Will the people of the future still be reading classical literature and thinking about ancient exempla – and, if so, in what ways? This isn’t a topic that gets a great deal of attention in science fiction; I’m not thinking of the sorts of books that imagine a new Roman Empire with spaceships (see this list – the Trigan Empire lives!) or which deploy classical motifs as a key plot element (hello BSG) but rather those that try to imagine the world of the future in its own terms, but take the time to mention whether anyone still references Thucydides. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘classical reception’
2016, as I reflected on at least one occasion, was a year that seemed to represent a return to old-fashioned l’histoire événementielle, where world-changing developments occurred at the sort of pace with which we humans feel naturally comfortable (indeed, sometimes a bit faster than we might have preferred) rather than unfolding over decades or centuries. Both Brexit and the election of Trump represented, or appeared to represent, the sorts of dramatic turning-points that make for an exciting narrative, played out on a human timescale. But in addition – and this is something that I noted in passing, but could have made more of – it seems to represent, or can be claimed as, a series of events driven by humans and human-level factors, rather than vast, mysterious and impersonal forces and processes. Indeed, the force of the ‘Take Back Control’ and ‘Make America Great Again’ slogans is precisely that of a revolt against those who surrendered to abstract ideas like globalisation and the march of automation, in the false belief that they are more powerful than any human agency; we are presented with a reclaiming and repurposing of the progressive idea that something else besides eternal capitalism is still possible.
It struck me this morning that there may be a connection here to the sudden popularity of historical analogies, especially classical analogies, for contemporary political developments. (more…)
It’s podcast time! Welcome to another occasional episode of Radio Abahachi, in which I attempt to find some music inspired by Thucydides that I can actually bear to listen to!
[Update 15:35 21/12/16: just realised that there’s a minute or so of dead air towards the end; have hastily re-edited, and new version has been uploaded, but many apologies to anyone whose listening pleasure was spoiled by this.]
[As opposed to some of the actual ‘music’.]
[For further discussion of Bob Dylan’s reading (sic?) of Thucydides, see John Byron Kuhner’s ‘Tangled Up In Thucydides’ from Eidolon last year; more generally on T’s reception in modern culture, my chapter ‘The idea of Thucydides in the Western tradition’ in Lee & Morley, eds., A Handbook to the Reception of Thucydides.]
For all the ghastliness everywhere else, it’s felt like a good year for blogging. Partly this is because I’ve managed to keep up with this blog rather better than in previous years, and have written some things that I’m really rather proud of; increasingly, I’ve come to understand posts (and articles for online publications, of which I’ve also published a few this year) as valid outputs in their own right, rather than as either advertising for or shorter versions of ‘proper’ academic publications, or as a mere distraction from ‘proper’ research (though there have been times this year when blog posts are the only things I’ve felt capable of writing). Even more, however, it’s been the insights and ideas of other people, which I’d never have found or bothered to read without the internet (and, to give credit where it’s due, without the much-maligned Twitter), that have been most informative and inspiring – and this year I’ve remembered, most of the time, to keep a note of the posts that made the biggest impression and are certainly well worth reading if you haven’t yet seen them. (more…)
There’s a strong case to be made that the most active field of engagement with the classical past and its legacy outside the creative arts, and certainly the area where this engagement has the greatest potential for real world impact, is military education, especially in the United States. Several ancient authors have long been included within the canon of military and strategic studies: Thucydides above all, but also Homer, Xenophon and Caesar (and the candidate for Secretary of Defense, retired Marine Corps General James Mattis, is a devotee of Marcus Aurelius). Works on ancient warfare, largely based on these texts, regularly feature in lists of recommended reading: Donald Kagan on the Peloponnesian War, Victor Davis Hanson on the Western Way of War. This clearly derives from the importance of historical studies in the curricula of various military education establishments, most famously the US Naval War College with its use of Thucydides as a foundational text, and the way that this reading then regularly features in the public remarks of senior military officers.*
Recently – this is an impression rather than a scientific survey – this tendency seems to have increased; (more…)
I’ve been making a few changes to the blog recently – adding the Twitter feed, reordering some of the widgets, expanding the biographical information and the like – as a result of an interesting conversation a few months ago with a couple of people on Twitter (@lizgloyn and @EllieMackin, as I recall; apologies if I’ve forgotten others) about online presence. My move to Exeter this summer brought it home to me that this blog, plus my Twitter feed, represents my professional activities online at least as much as any official institutional profile (especially when I’m still struggling with the publications database). I’ve never trusted academiadotedu, so felt smugly reassured when their commercial orientation became more obvious this year – but that does bring to mind the things that this blog currently doesn’t do, that might be useful for some visitors. (more…)
Do classicists and ancient historians have a particular relationship with Europe or special reasons to fear a British exit from the European Union, compared with other academic disciples? I’ve been asked this question in relation to the newly-founded Classicists for Europe, which aims to add our voice to the campaign for the UK to STAY, and my answer would be: basically, no. We may perhaps be more likely than some to feel an affinity to Europe, given that most of us work on material from other European countries in close collaboration with continental colleagues, while the cultural inheritance of classical antiquity clearly transcends national claims or identities. But even if this gives us a slightly different outlook from historians of early modern England or analytical philosophers, it’s clearly about Europe rather than the EU; when it comes to the latter, our fears are those of researchers, teachers and students in all the other sciences – the threats to mobility, funding and infrastructure, the consequences of prolonged instability and uncertainty – and so the message of the campaign is ‘Us Too!’ rather than ‘We’re Special!’ (more…)