CAPN Abstract 8: Amy McCauley on Oedipa and Tragedy

Our Classics And Poetry Now workshop on 2 November at Senate House, London, will culminate with a paper read by the Manchester-based poet Amy McCauley.

In fact, at the workshop’s after party — downstairs at The Duke — Amy will perform from her book Oedipa in an evening of poems, songs and pints, alongside performances from poets, Caroline Bird, George Chopping and a song or two from singer and journalist Yo Zushi.

In her abstract McCauley writes:

“The questions which have most bothered me in my poetic practice are as follows.:

1) How might language be made to carry bodily affect – that is, a sense of embodied emotional life; a somatic presence of feeling or sensation – as well as, or alongside, a sense of scepticism towards the ‘self’-presence and ‘self’-containment of the ‘I’ that speaks?

2) How might ‘individual’ utterance carry a sense of doubt concerning its own ‘originality’ – i.e. how might ‘I’ occupy a space which is both ‘local’ and ‘collective’?

3) How might so-called ‘personal’ or ‘private’ forms of experience be explored as political phenomena?

In this paper I will discuss how I have put the intellectual, formal and aesthetic qualities of tragedy to use in my performance book Oedipa, and demonstrate how the use of tragic voices offers a reply to the questions above. I will propose the tragic ‘I’ is inevitably in conversation with an array of performances, tropes, myths and masks which organise the discursive apparatus around how ‘I’ experiences the world, and discuss the uses of intertextuality in making the voices for Oedipa. As part of this discussion I will suggest the tragic ‘I’ is a social phenomenon, constructed through a palimpsest of cultural and linguistic mythologies which always inevitably pre-exist ‘I’’s attempt to narrate itself.

Tragedy proposes that to utter is to be implicated in the social imaginary, is to enter civic discourse, is to be subject to the pressures, histories and social performances of other selves, as well as to the vertical and horizontal vicissitudes of etymology and language-use. I will reflect on the way tragedy transformed me from a ‘lyric poet’ to one concerned primarily with long-form polyvocal performance works, and discuss how my approach to language-use in Oedipa has radically altered my practice.”

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CAPN Abstract 7: Martina Delucchi on Pascoli’s Alexander

Martina Delucchi, who recently graduated in Philology and Ancient History (MA) from University of Pisa, Italy, will speak at our Classics And Poetry Now workshop in Senate House, London, on Thursday 2nd November. Her paper is entitled: “‘Dream is the infinite shadow of Truth’ Pascoli’s Alexander: the cosmic vertigo”, and in it Delucchi will introduce the classical in the work of whom she calls “one of the greatest Italian poets of the last two centuries”, Giovanni Pascoli.

“After his death Alexander the Great became a legend. Beside the rational and scientific accounts, his epic starts to tickle the imagination of ancient authors, who began to produce fantastic and bizarre works. They mostly converge in the Romance of Alexander, which has been transmitted in several Greek versions, one in Latin and even one in Armenian.”

“Despite the low quality of this patchwork of traditions, the Romance becomes increasingly popular throughout the Middle Ages and becomes one of the first epic cycles in langue d’oil. Giovanni Pascoli draws inspiration from this epic to write the most famous composition of the Convivial Poems: ‘Alexandros’.”

“More enjoyable and less cryptic than ‘Gog and Magog’, the other poem about Alexander, it was greeted with immediate success. The title of the collection, Convivial Poems, takes the readers back to the Greek symposium and to the Latin carmina convivalia, but the themes are not limited to aesthetic preciousness.”

“Pascoli weaves together notions that come from his deep knowledge of the Classics and he manages to draw them together in the 20th century. He uses the distant past — the past he knew so well, thanks to the lectures of his beloved and hated Professor Carducci — to talk about himself and about his relationship first with his surroundings.”

Here is the opening of Pascoli’s Alexandros, translated by Delucchi herself:

– We came: this is the End. O holy Herald, shall boom the blare!
Not another land if not up there, in the air,
the one that shines in the middle of your shield

o Pezhetairoi[1]: wandering and solitary
land, never reached by anyone. From the last shore
you see there, Carian mistophoroi,[2]

the last river, Ocean without wave.
O you who came from the Haemo and from the Carmel
here, the land blurs and collapses

inside the radiant night of the sky.

