Spring 2016

Reception Studies: The Cultural Mobility of Classics

Emily Greenwood

In spite of connotations of classics and the classical as an established tradition based around a stable canon, Greek and Roman classical antiquity has never been a fixed object of study. It has changed as our knowledge of ancient Greece and Rome has grown and shifted, and as a function of history, intellectual movements, and taste. Classicists have turned to classical reception studies in an attempt to chart some of the different encounters that various historical audiences have had with Greek and Roman classics, and this wave of research poses interdisciplinary questions about the relation of Greek and Roman classics to world literatures and cultures. The emphasis on classical reception studies offers fresh ways of thinking about the cultural mobility of the classics without appealing to discredited, old-fashioned notions of “timeless importance” or “universal value.” This debate is explored here via a Malawian reception of Sophocles's Antigone.

EMILY GREENWOOD is Professor of Classics in the Department of Classics at Yale University. She is the author of Afro-Greeks: Dialogues Between Anglophone Caribbean Literature and Classics in the Twentieth Century (2010) and Thucydides and the Shaping of History (2006).

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