English Translation and Classical Reception: Towards a New Literary History (Classical Receptions)

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There are several issues raised concerning these performances that have caused a lot of passionate debates among critics and classicists. What benefit is there in staging the fragmentary plays? How does the audience respond to such performances? Should one present only the attested fragments or should one fill in the gaps, no matter how many and how extensive they might be? And whose is the text that is finally put on stage?

Is it the text of Aeschylus, for example, or is it the play of a modern writer simply and, sometimes, vaguely inspired by Aeschylus? How are these performances advertised? Are they advertised as a modern play or as a lost tragedy 'miraculously' recovered? Are they a sort of pseudepigrapha?

Do the audiences realize the extent to which the performance they watch is a new and not a 'classic' text? These issues will be discussed with references to specific performances of fragmentary plays in Greece such as, for example: Gavrielides - The performance of Aeschylus' Achilleis at the ancient theatre of Epidaurus by the Theatrical Organization of Cypru s, directed by N. Charalambous The author will consult reviews for the performances, will examine the texts used in comparison to the surviving fragments, the advertisement of the performances in press, and will interview the directors on the benefit of presenting these plays, the difficulties related to their fragmentary nature, the objective of their performance, the response of actors and audiences, the choice of the text used.

The author will also show photos from these performances. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, it is not uncommon to find classical scholars subscribing to the view that an adequately contextualizing approach to the study of the ancient world is opposed to an aesthetic appreciation of ancient works of art and literature. To focus on the value or otherwise of ancient remains as 'works of art' leads, it is claimed, to an ahistorical and romanticizing projection of modern expectations and assumptions onto antiquity.

The recommended antidote to this form of anachronism is a careful, historicizing approach, which seeks to reconstruct the original meanings and functions of objects by locating them in their original contexts of production and reception. Such a mode of study eschews all attention to the attractiveness or otherwise of the objects which form the data of its reconstruction, as such judgments are viewed as inherently likely to be misleading. In this paper I seek to interrogate this viewpoint by means of an examination of the constellation of attitudes and opinions which surrounded classical scholarship in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Germany.

The classical scholars of the nineteenth century are often held to be the intellectual forebears of the kind of interdisciplinary, contextualizing and historical approach to the study of the ancient world described above. Yet, for many of those 'founding fathers' of nineteenth-century contextualism, recognition of the need to locate antiquities in their original contexts came side by side with an emphatically expressed appreciation of them as beautiful works of art.

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Abstracts: Current Debates in Classical Reception Studies, 2007

Moreover, at least some of those who were concerned with studying the ancient past felt that aesthetic appreciation of objects could not merely accompany a historical or contextual understanding of them. Rather they held in various ways that evaluation of the beauty or attractiveness of the ancient remains played a crucial role in arriving at that understanding. Overall, the paper aims to use reception to provide a perspective from which to inspect and question current practices in classical scholarship and to explore possible alternatives.

In Greek tragedy, as in Homer, reference to such activity is used as an intensifier rather than as indicating that it actually has happened, or is likely to. Such behaviour is designated either as animal, or as the action of a deranged human being.

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In twentieth-century Western theatre, sited in cultures which are Christian in origin if not in actuality, omophagia and anthropophagia have been used to signify an otherness in both mental and political states. Three case studies Tennessee Williams's Suddenly Last Summer , Edward Bond's Early Morning , and Sarah Kane's Blasted are used here to show how an activity which is abhorrent and taboo is offered for consumption by theatre audiences.

Post-Colonial Thought and Historical Difference, Deepesh Chakrabarty claims that the universalist discourse of Western scholarship since the Enlightenment not only established a narrative for European modernity but also created a universal and secular conceptual language that has become, in effect, indispensable for all discussions of political or social modernity irrespective of locale or culture.

It has been pointed out that, if true, this makes virtually everyone Eurocentric. The origination of this ideology of reason has been assigned to the ancient Greeks who, it is claimed, distinguished themselves by breaking away from the obfuscatory religious views of the orient. The history of classical scholarship fueled and sustained this phenomenon.

The professionalization of classical studies in Germany in the 19th century favored certain perspectives over others.