[1] πεζέταιροι: literally “foot-companions”, from pezos “foot warrior” or “infantryman”, and hetairos “companion” or “friend”. They were the men who fought in the phalanx.

[2] μισϑοϕόρος: “mercenary”.

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CAPN Abstract 6: Holly Ranger on Stanescu’s Ovid

>>There are still a few spaces left at our Classics And Poetry Now workshop in Senate House, London, on Thursday 2nd November. Don’t forget, it’s open to all.

The relationship between Ovid and the US-based Romanian poet Saviana Stănescu is the focus of Holly Ranger’s paper at #CAPN17. Stănescu currently lives in New York, where she is Assistant Professor of Playwriting and Theatre Studies at Ithaca College, and Associate Artistic Director at Richard Schechner’s East Coast Artists.

photo by Jody Christopherson

Introducing her paper, Ranger tells us:

“Exiled to Romania in 8 CE, Ovid is now hailed as its “national poet”. Despite his own misgivings about Tomis, a distinctive Romanian reception tradition has repurposed Ovid’s life and works in the service of nationalist agendas by Romanians and anti-communist Romanian exiles alike. In sharp contrast, Stănescu uses Ovid to speak about immigrants and emigrants, refugees, sex workers, and minority Roma communities.”

“In a poetic cycle titled ‘Bad Girls’ Bed-Time Stories’ in Diary of a Clone (2003), Stănescu presents a reading of Metamorphoses which casts the epic poem as a cautionary fairy-tale to police female behaviour. In Google Me! (2006), however, the poet suggests that her earlier fraught relationship with Ovid was due predominantly to the fog of the (patriarchal) classical tradition—Google Me! now opens up a conversation with Ovid to find a place of mutual understanding.”

“In ‘TRISTIA: Letters of a Barbarian Woman’, Stănescu invents a Getan slave-girl named Tristia who speaks back to Ovid. The cycle is a collage of found poems, ‘lost poems’, webpages, translations, creative ‘responses’ or replies, and verbatim quotations from Loeb texts and Stănescu writes in Romanian, English, and “that vibrant space in-between”—a Global English that celebrates the hybridity and metamorphoses of language, form, and identity in “that space created by the global gods of internet and migration”. Her cut-and-paste of media and forms becomes a means to reclaim the Ovidian and to make material the hybridity and lability of transnational and online identities.”

“The explicitly Ovidian poems in the collection shade and flow into the surrounding poems of Google Me! to stage diasporic identity crises, fantasies of escape and renewal, and the smashing of national and racial stereotypes that prescribe fixed identities.”

The full poetry collection from which the ‘Tristia’ sequence is taken can be downloaded from Saviana Stanescu’s website here:

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CAPN Abstract 5: Hanna Paulouskaya on Mayakovsky and Horace

At our Classics And Poetry Now workshop on November 2nd a second Soviet Russian classical reception is presented by Hanna Paulouskaya. Hanna is a Belarusian classicist and cultural historian based in University of Warsaw’s Faculty of “Artes Liberales”. Her paper on 2 November will focus on the Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and his connections to the Roman poet Horace.

Paulouskaya summarises her paper thus:

“Mayakovsky’s poetry and poetical programme aimed to break all connections with “oldish dead literature”, especially with Russian classical authors and contemporary classicizing poets. “Throw Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc., etc. overboard from the ship of modernity” became one of the slogans of Russian vanguard.

But what was Mayakovsky’s attitude to classical Latin and Greek authors? In his biographies he emphasizes that he was kicked out from gymnasium at the 5th grade. He stresses that he has no interest in writing erudite poetry for intellectuals. He wants to address the proletarian reader. He did, however, study at the classical gymnasium, in Kutaisi, Georgia, and then later in Moscow.

At sixteen he spent a year in prison repeating Latin, and reading Caesar alongside Marxists writers. Most of his metropolitan listeners were also educated in a similar way—for they were mainly students and young poets.

