CLASSICS AND POETRY NOW WORKSHOP

We are excited to announce our forthcoming workshop in the reception of the ancient Greek and Roman classics in 20th- and 21st-century poetry.

This one-day workshop will be a collaboration with Classics And Poetry Now (CAPN), an international project designed to foster long-term, collaborative research in the field, led by Prof Lorna Hardwick (Open University), and the Institute of Classical Studies.

It is aimed specifically at Postgraduate and Early Career post-doctoral researchers* and will be held on Thursday 2nd November 2017 at the Institute of Classical Studies, Senate House. Respondent: Prof Lorna Hardwick.

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Amanda Potter: Wonder Woman – An “Awesome” Ancient Hero for the Modern World

It was with much excitement and a little nervousness that I went to the cinema on 3 June to watch the new Wonder Woman film, directed by Patty Jenkins and featuring Israeli actress Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. I had been waiting for a long time for this movie. Seventy-five years after her first appearance in 1941 in All Star Comics, and after  , Wonder Woman finally had her own feature film, which re-tells her origin story.  In the film, Princess Diana volunteers to leave the island where she grew up in order to help the allies fight evil in the First World War – rather than the Second World War,  as in the original comic and 1970’s TV series. I had high expectations, after Gadot’s brief but shining appearance as Wonder Woman in the otherwise lacklustre Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), which I discussed in The Conversation. And I came away happy: the consensus from friends and colleagues was that this Wonder Woman was “awesome”, with only a few reservations. (The critics have tended to agree, with the film four stars.).  My response to the film is that of a classicist and a feminist, and where Wonder Woman is concerned it is important to consider both these angles. Not only is she an Amazon with origins in Greek mythology, she is also a much-contested feminist icon.

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Christopher McDonough: Forgetting and Remembering Jules Dassin’s Phaedra

Last month, I was at the Classical Association meeting in Canterbury and, having heard many fine papers on film reception, was finishing up my meal at the Friday night banquet when the loud music began to play signaling the start of the disco. That was my cue to head to the bar, which some University of Kent students happened to be tending. “What’ll you have?” asked a nice young man whose forearm was tattooed with  Ἢ τὰν ἢ ἐπὶ τᾶς (“With it or on it”). Maybe you’re studying Classics, I said as he poured my beer, but no, he replied, his dad was Greek though he was studying here in Kent. “Do you know this old Tony Perkins film,” I asked, “about another student in England whose father is Greek?” He gave me the look most students do when I begin to talk about old black-and-white movies, but I continued. “His father asks his stepmother, who’s Greek, to come to London to bring him home, but she ends up falling in love with him and they carry on this torrid affair until eventually consumed by shame he commits suicide by driving his Aston Martin off a cliff into the Aegean.” His eyes were wide by this point, as were those of the other bartenders. “What’s the name of this movie?” they wanted to know.

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Ben Greet: Classics in Star Trek

Star Trek exists as what Daniel Bernardi calls a ‘mega-text’, a group of televisual, filmic, literary, auditory, and other ‘texts’ that all share a relatively cohesive fictional universe. The amount of ‘texts’ that make up the Star Trek franchise includes hundreds of hours of television and films, hundreds of books and audio books, and numerous video games. It spans over fifty years, from the first television episode in 1966 to the latest novel published in February 2017. Not only is this ‘mega-text’ similar to Classical mythology – which also uses the same characters and stories told by different authors across different media – it also includes a number of classical references itself.

The franchise therefore provides us with a unique opportunity to examine classical reception in science-fiction through semantically connected texts and over a significant time period. Not only can we see how approaches to the classical world change over time, we can also see how the audience response to them has altered. While some receptions will be rooted in their historical contexts, others may morph over Star Trek’s long fifty-year history. Continue reading

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Introducing the ‘Classical World New Zealand’ Project

by Anastasia Bakogianni, Lecturer in Classical Studies, Massey University (Auckland campus)

How have New Zealanders received the classical world? How have they adapted and transformed it for use in their own culture and the arts? Why do they feel this deep connection with ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt? These are the fundamental questions that Classical World New Zealand, a new project based at Massey University, seeks to illuminate.

Raemon Rolfe, Reliquiae: Text and Vessels (2016)

When I arrived on the beautiful shores of Aotearoa (the Māori name for New Zealand) last year I was curious to learn more about how New Zealanders and New Zealand based practitioners responded to the classical world. Having worked for many years for the CRSN and been an interviewer for Practitioners’ Voices in Classical Reception and Classics Confidential I was already aware of the existence of such receptions. But I was still surprised by the richness and variety of these connections, and I am happily looking forward to discovering more. This is surely yet more proof of the ongoing impact of the classical world on our own modern global culture. Continue reading

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Anastasia Bakogianni: Between Tradition and Creativity – Modern Greek Cinematic Receptions of the Classical World

How can ancient tragedy be transplanted into the modern medium of film? What are some of the obstacles filmmakers have to overcome when they attempt to transform an ancient theatrical play into a movie? What challenges do we face when we use their films in our classrooms? And finally, is there ever a point beyond which we should stop referring to a film as a ‘reception’ of an ancient drama(s), or could we even talk about the reception of the very concept of ancient tragedy itself? These are some of the exciting questions that scholars working in this area have been engaging with and the discussion is ongoing, so join in!