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The search for professional autonomy put a premium on rationalization and clarification of the discipline's principles and procedures, nowhere better exemplified than in F. Wolf's vision of a total science of antiquity Altertumswissenschaft. Despite the continuing reputation classical studies holds in many quarters as a positivistic discipline there are and were counter pulses which the paper will examine. Heyne submitted Winckelmann's Platonizing vision of Greek beauty to analytical scrutiny of archaeology.

The rational priorities of the professional discipline rejected such views, a rejection repeated in Wilamowitz' famous condemnation of Nietzsche's 'philology of the future' Zukunftphilologie. Fifty years after E. Dodds' The Greeks and the Irrational, the ideological elevation of reason marginalizes or isolates views which discern the focus of the Greek world in non-rational or supra-rational dimensions. Peter Kingsley's exceptional work on myth and philosophy in Plato, Empedocles and Parmenides offers a contemporary example of marginalization from scholarly orthodoxy.

Eurocentrism, Chakrabarty claims, owes its dominance to what Benjamin called the 'secular…homogeneous time of history. This talk examines the refraction of the ancient world through a range of contemporary American responses, particularly responses that are explicitly informed by ideology. The media of reception include graphic novels and American popular film. My starting point in addressing the relationship between the ancient and the modern is Paul Ricoeur's definition of the opposition between a hermeneutical and a critical consciousness, that is, between the assumption that all understanding is subsumed under the reign of finitude and the contention that it is possible to transcend this finitude The opposition evokes simultaneously a historiographical and a political problematic.

Is it possible to overcome the limits of a given conceptual and social horizon in order to understand others or is the idea of beyond a mere product of this horizon and the divisions it formulates between the self and the other? If the study of the past is assumed to take place under the sign of the present, how can this study perform a critical gesture that would turn against 'distortions' of understanding and the way they operate to sustain oppression and violence? The question is particularly relevant to the study of the reception of the classics of which it has been pertinently said it has consistently fashioned a counter-culture and a refuge from the dominant world view Murray There is no denying that, in addition to the role of Greek and Roman antiquity in sustaining an elitist, authoritarian and largely Eurocentric tradition, classical texts have played a key part in the formation of counter-cultures seeking to challenge established practices and beliefs of their time.

This afterlife has been, however, constantly encountered by the accusation of misinterpretation and misreading of antiquity through its enlistment to support modern causes. This issue has taken a peculiar form in historiographical comparisons between antiquity and modernity, in which the ancient tradition has become a source of self critique through the opposition between the ancient and the modern, that is, the contention that antiquity can maintain its critical function once it is disengaged from modern categories and understood in its own terms.

Such has been, for example, the frame for Moses Finley's comparison between ancient democracy and modern democracy as well as the objective of comparative studies centred on contextualising antiquity and accounting for its difference from the present. Thus, unlike most fields in the reception of the classics, wherein critical consciousness seems to entertain closer affiliations with strong 'misreadings' rather than 'faithful' readings, comparative historiography suggests that the abandonment of the opposition between the ancient and the modern, and the reduction of antiquity to the frames of its reception would imply the dispersal of the possibility of critical deployment of the classics.

In my paper I shall discuss this contention by drawing on a number of comparisons between ancient democracy and modern democracy, most of which follow Finley's contextualising approach. My reading of these projects will be guided by the assumption that the opposition between hermeneutical and critical consciousness cannot be adequately resolved by opting for one of its alternatives, and that this failure posits the need for interrogating the opposition itself Ricoeur This contention will sustain a reflection on the limitations of both the reduction of antiquity to a self-posited reception process and the contextualising division between antiquity and modernity utilised by comparative studies.

Finally, it will lead to the question of how to approach ancient democracy in a way that troubles the boundaries of modern democratic thought, while accounting, simultaneously, for the hermeneutic presuppositions of critique and its links with the present. More than twenty-five film adaptations of Greek tragedy were made during the three decades of silent cinema, ranging from documentaries of stage performances to ambitious reworkings of the original plays for the new medium.

Many of these films are now lost but those that have survived, together with production stills, posters, reviews and other ephemera, testify to a fascinating chapter in the history of early cinema which has been largely neglected by classicists as well as by film and theatre historians. Today it may be conceptually difficult to imagine a silent and melodramatic adaptation of Sophocles' play thought to pose a threat to the morality of cinema audiences around the Western world. However in the early twentieth century it was such a version of Oedipus the King that rivalled stage productions of the play and was seen by thousands not only in France but also across Europe and the USA.

