examined include plays from Argentina, Brazil, Chile,
Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Martinique, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. We will discuss the ways in which ancient drama has been used to articulate a range of issues (pertaining to gender, politics, race and violence) in modern societies. We will also
consider rewritings that have initiated a chain of modern receptions through which ancient themes and ideas have migrated across national or regional borders. 

Keynote Speaker: Lorna Hardwick (The Open University, UK)

Organisers: Rosa Andújar (r.andujar AT and Konstantinos P. Nikoloutsos (konstantinos.nikoloutsos AT sju.)

The registration fee is £50 (£20 for a single day), which includes all lunches, coffee/tea, and a wine reception.  Discounted rates are available for students and the unwaged.  Attendance is free for UCL students and staff. 

Registration is now open (closing date: Friday, 13th June).  To register, and to access a complete list of participants, the full
programme and abstracts, please visit the conference website:

Thanks to the generosity of the Classical Association and the Hellenic Society, we will also be able to offer several postgraduate bursaries.  Please visit the conference website at the link abovebfor further information.

The conference is generously supported by the A. G. Leventis Foundation (UCL Leventis Fund), the Institute of Classical Studies, the Institute of Latin American Studies, SLAS (the UK Society for Latin American Studies), the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic
Studies, the Classical Association, the Gilbert Murray Trust, and the UCL Faculty Institute of Graduate Studies (FIGS).


CFP | Conflict: Causes, Chaos, and Resolutions (PG)

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Conflict: Causes, Chaos, and Resolutions

5th Annual Postgraduate Interdisciplinary Conference

The Department of Classics at the University of Leeds is pleased to announce the 5th Annual Postgraduate Interdisciplinary Conference to be held on the 4th June 2014, Leeds.

Conflicts of all kinds, their Causes, the Chaos involved and its Resolutions have a profound impact on human society, and are the subject of much study in Classics, the Humanities and beyond. Even in its most traditional interpretation as a matter of violence and warfare, conflict is reflected directly and indirectly within almost every academic discipline. But the concept of conflict extends much further. It can also refer to conflicts within academia itself, and elsewhere. Not only do conflicting philosophies and methodologies impact on the pursuit and development of academic study, but conflicting social concepts and values are central to subjects such as gender studies and English. This conference aims to provide an in-depth interdisciplinary discussion of the multifaceted, and often divisive, concept of Conflict, including aspects such as:

• Conflicting Ideas
• The Impact of Conflict
• War Theory
• The Metamorphosis of Culture through Conflict
• Comparative Receptions
• De-constructing Society
• Unexpected Resolutions
• Turmoil of the Psyche
• The Psychology of Warfare
• Reflections of Conflict in Literature

Papers can address, but are certainly not limited to the above suggestions. Postgraduate scholars from Classics and beyond are invited to send an abstract of 250-300 words to by the 1st of May. Presentation will be 20 minutes long and followed by 10 minutes of discussion.

The conference aims at an Interdisciplinary approach, allowing for conversation across departmental and institutional lines. The conference is also presented through the Classics department as part of the Legacies of War project in the University of Leeds. There may be travel bursaries available and a possible opportunity for publication.

Keynote speakers are Penny Goodman, who will be speaking on the study of conflict in academia, and Roger Brock, editor of The Journal of Hellenic Studies, will be speaking on abstracting and approaching journals for publication.

For any further information please email pgclassicsconference AT