Mayakovsky fought for the word—modern, sharp, electrified. He struggled to find a new poetic rhythm, the rhythm of the street and the big city. He took to writing propaganda verses as a proud citizen of a new society. He was a popular performer of his poems. He made a revolution in Russian poetry, revealed his secrets in his own Ars Poetica and, right at the beginning of his career, even declared himself a king of the word.

Mayakovsy’s programme, his poetic ambition, corresponds in many ways to those of Latin authors, especially to that of Horace. Though, most likely, Mayakovsky never imitated his Roman colleague, he lived in a similar historical epoch and appears to have experienced similar moods. As Alexandre Blok famously heard the rhythm of revolutionary St Petersburg in Catullus’ 63 poem, Vladimir Mayakovsky echoes Horace on the streets of Moscow.”

Here’s one of the Mayakovsky poems Paulouskaya discusses in her paper –just to whet your appetite!



The street has caved in like the nose of a syphilitic.
The river is pure lechery leaked out in drool.
Having stripped off their skivvies, to the last little leaflet,
the gardens indecently sprawl across June.

I step out on the square,
placing a burnt-out
city block on my head like a red wig.
The people are frightened—dangling from my mouth,
a shout, partly chewed, is still wagging its legs.

But I won’t be berated, but I won’t be condemned—
like a prophet’s, my path will be strewn with flowers.
All these people, the ones with the caved-in noses, know:
I am your poet.

Your Judgment Day scares me about as much as a tavern!
Prostitutes will carry me forth like a sacred relic,
carry me alone through the burning buildings
and show me to God in their own justification.

And God will break down in tears over my little book!
No words—just convulsions stuck together in a wad;
he’ll run around the sky with my poems tucked in his armpit,
and, panting for breath, read them to his acquaintances.

Vladimir Maykovsky. Selected poems, trans. by James H. McGavran III. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 2013. Continue reading

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CAPN Abstract 4: Anna Trostnikova on Piotrovsky’s Catullus

We are delighted that our Classics And Poetry Now workshop on 2 November will have two papers devoted to Soviet Russian poetical engagements with the classical. Soviet Classics is an exciting and growing field within Classical Reception Studies.

Anna Trostnikova is a PhD candidate at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her paper is entitled: “Attis in 1929: Piotrovsky’s  translation of Catullus 63 in the poetical and political context of early Soviet Russia.” This is how she summarises her presentation:

“In the preface to his translation Adrian Piotrovsky unequivocally states that the aim of his work was to make Catullus’ book a piece of contemporary poetry. In my paper, I analyse the ways in which Piotrovsky made this happen. I concentrate my research on a single poem, the poem which Piotrovsky judged one of the most important in Catullus œuvre — epyllion 63.

Surprisingly Piotrovsky’s interpretation of Catullus’ poem Attis, which is discussed at length in the preface to the book, offers little help in understanding the importance and contemporaneity of the poem in its new Soviet setting. He argued, for example, explicitly against its historical and political contextualisation, and instead presented Attis as a mysterious song about a city man trading in the urban life for one of seclusion in the wild Asian nature. Paradoxically, Piotrovsky’s method of translating this metamorphosis of Attis was, in his own words, an approximation of the poem to forms of old Russian sectarian songs, whose poetics, without doubt,  goes back to the ancient mystic poetry of the East.

By choosing this peculiar source of inspiration for his 1929 translation of Attis into Russian Piotrovsky not only consciously placed his work in the realm of contemporary formalist scholars’ debates on the origins of literary genres, but also, and more importantly, closely engaged with more immediate poetical and political reality.