Revisiting such a film prompts reflection on the early cinema's flirting with respected fields of cultural production, especially theatre, but also on the nature of the aesthetics of Greek tragedy. Tragedy appeals to the imagination of the audience to create images in the mind whereas silent cinema realises these images on screen for the spectator. Converting words into images is a complex process of interpretation which, as I will try to show, demands its own careful reading.

My discussion will centre around a production still which displays with shocking realism the hanging body of Jocasta: However, the scene in the film that the still prepares for was censored and could not be shown. Photography provides an alternative way of seeing and a different 'take' at the regulatory mechanisms of early cinema and the aesthetic possibilities of Greek theatre. If, as Cocteau puts it, the silent-film camera 'filmed death at work', photography is the medium that cheats death, both as a commodity during the promotion of the film and as an archival trace long after its 'origin' has ceased to exist.

In , the Crystal Palace that had housed the Great Exhibition was reopened in South London, with an array of new displays, including 11 architectural courts ranging from ancient Egypt to contemporary Germany and England, stocked with plaster casts of famous sculpture and architecture.

The Greek, Roman and Pompeian courts represented the classical world, offering a reconstructed villa, a painted Parthenon frieze and scale models of the Coliseum and Forum, as well as assembling casts of sculpture from the major European museums. It provided an entirely new audience with access to ancient art. This paper will examine the way in which this new audience was catered for, looking at ideas about discipline in the museum, and hoping to offer a more nuanced account that takes on board the complex historical relationship between Greek art, morality and beauty.

The centrality of reception studies to the discipline of classics and ancient history is now more certain than ever, and its ability to provide uniquely powerful insights into the ways in which the modern world encounters the ancient is self-evident. Leading scholars in the field, though, recognise that this apparent acceptance should not be taken for granted: This paper aims to contribute to these lively debates by suggesting that the reception history of Pompeii can offer a new way of conceptualising classical reception.

The cultural imagination has long been fascinated with the destroyed ancient city, but scholars have tended to focus on her archaeological significance, at the expense of exploring her value as a site which prompts reflection on such varied themes as ancient and modern morality, decadence, domesticity, spectacle, transience, and permanence. Not only should this be rectified for its own sake, we should also take the opportunity to reconsider the different ways in which the reception process might play out.

Firstly, we must clarify what some existing studies have already demonstrated: This has long been central to classical receptions, certainly, as 'classics and cinema' studies demonstrate — but Pompeii acts as a site of contestation for elite, popular, and academic claims to the ancient past in a more far-reaching way. Secondly, it is evident that most reception study has tended to focus on responses to the great art of Greece and Rome, say, or the influence of poets like Homer or Ovid — thus producing a model of reception characterised predominantly, if not entirely by a concern with cultural and intellectual elites, but most importantly, by a notion of antiquity's persistence and ongoing presence.

Though its meaning and appearance change drastically, the Colosseum, to take one example, has always been there. Therefore, it offers the chance to pursue a different kind of understanding of reception, one which brings issues of the past's fragility and absence versus its presence and persistence, to the fore. The imagery of ruin and fragmentation, so important to ancient culture in the modern world, has long been used as embodiment of the past's inaccessibility, but the more drastic rupture in Pompeii's material history, and the unique character of its existence now, allows us to recast that model.


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In so doing, we will hopefully arrive at an alternative way of understanding our reception of the classical past, with repercussions not only for our responses to Pompeii, but also for other aspects of reception studies. In his book Love, Sex and Tragedy: Many classicists find television to be a trivialising medium, where complex arguments are simplified and historical fact is adapted or ignored in favour of sensationalism.

The study of film and television within the classics discipline is often seen as taking the easy option over such projects as painstaking reconstruction of ancient texts. Yet, as television students know, with the advent of DVD and home recording technology, television programmes once available only as broadcast can now be studied with the same attention to detail as written texts.

