Athanasopoulou, Efstathia (University of Patras)

Trapped in Winckelmann’s “classical standards”: The Unclassical Satyr Drama

athanef@gmail.com – Friday 21/09, 15.45, Panel 5

The aim of this paper is to explore how the genre of satyr drama, a drama performed together with tragedy and comedy on the 5th century Athenian stage has suffered from Winckelmann-like ideas concerning classics-based normativity. In particular, the satyr drama which, with the exception of Euripides’ Cyclops, has been preserved in fragments and features the chorus of satyrs as protagonist has been received as a primitive, ridiculous, uncivilized and lesser dramatic genre which has nothing to do with the ideal democratic polis of classical Athens. This approach towards a classical dramatic genre, could be instantiated in a comment which followed the 1912 discovery at Oxyrynchus of Sophocles’ satyr play Ichneutai: “When one looks over what is left of these satyr dramas, he cannot help being surprised that the great tragic poet who produced such masterpieces as the Oedipus Tyrannus, the Antigone and the Electra could stoop to such composition” (Bates 1936, 23). This philological reaction encapsulates the interpretative climate of the 20th century which, two centuries after Winckelmann, remained deeply impregnated in and haunted from the classicization of classics. Winckelmann in The History of Ancient Art: Among the Greeks (trans. Lodge) finds it difficult to reconcile the classical image of the old, corpulent Silenus with that of the foster-father of Dionysus, the god of civilization (p. 79). In addition, he dedicates whole subchapters to the exaltation of the ideal beauty of selectively chosen young fauns and satyrs (part II chapter 1, 5-7), thus furthering the distance between the modern ideal image of classical satyrs and the one actually appearing on a significant number of classical vases. Furthermore, Winckelmann’s “noble simplicity and calm grandeur” seems to have introduced sculptural stillness as the norm for modern theatrical receptions of drama, thus further alienating modern spectators from the ceaseless onstage movement of the chorus of low (?) satyrs. Finally, satyr drama’s satyrs (in the plural) are not only ugly and constantly on motion but are also not to be taken seriously. Satyr drama in its modern reception is consistently deprived of its belonging to and participating in the classical culture. “If we were to believe in the 18th century German Hellenism”, Friedell scathingly comments (Friedell 1927, p. 31 trans. in North, 2012, 59), “then the main occupation of the classical Greeks would have been to read extensively Winckelmann’s texts”. However, they preferred to go to the theatre to watch together with tragedy and comedy, satyr plays.


Bryant Davies, Rachel (Durham University/Oxford Archive)

“Too classical”? The Popular Reception of Ancient Epic in Georgian and Victorian Burlesque Drama

rachel.g.bryant-davies@durham.ac.uk – Friday 21/09, 16.15, Panel 5

 Classical burlesques—theatrical entertainments which evolved through the 19th-century to outwit censorship in Britain—transformed the Iliad and Odyssey to lucrative comic effect. This case-study of Homeric burlesque illustrates the wide-ranging literary and societal effects of classical cultural normativity. At a time when ‘dramatic genres became categories of major ideological dispute’ (Moody, Illegitimate Theatre, CUP, 2007: 5), classical culture enjoyed a renaissance of popular enthusiasm through cheaper, more accessible forms than the ‘highbrow’ opera and dramas presented at Drury Lane and Covent Garden. Only these two London venues could stage uninterrupted spoken drama: other theatres combined song, dance, pantomime, and circus acts to rework canonical literature. Spectators and readers of reviews, from across social classes, were confronted with dramatised epic scenes, or Shakespearean scenes re-cast with Homeric characters, alongside, topical talking-points. Yet this broad impact was not celebrated by all critics: the presentation of the classical canon to less educated spectators caused particular concern. In addition, while the pastiche elements and almost centonic construction were usually admired by the most ‘knowing’, critics often judged burlesques by how closely they followed their ostensible classical sources. Schoch (Not Shakespeare, CUP, 2002: 7) demonstrated how Shakespearean ‘burlesques expose the fragility of official Bardolatrous culture’. As Homer’s superior position on the Albert Memorial indicates, classical—especially epic—burlesques aimed their satire at an even more privileged target: classicising culture and the elite intellectual establishment. I will argue that, although the tradition of burlesquing Homer began in antiquity, these ‘lowbrow’ disposable parodies of the highest literary form were more problematic victims of retrospective normativity. The exigencies of censorship excluded popular drama from the canon, both at the point of creation and by subsequent scholars working from a monolithic definition of traditional spoken drama (see Worrall, Theatric Revolution, Oxford, 2006: 19), which ignores the key role played by song and dance in antiquity. Only recently has classical burlesque begun to be analysed for its content, as well as celebrated for its popularity. As this paper will show, two of the most substantial epic burlesques, Robert Brough’s Iliad (1858) and F.C. Burnand’s Ulysses (1865), alongside the popular 1833 circus adaptation of The Siege of Troy, reveal the potency of classical (anti-)norms in reformulating modern society: the black slaves and Amazons who saved Troy at Astley’s Amphitheatre were included in children’s souvenirs, while Brough was publicly linked to political subcultures that challenged the Classics’ established role, and Etonian F.C. Burnand re-located Ithaca to an American slave plantation. 