Trostnikova has generously offered a translation of an extract of Piotrovsky’s Catullus 63 into English (63 lines 1-25):

Attis rushed through the seas on a flying, light bark,
He hurried, swiftly running, into the thicket of Phrygian woods,
Into the mazes of greenwood shaws, to the sacred places of the goddess.
Incited by the raging passion, drunk with impetuous fury,
He whitened with a sharp stone his young body.
And feeling himself light, sensing unmanly flesh,
Aspersing with warm blood the flinty scorched meadow,
He waved in a maidenly hand the sonorous resonant timbrel.
This is your timbrel, Cybebe, your sacred, o mother, timbrel.
In the bull’s hide sunk the fingers. Under the palm [of the hand] the tambourine began to sing.
Yelling, to the obedient friends, the frantic voice appealed:
“Into the mountains, Galli! Into the forest of Cybebe! Into the mazes of the groves, do hurry up in crowds
Into the mountains, Galli! Dyndymos lady’s obedient creatures!
Swarm of exiles, it’s me that you followed towards the alien lands
Rushing you followed my tracks, obeying my speech
The saline waves did not frighten us, unstable trough of the sea did not subvert us.
Disdaining the gift of Venus, you whitened your flesh.
Rejoice, rush swiftly, let the heart leap in the chest.
Oblige the goddess! Hasten, [follow] me, Galli!
Into the Phrygian forest! Into the home of Cybebe! To the sacred Phrygian places!
There rumble resonantly the tambourine, there the cymbals  sonorously sound.
There the round dances of Maenads trample down the grass.
There the Maenads cry, swirling in the frantic dance.
There ramps the goddess’ rave-inspired host
We ought to rush there! For there desire calls us!”

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CAPN Abstract 3: Sabrina Mancuso on Cardarelli’s “Ajace”

The Italian poet and journalist Vincenzo Cardarelli (1887-1959) is the subject of Sabrina Mancuso’s paper at the Classics and Poetry Now Workshop, held at Senate House on 2 November 2017. Mancuso, a PhD student in ancient Greek at the University of Tübingen (Germany), summarises her paper as follows:

“Ajax — compared to the other plays of Sophocles — is a work close to Homeric ethics because of its exaltation of self-affirmation and keen interest in public opinion. The character of the Greek hero Ajax is defined again and again by terms related to “shame”. This paper is a comparison between the concept of shame in Sophocles’ Ajax and in the poem ‘Ajace’ by Vincenzo Cardarelli. Continue reading

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CAPN Abstract 2: Jenny Messenger on Borges’ Neoplatonic Poetry

On Thursday 2nd November at the Classics And Poetry Now workshop in Senate House Jenny Messenger will give a paper called ‘Replete with Reception’. It is about the presence of Plotinus in Borges’ poetry. Messenger summarises her paper as follows:

“Much like a twenty-first century classical reception scholar, Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) was endlessly intrigued by the familiarity and distance of the classical past. He made multiple allusions to classical antiquity in his work, enfolding far-flung people, places and concepts into the sphere of a single poem or short story.

Continue reading

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CAPN Abstract 1: Rossana Zetti on Brecht’s Antigone

We are delighted to be able to share with you some information about Rossana Zetti’s forthcoming paper at Classics and Poetry Now 2017 on Thursday 2nd November.

In the run up to the workshop we will share similar information about each paper. The reason for this is, first, to let people know what kind of work is going on in the field, and who is doing it. Secondly, we would like to share the primary materials (i.e. the ancient and modern poems under discussion) so that those who are coming to the workshop can easily read up beforehand.

Rossana Zetti is a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh and her paper is entitled:

Ideological and Creative Practice in Brecht’s Re-telling of Antigone’s first stasimon Continue reading

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Classics And Poetry Now, 2nd November 2017, Booking Open

CRSN’s next event will be held at Senate House, London on Thursday 2nd November 2017. It is a Classics And Poetry Now! workshop supported by CRSN, Institute for Classical Studies and Open University, and organised by Henry Stead ( Please contact him with any queries.

For more information about the workshop see the Call for Papers. Attendance is £10 (payable in cash at registration) and spaces are limited, so please book your spot early by emailing Henry. Just send a message with your name, affiliation (if appropriate) and “CAPN2017” in the subject bar and you’ll be on the list.

After the workshop there will be an evening of poems in a nearby pub (The Duke, Doughty Mews, London). Poets Caroline Bird, Amy McCauley and friends will perform their work. This is open to all — a donation of £5 on the door would help towards costs (excluding workshop speakers).

Key texts and information about each paper will be circulated over the coming weeks. Follow CRSN on Twitter to receive updates, and use #CAPN17 to join in the conversation!


