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Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

The Most Politic Historiographer: Thucydides in Modern Western Culture

Clifton Hill House, Bristol

Thucydides has been, at least since the nineteenth century, one of the most-cited and most influential classical thinkers. His work has inspired not only ancient historians and classicists, but historians of all periods, political theorists, international relations specialists, soldiers and military educators, and novelists, all of whom have found it a source of deep insight into the nature and experience of war and of how one should study this. This is the final research colloquium of the AHRC-funded project on Thucydides: reception, reinterpretation and influence, drawing together different themes in his modern reception with papers from a range of international experts and from members of the project team.

Geoffrey Hawthorn (Cambridge): Who does Thucydides please?

Aleka Lianeri (Thessaloniki): Time and Method: Thucydides’ contemporary history in nineteenth-century Britain

Christian Thauer (FU Berlin /U of Washington): Re-approaching Thucydides? An Intellectual History Perspective

Edith Foster (Ashland University): Narrating Battles: Thucydides and Ernst Jünger

Andreas Stradis (Bristol): Thucydides and Vietnam: A Vehicle for Ethical Professional Military Education

Seth Jaffe (Toronto): Reflections on the Straussian Thucydides

Neville Morley (Bristol): The Idea of Thucydides in Western Culture

Ben Earley (Bristol): The Spirit of Athens: Thucydides as a theorist of maritime empire

Liz Sawyer (Oxford):  From contemporary relevance to eternal truth: Thucydides and the Great Books movement from the 1960s to today

Discussants: Christian Wendt (FU Berlin), Emily Greenwood (Yale), Katherine Harloe (Reading)

Attendance is free, but numbers are strictly limited, and places must be reserved in advance: please contact Neville Morley on n.d.g.morley(at)bris.ac.uk by 15th November.

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This blog is going to go quiet for a couple of weeks as I’m off on holiday (and desperately trying to finish scribbling a paper on ‘History as Political Therapy’ for the American Political Science Association conference at the end of the month), but I thought I’d sign off with advance notice of a couple of events related to the Thucydides research project in Bristol in the autumn.

Might is Right? Ancient and Modern Debates

Sunday November 10th, Foyles Bookshop, Cabot Circus, 2pm.

“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”  So claimed an aide of George W. Bush in 2004, but it’s an idea that dates back to 5th century BC Greece and the historian Thucydides – one of the most-quoted ancient writers in debates about contemporary affairs, including on such topics as the invasion of Iraq and post-9/11 US foreign policy. This public event, part of the University of Bristol’s annual InsideArts week, draws on the work of the Bristol Thucydides project over the last four years: Studiospace, the UoB Student Drama Society, will be staging the Melian Dialogue, the famous passage in Thucydides’ work where he explores different approaches to justice and interest in inter-state relations, and this will be followed by a discussion between scholars working on different aspects of the topic (including Neville Morley and Ellen O’Gorman from Classics & Ancient History, and Torsten Michel from Politics; chaired by Josie McLellan from Historical Studies), and plenty of opportunity for questions from the audience.

Attendance is free, but we do ask you to reserve a place in advance; further details will appear on the project website (www.bris.ac.uk/classics/thucydides/events/) in due course.

Thucydides: Reception, Reinterpretation and Influence

Monday 25th-Tuesday 26th November, Clifton Hill House, Bristol

This final colloquium of the Bristol Thucydides project draws together different themes in the modern reception and influence of Thucydides, in different spheres of activity – history, politics, war and culture. It will probably have a different title at some point, and certainly a much better blurb, but obviously the main attraction is the line-up of speakers…

Geoffrey Hawthorn (Cambridge): Who does Thucydides please?

Aleka Lianeri (Thessaloniki): Time and Method: Thucydides’ contemporary history in nineteenth-century Britain

Christian Thauer (FU Berlin /U of Washington): Re-approaching Thucydides? An Intellectual History Perspective

Edith Foster (Ashland University): Narrating Battles: Thucydides and Ernst Jünger

Seth Jaffe (Toronto): The Straussian Thucydides

Andreas Stradis (Bristol): Thucydides and Vietnam: A Vehicle for Ethical Professional Military Education

Neville Morley (Bristol): The Idea of Thucydides in Western Culture

Ben Earley (Bristol): The Spirit of Athens: Thucydides as a theorist of maritime empire

Christian Wendt (FU Berlin): discussant

If you have any queries about either of these events, please contact me on n.d.g.morley(at)bris.ac.uk.