Fornaro, Sotera (University of Sassari)

Che cos’è un classico? L’anti-classicismo di J.M.Coetzee ed il suo significato nella storia di un’idea

fornaro@uniss.it – Thursday 20/09, 15.45, Panel 2

Con il discorso Che cos’è un classico?(1991) lo scrittore di origine sudafricana J. M. Coetzee, premio nobel per la letteratura nel 2003, si contrapponeva all’omonimo discorso di Thomas Stearn Eliot, pronunciato in piena guerra mondiale, nel 1944, per proporre una concezione di classico lontana dalla normatività winckelmanniana e dal suo centro europeo, per estendersi a tutto ciò (non necessariamente un’opera d’arte) che ‘sopravvive alla peggiore barbarie’. Nel classico, dunque, Coetzee vede il realizzarsi di un concetto generale di ‘umanità’ dalle immense potenzialità morali, perché è attraverso questa umanità che generazioni di individui riescono a salvarsi dagli orrori della storia. Quest’idea di ‘classico’ da parte di uno scrittore nella cui formazione, avvenuta durante l’apartheid, la cultura classica europea rappresenta una cultura lontana, straniera e colonizzatrice, percorre gli scritti narrativi e saggistici di Coetzee. Da una parte, dunque, Coetzee intende emancipare l’idea di classico dalla tradizione europea e da quella greca e latina e particolare. Ma dall’altra enfatizza il significato ed il valore della religione laica dei Greci, iniziata da Winckelmann, tanto legata alla vita ed alla gioia di vivere, rispetto all’etica della sopportazione e della sofferenza di cui si sostanzia l’insegnamento cristiano: e questo accade specialmente in un denso episodio del romanzo Elisabeth Costello (2003), significativamente intitolato Le discipline umanistiche in Africa, una specie di trattato teorico sul classico winckelmanniano condotto attraverso la descrizione del conflittuale dialogo tra la protagonista, una scrittrice, e la sorella missionaria in Africa. Nel classico, e nel classico in senso winckelmanniano in particolar modo, dunque, pare a Coetzee possibile trovare nella storia le radici della forza e della dignità umana contro ogni abuso e sopraffazione. Coetzee vede ad esempio realizzata questa  idea di ‘classico’ nel poeta polacco Zbigniew Herbert, definito «il grande poeta del classico della nostra epoca (the great poet of the classic of our time)». Nonostante dunque il classico sia una costruzione della critica specialistica e dell’élite intellettuale europea a partire dal ‘700, proprio  questa costruzione – secondo Coetzee –  aiuta qualsiasi uomo si avvicini all’arte classica, anche inconsapevolmente, a vivere nel rispetto dell’umanità.  L’opposto del classico diviene allora non certo il romantico, ma il barbaro. Il mio contributo vuole ripercorrere la concezione del classico di Coetzee, del tutto dimenticata nelle sintesi sull’idea di ‘classico’; ma anche e soprattutto interrogarsi sulle sue conseguenze oggi. A che servono insomma, se a qualcosa servono, le opere classiche nel nostro mondo? E quanto resta, se qualcosa resta, delle categorie di Winckelmann e delle loro eredità nella fruizione dell’arte classica?


Gerbrandy, Piet (University of Amsterdam)