PDF available HERE

1030-1100 coffee and welcome

1100-1130 Martina Delucchi, University of Pisa, “Dream is the infinite shadow of Truth” Pascoli’s Alexander: the cosmic vertigo.

1130-1150 Sabrina Mancuso, University of Tübingen, Ajax and shame from Sophocles to Cardarelli. (VIDEO and discussion)

1150-1200 break

1200-1230 Rossana Zetti, University of Edinburgh, Ideological and Creative Practice in Brecht’s Re-telling of Antigone’s first Stasimon.

1230-1300 Jenny Messenger, University of St. Andrews, Replete with Reception: Borges and Plotinus.

1300-1400 lunch

1400-1430 Anna Trostnikova, Royal Holloway, University of London, Attis in 1929: 
Piotrovsky’s translation of Catullus 63 in poetical and political context of early Soviet Russia.

1430-1500 Hanna Paulouskaya, Faculty of “Artes Liberales” of the University of Warsaw, Mayakovsky vs Horace.

1500-1510 break

1510-1540 Holly Ranger, Saviana Stanescu’s encounters with Ovid.

1540-1610 Amy McCauley, Oedipa and the Uses of Tragedy.

1610-1630 break

1630-1730 Round Table Discussion led by Lorna Hardwick, Open University.

1930-2100ish Poems in the Pub: Caroline Bird, Amy McCauley and Special Guests — All welcome for after party in The Duke, Doughty Mews, London.

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AMPRAW: updated CFP

We’re delighted to share this updated CFP for this year’s AMPRAW conference, which includes more details on confirmed speakers and funding sources. 

We are pleased to announce that the University of Edinburgh, in collaboration with the University of St Andrews and the University of Glasgow, will host the Seventh Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in the Reception of the Ancient World (AMPRAW) from 23-24 November 2017. This conference is generously supported by the School of History, Classics and Archaeology (University of Edinburgh), the School of Classics (University of St Andrews), the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities (SGSAH), the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies (SPHS), the Classical Association (CA) and the Classical Association of Scotland (CAS).

The central theme of AMPRAW 2017 is the concept of community. In 450/451 BC Pericles passed a law delineating stricter requirements for obtaining Athenian citizenship, and in doing so described his vision of community. In 2016, the UK voted to leave the European Union, a decision that will continue to have a significant impact on the concept of ‘community’ for UK citizens. Recent political and socio-economic developments worldwide have put notions of what it means to be part of a particular community, and also the concept of the community itself, under increased scrutiny. This conference will therefore explore how definitions of community (geographical, artistic, intellectual, political, cultural and economic) have been shaped and complicated by classical works and/or how classical receptions have prompted and continue to prompt new insight into community groups. Through contributions from Classics and other, related disciplines (including History, Archaeology, Philosophy, Art History, Epigraphy and Palaeography), the conference will emphasise the ways in which classical works can be used not only to comment on and engage with concepts of community, but also to shape communities from within. Since the conference focuses on reception, papers addressing topics in Late Antiquity, Byzantine and Medieval Studies are welcome as well.

In addition to chaired panels, AMPRAW 2017 will feature a graduate panel on networking and career in collaboration with the Classical Reception Studies Network (CRSN) as well as three key note lectures by Professor Douglas L. Cairns (University of Edinburgh), Professor Patrick J. Finglass (University of Bristol) and Emeritus Professor Lorna Hardwick (Open University). Other confirmed speakers are Dr. Lilah Grace Canevaro, Dr. Christian Djurslev and the British playwright Zinnie Harris. Moreover, for the first time in the history of the AMPRAW conference, we aim to publish a selection of papers in a peer-reviewed edition. More information on this will be made available later.

Those wishing to present a paper of 20 minutes should please submit an abstract of up to 200 words outlining the proposed subject of their presentation, as well as their affiliation, to by 3 September 2017. For further information, you can also contact Mark Huggins ( or Jenny Messenger ( Thanks to the support of the SGSAH, the SPHS and the CA, a number of small travel bursaries for doctoral researchers based both in Scotland and further afield are available.


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