Cacoyannis' chorus comforts Electra

Cacoyannis’ chorus comforts Electra

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Kim Shahabudin: Simply the best? Or not so simply…

A recent post on a Facebook Group asked what the “best” film versions of the Iliad, Odyssey and Aeneid were. BIG QUESTION, was my immediate reaction. After all, how do you qualify ‘best’, when you’re thinking about cultural objects? And is it different when those objects are examples of classical reception?

I don’t think this is a trivial question for those of us interested in reception studies with a focus on popular culture. Most academics have had the experience of marking undergraduate essays where critical discussion is replaced by subjective assessments of value. In my experience this is even more prevalent when the topic is film. Indeed it can feel as if discussing ‘the best film’ on a particular topic is perceived by students as the purpose of this strand of reception studies. And ‘best’ is most often identified with ‘most authentic’: which is taken to mean the adaptation that most closely follows the narrative, chronology, and (most importantly) the visual and aural conceptions of antiquity students have acquired through their studies.

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Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones: The Epic World of Norma Desmond – An Alternative Guide to Watching Hollywood Epics – Part 2

As I showed in Part 1 of this post, Sunset Boulevard is a film saturated in allusions to an earlier age of filmmaking, but it is in the film’s extraordinary final scene that the blurring of time, space, and genre (film noir and epic) has the greatest impact. The despairing end of Sunset Boulevard sees the mad and murderous faded movie star made to believe that she is shooting the film – Salome – she has been so desperate to make. She is compelled to believe it so that she can be taken away to prison or, more likely, an asylum. This is the last scene of the movie as it appears in the original shooting-script: Continue reading

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Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones: The Epic World of Norma Desmond – An Alternative Guide to Watching Hollywood Epics – Part 1

At the moment I’m writing a book. It is called Designs on the Past: How Hollywood Created the Ancient World. It is all about movie-making in Hollywood and movie-watching in twentieth-century America (and Britain). All of the movies I explore in the body of the book are classified as ‘epics’ – a distinct and popular cinematic genre which played a central role in twentieth-century filmmaking and defined the ancient world for generations of spectators. Designs on the Past will provide a comprehensive study of how epic films were made during the period 1916-1965. The book examines issues of film-promotion, the casting of actors, set design, costume, hair and make-up design, music and sound, script, editing, and post-production marketing. The book keeps one vital point in mind: Hollywood film making was an industry and films were primarily made and sold as financial ventures. Sure, Hollywood movies could have integrity and artistic flair, but epic films, with their grandiose budgets, rarely took artistic risks; epics were the most conservative and conventional of the movies produced during the Golden Age of Hollywood.

I’m mad about old-time Hollywood. I collect pressbooks, original memorabilia, autographs of the stars, designs… All of these things are helping me put the book together. I love epic movies and I’m not ashamed to say that I am a product of overdosing on epics (like Ben Hur, Cleopatra and Quo Vadis) when I was a child. The more I watched epic movies, the more I became attuned to the ‘language’ of the genre – the conventions which traditionally combined to make the epics ‘Epic’. I became familiar with the works of the movie stars who performed in epics, the directors who created them, and the designers who visualised them – and as I did I came to realize the deep impact which epic films had on contemporary American filmmakers and cinema audiences.

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Sasha-Mae Eccleston: Doing the Right Thing in Chi-Raq (2015)

Like the iconic song solicited for it, Spike Lee’s film Do The Right Thing (1989)(hereafter, DRT), highlights the competing voices and values underlying the banal term ‘community’. Using a heat-wave as metaphor, it follows the increasingly tense relationships between individuals on a Brooklyn block. Tensions erupt, NYPD officers kill a young black male, and Sal’s Famous Pizza burns to the ground.

DRT illuminates how individual, heated exchanges are merely the peak of a massive subterranean mountain. Its plot covers 24 hours, the setting less than a square mile. But, direct address and Lee’s ‘signature shot’, for example, interrupt realism with surrealism. These techniques and others make it difficult to abstract generalized truth, whether about a racialized Other or about a sibling, from one perspective and, as a result, moral imperatives: how does one do the right thing and to whom is that owed?

The film garnered both acclaim and criticism as fundamentally neoliberal fare. That an African-American man directed, wrote, produced and acted in a film populated by mostly non-white actors deepens the film’s significance in an industry that rarely uses people of color to drive plot. Yet, as bell hooks explained, Lee avoids tackling race as a gendered phenomenon. Moreover, because the film focuses on spectacular violence, brazen utterance, and interpersonal conflict, entrenched structural racism remains untouched. In other words, Lee doesn’t go particularly far down the mountain once he uncovers it exists.

large_CHIRAQ_TEASERS_FINISHED_HALFSIZE_lowres1446591776Lee’s challenging 2015 film Chi-Raq rehashes DRT on many fronts.[1] Drawing on Aristophanes’ Lysistrata and its perceived contemporary legacy, Chi-raq portrays a neighborhood negotiating America’s gun violence epidemic. Following a Black child’s murder, gang-affiliated women ‘sex-strike’ for peace. This time Chicago provides the setting, not Lee’s native Brooklyn, and Kevin Wilmott adapts the ancient Greek comedy alongside Lee. They versify most of the dialogue and inject humor into their adamantly labeled satire (instead of, as some deem appropriate, tragedy).

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