Boethius’ Consolatio:  Classical, Christian, or…

p.s.gerbrandy@uva.nl – Friday 21/09, 10.30, Panel 3

Boethius’ De consolatione Philosophiaehas been a classic for at least thirteen centuries, but do we really know what it is about and how the author intended it to be interpreted? Until recently, the book’s (presumed) title was taken at face value, and modern interpreters such as Blackwood, Donato, and Chase still believe in its consolatory potential. Others, however, such as Marenbon, pay attention to problems in the argumentative structure and to the prisoner’s significant taciturnity at the end of the work, suggesting that eventually the character, or the author, wasn’t consoled at all. Relihan, referring to its ‘menippean’ ancestry, even argued that the Consolatioshould be seen as a parody of philosophical discourse. Notwithstanding the differences in approach, the scholars’ interpretative strategies appear to coincide in a crucial point: the strong tendency to look for both generic continuity and compositional closure. In this respect, they all prove to be heirs to the ‘classical’, say aristotelian, tradition of Western readership. Well-written books are supposed to be coherent in that they display unbroken threads of narrative or argumentation and end in satisfactory conclusions. If De consolationelacks these characteristics and we still wish to consider it a successful work, it must be either unfinished or a parody. And if it is neither of these, the work’s alleged deficiencies ought to be explained away. Framing the book as a late-antique or early-medieval classic leads us to a stalemate in which much depends on taste and the strong will to defend Boethius’ place within the classical canon, while consensus on the work’s tone and meaning is hard to find. Therefore, I propose to approach De consolationefrom a different angle, informed by my reading of modernist classics Kafka and Beckett. Essential to my interpretation are a) the boring repetitiveness of the thirty-nine poems, most of which are notsung by Philosophia, as is usually stated by scholars, but by the narrator; and b) the dazzling narrative structure, in which we should distinguish at least fourcharacters called Boethius: 1) the unfortunate author; 2) the first reader, i.e. Boethius as private audience of his own literary performance; 3) the narrator who purports to remember his conversation with Philosophy; and 4) the prisoner talking with, or listening to, Philosophy. In my view, Boethius the author tried to console himself by applying multiple philosophical and literary strategies, all demonstrating the perfect order of the universe, which resulted, at the end of Book 5, in the shocking understanding of total powerlessness. The work’s final words, the magnificent ciceronian clausula iudicis cuncta cernentis, leaves us with the impression of a world in which not only thugs have the upper hand but God is in total command of everything, supervising our lives like Orwell’s Big Brother or the elusive bureaucratic powers in Kafka’s Der Process. That’s why, in the final passages of De consolatione, the prisoner gives up and falls silent. In the light of God’s strangling omnipotence, it is pointless to speak.


Gustin, Melissa (University of York)

Bogs and Pools: Bernini, Paragone, and the (anti?) Classical

mlg519@york.ac.uk – Thursday 20/09, 16.15, Panel 2

Though the American sculptor Harriet Hosmer never mentions Johann Joachim Winckelmann in her letters, her earliest professional works, Daphne (1853) and Medusa (1853/54) are emblematic of the binary of High and Beautiful image-making laid out in History of the Art of Antiquity. Furthermore, they represent a complex paragone with Bernini, denigrated as a “bad sculptor” who led his followers into “bogs and pools” by Winckelmann. This paper will explore Hosmer’s allegiance to Winckelmannian principles of classical normativity and rejection of Bernini’s supposed anti-classical forms through a comparison of text, finished works, and networks of antique works of art. It will argue that Hosmer’s Daphne and Medusa illustrate not only the Ovidian episodes of transformation but a reclamation, purification, and normalization of the subjects from Bernini through her appropriation and translation of antique forms into a neoclassical visual mode. It will be seen that Hosmer’s use of the discursive modes of High and Beautiful are used not only to create a dynamic contrast between her works but to emphasize her superiority—her classical normativity—over the corrupt and anticlassical Bernini. This paper will focus primarily on the Daphne as emblematic of both Hosmer’s paragone with Bernini and of her affiliation to Winckelmann and the principles of neoclassicism. By analyzing the critical reception of Bernini in the middle nineteenth century, and Hosmer’s use of antique references versus the fiction of Bernini’s baroque anticlassicism, I will explore how mid-nineteenth century artists—like Winckelmann—used highly selective constructions of ‘classical’ art to win their transhistorical jousts against a sculptor who cause such anxiety that Richard Westmacott declared that it “would have been better for sculpture if Bernini had never lived.” Hosmer’s Daphne , in its supposed disavowal of Bernini, demonstrates a paranoia inherited from Winckelmann about his corrupting power, revictimizing him and his work.


