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* (but attendance is open to all career stages) and will be held on Thursday 2nd November 2017 at the Institute of Classical Studies, Senate House, London, UK.

Respondent: Prof Lorna Hardwick.

Expressions of Interest welcome NOW.

Deadline for Abstracts 10 September 2017.

The classical makes its presence felt in modern poetry in apparently infinite ways. The translation of classical poetry is enormously variable both in what it does and the way it does it. Other traces and presences—lurking or overt—of ‘the classical’ in modern poetic texts (e.g. allusions, use of ancient myth and history, narrative frameworks, rewritings, writings ‘After…’ etc.) are even harder to define.


Today’s relationship with the classical world is changing. While the poet Kate Tempest has recently championed the use of classical myth, claiming that the “old stories… reinvigorate the present tense…” (BBC R4: 8 May 2017), others are less sure of the cultural and social relevance of the classical in contemporary discourse. For example, the poet Ross Sutherland provocatively suggests that the videogame Street Fighter 2 provides a better frame of poetic reference than classical literature in his preface to his sonnet collection HYAKURETSU KYAKU (2011). Such recent statements clearly demonstrate the contested nature of the classical within British poetry and society more broadly. Out of such contestation numerous questions arise.

Education clearly plays a key role in our attitude towards the classical. In much of 18th- and 19th-century Europe, for example, the majority of published poets were “classically trained”, i.e. they were taught to read Latin and (often) Greek from an early age, and they wrote in ways that expected similar educational experience from their readers. Most poets and readers now do not read the classical texts—which they may or may not use to access the classical world—in the languages in which they were written. This fundamentally changes the genetics of world poetry.

The effects are visible by shifts in attitudes towards ancient Greece and Rome. They also appear as changes in the creative practice of those poets who continue to engage with ancient works, which in turn changes the way the modern ‘classical’ poetry feels and not only what it means, but how it means.

This day workshop encourages experimentation (both theoretical and formal**) and hopes to explore the full extent of engagements with ancient Greek and Roman culture in poetry in any language and medium made in the 20th and 21st centuries. It seeks to stretch the boundaries of what we know about the mechanics of the creative process, to test the theories we currently use to think about the reception of the classical in poetry, and to ask what is distinctive about the intellectual, formal and aesthetic frameworks that underlie engagements with Greek and Roman antiquity in 20th- and 21st-century poetry.

What does the ancient text (or those classical figures and stories within it look/feel/sound like in modern poetic form? And why do they look/feel/sound that way? What are the key pressures of the present that forge this modern poetic classicism, and how does that compare to earlier manifestations? If the current dominant model for approaching poetic interaction between ancient and modern texts is intertextuality, is it not high time we identified and explored alternative models that more effectively illuminate the practice of poets and the experience of readers and audiences of poetry?

*Postgraduate researchers and Early Career post-doctoral researchers (i.e. those not already in permanent employment) are invited to present 15-minute papers (or equivalent) on the subject.

**We will consider and advise on any proposed idea – the earlier you get in touch the better.

Papers (or equivalents) will be delivered in English but are strongly encouraged from scholars who engage with non-English-language poetic receptions from all parts of the world. Proposals for presentations via Skype, and/or pre-recorded videos, etc… are also welcome from those unable to travel. Please do, however, investigate the availability of travel bursaries from home institutions and other funding bodies. Where possible and profitable, poems under discussion will be circulated among participants in advance with abstracts.

Please direct all queries, expressions of interest and abstracts (of no more than 300 words) to

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