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What’s the best way to organise an academic research event? Actually that’s a stupid question; it all depends on what sort of an event you want, or what it’s intended to achieve. So, to narrow the focus to the sort of event I enjoy: what’s the best way to organise a research workshop on a particular theme, however broad or narrow, with the aim of having a productive and enjoyable discussion of its different aspects and with at least the possibility of generating new ideas and possibilities (new to me, at least, if not necessarily new in themselves)? I’ve spent the last few days co-ordinating the annual meeting of the Legacy of Greek Political Thought network in Bristol (and so am now thoroughly exhausted, hence liable to be a bit terse and bad-tempered), and my basic principle was to get a bunch of clever people interested in more-or-less connected if not similar things, put them in a room together and make sure that coffee and food are available at regular intervals. (more…)

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There is a persistent tendency among readers of Thucydides to complain about other people’s readings of Thucydides. Sometimes these are ridiculously wishy-washy and overly complex, severing the text from any connection to reality and any hope of it making a useful contribution to the world, sometimes these are absurdly simple and reductionist, denying the complexity of Thucydides’ thought and the complexity of the world in equal measure; what they have in common is that they’re all dramatically inferior to my reading. A key question for the study of Thukydidismus is the capacity of Thucydides’ text to be interpreted in such dramatically different and contradictory ways, and the malleability of Thucydides himself, able to recruited as a supporter by any number of different ideological projects. The final group of papers from the conference all engaged in different ways with this question. (more…)

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Two brilliant papers on the second day of the conferences, by Gerry Mara (Georgetown) and Christine Lee (Bristol), engaged with the idea of Thucydides as a democratic theorist, or at any rate as a theorist of democracy. This is an unfamiliar role for him, for a number of different reasons. For the historiographical tradition, the idea of Thucydides as a ‘theorist’ of any kind, as opposed to a historian of a more or less familiar sort (whether an ideal, objective-scientific historian or a cunning mythographer), is pretty well anathema. Those who do want to see him in a tradition of political thought, meanwhile, tend to focus on reading him in terms of international relations and world order; insofar as he is seen to comment on civic society, or as his narrative of events is seen to encode political ideas, his views are interpreted as thoroughly anti-democratic, with his praise of Pericles and his portrait of Cleon and post-Periclean Athens serving equally to undermine any optimism about a democratic system. It is striking that George Grote and John Stuart Mill, who both saw Athens as a positive model for present-day society, were forced to rework or ignore Thucydides when it came to this theme, despite the fact that his account was so central to the rest of their reconstruction of ancient Greece. In brief, if Thucydides appears to offer any sort of political theory, it seems to be a pessimistic and elitist one. (more…)

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Can’t quite believe that it’s been a month since the Thucydides Our Contemporary? conference in Bristol – though it has been one of those sorts of months. This does create a certain problem for the enterprise of blogging on all the different papers. As time has passed, so what particular persons said in their papers has become hard for me to remember exactly; I shall therefore discuss the remaining papers in terms of the themes that happen to interest me most – which is what’s ended up in my notes –  while at the same time trying, as far as possible, to give the general purport of what was actually said. Which is really a bit unfair to all those speakers whom I haven’t got round to discussing until now, but the good news is that they’re all contributors to the forthcoming Handbook to the Reception of Thucydides – so if you just hang on until 2014 or thereabouts, you can read what they actually said… (more…)

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Honouring Mary Beard

Mary Beard has been a supporter of Classics & Ancient History in Bristol for years (she’s a Vice-President of the Institute for Greece, Rome and the Classical Tradition), and so we were delighted to grab the opportunity – before everyone else starts doing it – of honouring her work as a scholar and public intellectual through the award of an honourary DLitt yesterday. You can read her own account of the experience here; the two things I’d add are that, as the Vice Chancellor himself noted, no graduand of any kind has ever tried to kiss the VC before (I think we can expect that anecdote to appear in future iterations of his traditional Graduation speech), and that I’ve never seen an honourary graduand look so positively joyful (normally they’re much too busy being solemn).

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