And television and film has the potential to reach a much larger sector of the public than a play performed in even a large theatre on a long run. I will argue that classics and television, as separate branch of reception studies, is worthy of scholarly attention. I will do this through a case study comparing four modern receptions of Pandora and her box. Two of these receptions are taken from texts that belong to genres often privileged by scholars; an essay by Laura Mulvey drawing on psychoanalytical theory, and critically acclaimed silent film Pandora's Box.


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British classicists in the early twentieth century generally emphasised the breadth of the gulf between ancient and modern empires, preoccupied with the importance of race to contemporary imperial Britain. However as Britain's empire grew, so did the concerns of some imperial commentators that over-expansion would lead to crisis and decline. Science and technology increasingly seemed to offer solutions to the problems posed by the governance of equatorial countries, fuelled by an ambivalent attitude to the dangers and opportunities of equatorial environments which David Arnold has called 'tropicality'.

For some classicists and particularly non-specialists, similar environmental analyses seemed to offer new insights into the 'fourth century crisis', the supposed decline of the poleis that perplexed scholars captivated by the achievements of classical Greek societies. The Cambridge classicist WHS Jones, best known for his Loeb Hippocrates, was particularly influenced by the early twentieth century perspectives on environment and decline.

Jones became increasingly preoccupied with malaria as an influence on ancient Greek civilisation, and developed a close friendship with Ronald Ross, who had won the Nobel prize in for proving the mosquito parasite theory of malarial transmission. Ross and Jones worked together from to create a racialised theory of the fourth century crisis, arguing that the exacerbation of endemic malaria in Greece had affected the 'European' Greeks more than non-European races.

The supposed malarial immunity of non-Europeans had, they argued, allowed this inferior racial stock to overrun fourth-century Greece, leading to moral degeneration and political decline. In this paper I examine the history of the 'fourth century crisis' idea, and its relationship to imperial anxieties at the beginning of the twentieth century. I argue that Jones' arguments, while never attaining wide scholarly acceptance, held great appeal for Britain's elite, as empire faced increasing challenge from inside and without. Jones' racial determinism encapsulated European fears about overexpansion into a hostile 'tropical' world, but also held out the hope that European 'races' could use technology to transcend environmental limitations, and so avoid the decline and degeneration into which classical empires had eventually fallen.

This paper which forms part of a larger project on classical reception in relation to childhood concerns modern treatments of Greek mythology as the province of childhood. Children form one of the main audiences for contemporary retellings of myth, and many adults look back at childhood encounters with mythology as memorable, formative experiences. Myths are often seen as peculiarly suited to children because of their narrative form and because they spring from a primitive, 'childlike' stage of culture.

We will examine the roles of child audiences, shifting conceptions of childhood, and primitivist views of antiquity in four influential British and American myth collections of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: Aristophanes' lyric passages have attracted a good deal of attention over the last 25 years, with different views being expressed as to the quality and function of various lyric passages Silk and ; Parker ; Matthews If these passages are problematic for the Aristophanic scholar, however, they are even more complex for the would-be translator of Aristophanes for whom they provide a variety of challenges.

In this paper I shall investigate the nature of these challenges — from the difficulties presented by the lyrics' complex rhythms, diverse vocabulary and tonal inconsistencies to problems thrown up by qualities such as conventionality, playfulness and humour — and to consider the range of tactics translators have adopted to overcome them whether successfully or otherwise. This paper will also comprise a diachronic investigation of how translating conventions have changed as far as Aristophanes lyrics are concerned and consideration of the extent to which scholarship has impinged on translation practices.

Since translations so often provide new perspectives on ancient works, I hope also to see what light can be shed on the debates surrounding the Aristophanic text by the works of translators themselves. Music, particularly musical accompaniments to or versions of Greek tragedy, is becoming an increasingly popular area for Reception Studies to research. In this paper I intend to explore some of the benefits and hurdles involved in studying such musical adaptations of Greek tragedies, with a focus on Oedipus at Colonus.

The OC seems to have inspired more musical adaptations than other Sophoclean plays. The most famous musical production, Lee Breuer and Bob Telson's Gospel at Colonus follows in the wake of many other musical reworkings, including particular interest in the eighteenth-nineteenth centuries, from those by the otherwise little known composers P.