Kels, William (Aix-Marseille University)

Sur un paradoxe de Winckelmann: normativité et dissolution de la norme dans la théorie du « beau idéal »

william.KELS@univ-amu.fr / williamkels@live.fr – Thursday 20/09, 13.00, Panel 1

La théorie winckelmanienne pose d’une part l’existence de produits achevés dans le temps et justiciables d’une classification par « styles » ; d’autre part, leur inscription dans un mouvement d’évolution des formes qui explique leur variation. Ainsi le « beau idéal » se tient il entre deux époques : issu du perfectionnement de styles grossiers, il est lui-même condamné à son imitation maniérée. Or on constate que ce qui vaut pour l’ensemble des styles pourrait être aussi applicable au style par excellence. Le « beau idéal » n’est pas tout-à-fait un moment de l’art, fixé dans le temps et révolu : lui aussi connaît une évolution interne impliquant sa propre métamorphose, non plus en ses produits dérivés, copies serviles ou outrances académiques, mais en une série de formes qui, tout en restant idéales, nécessitent la destruction de leur « noble simplicité ». On partira de l’exemple matriciel du Torse pour montrer que ce n’est plus tant la perfection plastique mais paradoxalement la dégradation matérielle des formes, qui le doue de cet « idéal » moderne dont Winckelmann est l’inventeur. La thèse, pré-hégelienne, serait la suivante : le « beau idéal » n’est pas tant parfait que parachevé par sa propre dissolution historique. Nous montrerons à partir de là comment de Diderot aux romantiques, ce paradoxe a donné lieu à des poétiques inédites qui tout en se réclamant de la théorie du « modèle idéal » ne l’envisagent plus comme le but mais le moyen d’une imitation négative qui altère plutôt qu’elle conserve et défigurant les modèles (la statuaire antique) accomplissent le programme de l’idéal moderne en l’historicisant — paralysant ainsi les processus de normativité qu’une théorie de l’imitation idéale commanderait en principe et rendant caduque la série d’oppositions classique/non-classique, idéalisme/naturalisme, imitation idéale/imitation d’après nature sur laquelle elle se fonde.


Lamers, Han (University of Oslo)

The Afterlives of Antiquity: Forms of Normativity in the Study of the Classical Tradition

han.lamers@ifikk.uio.no – Saturday 22/09, 11.00, Panel 6

 “Seit den Tagen von Winckelmann,” Fritz Saxl wrote in 1920, “ist das Problem, welches der Einfluss der griechischen und römischen Antike auf die ihr folgenden Zeiten gewesen sei, allen historisch Denkenden lebendig und bedeutungsvoll.” The ways in which antiquity’s ‘influence’ has been studied in the historical scholarship since Winckelmann differs greatly. Even in its most historicist and descriptive formulations, however, normative assumptions about the significance and value of classical culture persist. In order to reveal the forms of normativity underlying the study of the classical tradition, this paper concentrates on one of the key terms that have conceptually structured the field: the notion of an ‘afterlife of antiquity’ (Nachleben der Antike). Still used today even in non-German scholarship, the concept of an ‘afterlife of antiquity’ has roots in 19th-century German thinking about the classical tradition and was mainly internationalized by exile-scholars such as Fritz Saxl in the 1930s. While Nachleben der Antike has often been used as a critical response to idealistic notions of artistic and literary ‘imitation’ (the Winckelmannian Nachahmung), the concept implies its own varieties of normativity, which largely depend on the contexts in which it was used. Tracing the term’s ill-known history for the first time, this paper shows its normative implications in the works of scholars as diverse as Anton Springer (1825–1891), Otto Immisch (1862–1936), and Richard Newald (1894–1954). It thus also shows how the idea of an ‘afterlife of antiquity’ reflects a tension between normative aesthetic reflection and historical description that characterizes the study of the classical tradition even today. 

Le Pape, Yannick (Musée d’Orsay, Paris)

The second Loss of Nineveh: Discovery of Assyria and Winckelmann’s Legacy

yannick.lepape@musee-orsay.fr – Friday 21/09, 13.00, Panel 4

By the middle of the 19th century, unexpected discoveries from the east side of Ottoman Empire outshined for a while famous sites of ancient Greece and Rome. French and British diplomats managed excavations in the biblical land of legendary assyrian kings, where Nineveh had been buried long before Pericles or Lysippus. Here was the opportunity to reconsider the way Winckelmann cristallized the art of Antiquity, even if the historian has to be judged outmoded and quite “superficial” (Frédéric de Mercey, 1855) as well as its writings so consistently dismissed Chaldea and Assyria that Gaston Cougny dared to conclude in 1892 : “He was poorly-informed”. Exit Winckelmann ? Not yet, as when assyrian remains entered in museums, they had precisely been evaluated under the reputation of greek art inherited from the History of the Art of Antiquity, in which few near-eastern items were said to be the exact opposites of classical beauty. French press did argue that these unusual artifacts, despite of a real charm, can’t elude “unmatched masterpieces by Phidias” (Le Magasin pittoresque, Paris, 1852) and British Museum debated to guess if it might be dangerous for visitors’ education to exhibit such strange objects so close to Greek “high art” (Edmund Oldfield). Taste changed so slowly that Louvre required 40 years to think about a Khorsabad assyrian-like decoration, (see fig. below) and it is particularly revealing how Nineveh’s supporters themselves, in search of key arguments, felt more relevant to provide evidences of near-eastern influences on greek art rather than to study Assyrian identity, as if relationships with classical icons was a kind of unrivalled scientific label. So that our lecture aims to highlight how Winckelmann’s visions, aged 100 years old, questioned assyrian heritage about its own legitimacy towards History and remained vivid enough to interfere with this very part of art from Antiquity that currently highlighted its limits.


