A panel at the Tenth Celtic Conference in Classics
19-22 July, 2017 in Montreal, Canada
Co-Hosted by McGill University and Université de Montréal
As scholars, Classicists tend to conceptualize our field as the stewardship of a cultural inheritance that links us with Greco-Roman antiquity in a relationship that has been cultivated since the Renaissance. This self-conscious imagined community also includes members of society who have been acculturated to revere classical antiquity and thus to participate in its reception: through educational systems and other institutions that incorporate classical references into their discourses; as artists whose relationships with classical sources inform new works; as consumers and patrons of the works acknowledged to constitute the classical tradition. For sociological and historical reasons, the conversation around this tradition has tended to focus on groups and discourses associated with elites and those striving for the social validation that allegiance to elite mores and values is thought to earn. But what of engagements with elements of Greco-Roman antiquity that signal little, or even no, allegiance to the classical tradition as the purveyor of a set of values, protocols, and ideological imperatives that long undergirded Classics?
This panel aims to investigate the potentially self-contradictory concept of “popular Classics.” How do elements of the ancient Greco-Roman world appeal to, and appear to, people who are not invested in the classical tradition as cultural patrimony? While the products of “popular Classics” usually can be explained by scholars within the framework of the classical tradition, and marketers have at times leveraged that connection to appeal to institutional gatekeepers, this identification may not reflect how their creators conceptualized them, nor how their consumers ultimately perceive or value them. But if not as expressions of the classical tradition, what cultural work are elements of Greco-Roman antiquity performing for members of a given society? To what extent is a distinction between “popular” and “elite” culture—as defined by medium, genre, and/or testimony from creators, critics, marketers, or consumers—explanatory of how ancient Greco-Roman material is handled and discussed in a particular place and period?
The participants in this panel will collaborate toward building a theoretical framework for interpreting such engagements with Greco-Roman antiquity. In proposing individual presentations, applicants are invited to use case studies from a variety of media, including but not limited to blockbuster films, television series, video games, comics, graphic novels, non-fiction and mass-market fiction, fan fiction, editorial cartooning, fashion, advertising, sports reporting, children’s literature, cartoons, political/sketch comedy, music, and music videos. Applicants might further focus on specific genres, e.g. superhero comics, science fiction films, biography, or heavy metal music. Engagements with Greco-Roman material may be fundamental to the cultural product in question (e.g. television series like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys or Plebs), or may be used as a key idea (e.g. the “gladiators” of Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal).
This panel will accept a total of 15 papers of 35 minutes each; a limited number of slots may be shared by pairs of scholars who would like to deliver a joint presentation or two shorter, related presentations. Participants are expected to attend all four days of the conference in order to contribute to the discussion as it develops. Applicants of any rank are invited to submit an abstract of 300-500 words plus select works cited, and a one-page CV including any relevant research, teaching, and service/organizing experience, to Professor Meredith Safran, Trinity College (USA), at <email@example.com>. Submissions are due by 9 January, 2017. NB: the Celtic Conference in Classics is self-funding; all participants must bear their own expenses.