Tuesday 4 June 2013

On the Framing Classical Reception Studies Conference: Day -1

I’m willing to admit that I may be jumping the gun here by posting an entry for Day -1, but as this is a day of preparation and packing, I figure it's worth a few paragraphs. Day 1 of the Framing Classical Reception Studies conference isn’t until June 6th; tomorrow, Day 0, will see me attempting to travel from Birmingham in the UK to Nijmegen in the Netherlands without taking a wrong turn and somehow ending up in Algiers. I travel fairly frequently, but I've yet to shed my tendency to get lost at the drop of a hat. Assuming I beat the odds and do manage to get there in the end, I'm hoping the conference will prove worth all the effort. 

The published program certainly suggests I'll not be disappointed. I’m particularly looking forward to presentations by Lorna Hardwick and Miriam Leonard; their work has come up quite a lot in my thesis research, and it’ll be good to finally encounter them in person. Charles Martindale is another scholar who's appeared repeatedly in my research, but that hasn't always been to my advantage. I don't think it's misrepresenting Professor Martindale to say that he dislikes the mixing of popular culture and classics (an opinion most recently expressed in a piece for the Classical Receptions Journal), and I've little doubt my thesis topic would horrify him. Still, he's a giant in this field, he'll be delivering the closing remarks of the conference, and I'm curious to hear what he has to say.

Also of great interest to me is a paper by Edith Hall and Henry Stead entitled "What Has Classical Reception To Do with Social Class?", which I imagine will expand on the research that's gone into their recently launched Classics and Class website. I've only just learned of the project, but its mission statement definitely got my attention: 
Our research is intended to contribute to a shift in public perceptions about the class connotations of ancient Greek and Roman antiquity, emphasising its status as an inherited cultural property to which everyone has right of access.
I can't adequately express just how much this resonates with my own thinking. Very sadly, the notion that the world of antiquity is suitable only for tweedy, stuffy old white men is still fairly widespread, and it's an attitude I find repellant. The classical world is for everyone. It's not the exclusive province of academics, and as the self-appointed guardians of this material, we have a moral obligation to make it accessible to whosoever shows an interest in it. Admittedly, this is a rather strident position for an unknown and unaccomplished MA student to take, but that doesn't make it any less true, and I'm glad that these far more erudite and influential individuals (among others) are fighting the good fight.

Still, despite my excitement, I’ll admit I’m also a little concerned. I've no idea how many other postgraduates will be in attendance, but I get the impression that many of my colleagues will be up at the Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Ancient Literature at St. Andrews. That was the other option for how to spend my weekend, and I hope I wasn't wrong in choosing to go to the Netherlands instead. Still, if I end up the youngest person in the room, it at least won't be the first time – the Antikythera Evening comes to mind (though that's a story best related over a friendly drink).

The conference’s lack of social media presence is also slightly worrying. There's no official Twitter account or hashtag, and though I’ve suggested #FCRS13, it’s entirely possible I’ll be the only person using it. This will likely affect how I'll be tweeting from the conference: though I'll share my usual random anecdotes between sessions, I'll probably blog about the day's papers in the evening rather than live-tweeting them as they're actually presented. It's a question of etiquette, and there's a world of difference between being one of several people in a session who's clicking away on a phone or laptop or tablet, and being the only person in the room with their iPhone out. The former is (hopefully) becoming more commonplace, but the latter can easily leave the impression that one just isn't paying attention, and I'd rather avoid getting tarred with that brush.

Still, things will all work out one way or another, and worrying won't do any good. I'm fairly sure it's going to be a good time in Nijmegen, and since I decided to fly home late in the evening of the 9th, I'll have a few hours to explore Amsterdam, too. I’m open to suggestions of places I should visit, though after this tweet it looks like I have no choice but to at least drop by the Van Gogh museumI'm quite okay with that.

Now, back to the packing I must go. More updates tomorrow. 

Hopefully not from Algiers.

1 comment:

  1. Safe travels and I hope this trip is fun and productive for you.