Torri and Antonio Sacchini, to lesser known works by the better known composers Rossini and Mendelssohn. Operas, musicals and incidental music all help retell the ancient stories, often in an attempt to recreate the fifth century genre. The way in which this is done changes through the generations, producing a history of poetics, often demonstrating how aesthetic theory and performance practise are linked, see for example, Jean-Jacques Rousseau's writings on opera alongside his own opera Le Devin du Village.

In addition, the fusion of genres in a musical adaptation creates complex works of art that shed light on the original texts, the culture into which they are received, and the progression of aesthetic theory. In particular, music adds a second text to any production, whose sentiments can harmonise or jar with those of the verbal text, which multi-sided approach helps develop more nuanced and subtle interpretations of the tragedy.

The Oxford History of Classical Reception in English Literature

However, the more genres and texts involved, the more individuals involved, including composer, librettists, director and producer, each imposing their own interpretation on the text. Tracing the influence of each contributor through their work and history becomes more complicated the more people involved.

The relative influence of each party can be hard to ascertain. Any one scholar must approach a work from a variety of angles, as both literary critic and musicologist for example. This allows for a variety of interpretations, but also requires a variety of skills and background knowledge, which few people will possess to an equal, sufficiently high level.

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There is also the possibility of producing a diffuse and unfocused reading of any work, dealing with an unfeasibly large amount of data, losing depth of interpretation for the sake of breadth. Negotiating these obstacles in order to appreciate the exciting potential of interpreting musical adaptations of Greek tragedy is a challenging but thoroughly worthwhile task. Notwithstanding its mighty pedigree in Sophocles' tragedies, T. Eliot's The Elder Statesman turns on the related figures of the minimal and the bathetic, as virtually every item in the play is massively scaled down in any comparison with its Sophoclean counterpart: Lord Claverton is a superannuated invalid rather than commensurate with the fearsome itinerant protagonist of Oedipus at Colonus.

There is, from the outset, an implication that the diminutive elements are produced by considerable compression, originating in much larger forces. When Charles complains petulantly to Monica in the opening scene, he is objecting to a highly pressurised triangulation of himself, Monica and Claverton whereby he and Claverton compete for Monica's affection. The play thus opens with an opposition between familial love and sexual love. Whereas psychoanalysis postulates familial love as a rehearsal for sexual love, but emphasises that the former must give place to the latter and to its exogamous attachments, The Elder Statesman dramatises the claustrophobic convergence of these loves.

This constellation is compounded by the perverted affinities of Gomez, Mrs Carghill, and Claverton's son Michael, as they emerge from his past. Caught in and among several such triangles, Claverton begins to collapse in on himself. Yet the pressures that break him also re-make him. From the perspective of his own Colonus, he recognises and repudiates the regressive versions of self entailed in these quasi-oedipal triangles. The familial love, the sexual love and the lingering attachments to Carghill and Gomez are summarily reconciled under the higher love of Christian forgiveness.

But this higher love is dramatised as even more capacious in the closing moments of the play, as it extends retroactively to embrace the roles of Oedipus and Antigone. Thus expanding, this higher love reconciles pagan and Christian cultures, asserting a direct continuity between Platonic and Christian love. This decorous, understated, very English play, confined largely to the drawing room and the nursing home, explodes into a cosmically inclusive vision. There is a crucial metadramatic implication of this cultural 'big bang'. The Elder Statesman at the centre of this combustion is not merely Lord Claverton but also the play of which he is the eponym.

By including itself within this higher love, along with Sophocles' Theban Cycle, the play potentially includes within the interval the whole of the European canon as it is postulated in Eliot's earlier essay, 'Tradition and the Individual Talent' Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Isobel Hurst Matthew Arnold, Nicholas Shrimpton Arthur Hugh Clough, Isobel Hurst Robert Browning, Yopie Prins William Morris, Stephen Harrison George Eliot, Shanyn Fiske Thomas Hardy, Ralph Pite Swinburne, Charlotte Ribeyrol Towards the Fin de Siecle: Narrative Authority and the Death of God She serves on the jury of the annual Criticos prize, and on the committee of the triennial Cambridge Greek Play.

Her publications include Shelley and Greece: Rethinking Romantic Hellenism , Digging the Dirt: There is much learning in it. Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford.


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