This project on the modern Reception of Classical Texts was set up to document and analyse the upsurge of interest in Greek and Roman material which has been a feature of the late twentieth century and continues into the twenty first. This cultural remodelling and reimagining has often coincided with times of social and political crisis: conflict; resistance; trauma; emancipation; exploration of old and new identities. It also has a strong aesthetic energy. The ancient texts provide a springboard from which creative practitioners can forge their own techniques; the texts represent traditions from which the new creators can grow their work and against which they can contend.
Cultural historians of the future will look back on the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries as a time of cultural shift. The ways in which the texts, performances and ideas of Greece and Rome have been characterised, interpreted, dismembered, reworded and rewritten represent one strand in these global changes. Because Greek and Roman antiquity is a part of many cultural traditions the uses made of it provide an index for comparison across place and time. Using antiquity as a field for playing with and thinking through difficult and threatening issues allows a critical distance that can cast an illuminating light on modernity as well as antiquity.
The drama database and the poetry research document evidence that is fundamental to the critical assessment of the aesthetic impact and the cultural hinterland of Greek and Roman material in Anglophone theatre and literature c. 1970 – c. 2005. It preserves detail that will contribute to analysis of large issues of social, political and artistic change. The case studies and data bases will provide a corpus of material to which cultural historians will be able to refer in the future – for example when they assess the contribution made by classical receptions to constructs of cultural memory, temporality and identity in a key period of trauma, fracture and change in the last part of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first.
Because we aim to provide data that will be used by others who have varying investigative priorities and research questions, we place particular emphasis on the transparency of the methods and categories we use. In addition to identifying and preserving primary sources (many of which document performances that would otherwise be ephemeral) we hope that we shall also have provided a snapshot of how classical reception scholarship operated at this particular time and place (thus also in itself becoming a primary source).