Love, Rachel (Yale University)

Bad History: Florus, Livy, and the Invention of ‘Great History’

rachel.love@yale.edu – Saturday 22/09, 10.30, Panel 6

This paper presents the historical epitome of L. Annaeus Florus as a case study for the concrete impact of the development of a ‘classical norm’ across Europe in the mid-18th century. Focusing predominately on the text’s reception in Britain from ca. 1550 to 1750, this paper examines the process by which Florus came to be excluded from the scholarly and pedagogical canons that underpin modern classical studies. Florus’ epitome of Roman history was written sometime after the first century CE and derived a majority of its narrative material from Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita. The short history was well received in late antiquity, but was especially admired by medieval and early renaissance writers. It was a staple text in early English universities, and readers’ regard for Florus both as a historical source and a stylistic model followed the opinions of prominent continental humanists like Petrarch and Scaliger who held it in highest esteem. By the 17th century, Florus was the third most frequently printed ancient historian across Europe. In the following century, however, philologists began to vilify Florus for his bad style and poor historical methods. This fall from grace can be tracked alongside the concurrent rise in large-scale, ‘classicizing’ histories, which often explicitly took Livy, Tacitus, and Thucydides as their classical models (i.e. Clarendon, Hume, Gibbon). The efforts of 18th century historians to reestablish contemporary historiography in the ‘classical mode’ invented simultaneously a standard of classical historiography that effectively reduced the ancient corpus to a handful of ‘great historians’: Livy, Tacitus, and Thucydides. The myriad of other types of ancient historiography—short form histories, in particular—were banished to the margins of the genre. Florus suffered especially as his epitome offered an easy contrast to the merits of Livy; the text has never regained its former widespread popularity.


Mellor, Rebecca (University of York)

Beautiful Boys: Winckelmann and the Victorian Male Nude

rjim500@york.ac.uk – Thursday 20/09, 13.30, Panel 1

As the masters of Winckelmann’s ‘beautiful period’ in Greek sculpture, works of Praxiteles and Lysippos were lauded throughout much of the 18thand 19thcentury as pinnacles of the graceful style, aesthetically beautiful, though, as Winckelmann stated, moving away from the moralising of the Pheidian ‘High’ period. During the late 19thcentury in Britain or, as it is commonly referred to, the Victorian period, definitions of masculinity and the beautiful male form were rapidly changing and fluctuating as industrialization and the growth of global empire under the rule of a queen impacted societal traditions and norms. In response, male virility, heroism and, as Richard Westmacott described in his treatise on classical sculpture, ‘passionless majesty’ became the ultimate traits to be admired in a pater familias, particularly in the way he was portrayed artistically. This paper shall examine how Winckelmann’s systemisation of artistic style and hierarchy using the nude ‘classical’ male body became embroiled in the controversies of obscenity, gender, sexuality, and beauty in of the late 19thcentury. Winckelmann’s subjective assessment of the ‘beautiful’ style and the ‘high’ style were simultaneously supported and challenged by popular Victorian painters and artistic scholars of the time. For art scholars of the 19thcentury, this conflict creates a highly problematic context in which to read Victorian aestheticism, which may be seen as desperately trying to maintain Winckelmannian traditions of art historical practice whilst struggling to grapple with the rapidly changing social context within which these nude images were being depicted. Using textual reviews, artist statements, artistic manuals and visual analysis, is it possible to determine if there was a ‘right kind’ of classical masculinity for a Victorian audience? Did Winckelmann’s treatise on classical art help or hinder the reception of the nude male body in Victorian painting and art scholarship?


Orrells, Daniel (King’s College London)

Winckelmann’s Victims and Eighteenth-Century Antiquarianism

daniel.orrells@kcl.ac.uk – Thursday 20/09, 14.00, Panel 1

Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s 1764 History of the Art of Antiquityhas been seen as pivotal in the history of modern aesthetic writing. His veneration of Greek sculpture contributed to an intense period of philhellenism in Western Europe. His adoration of the Apollo Belvedere famously argued that the contemplation of the Greek body beautiful raised the viewer to abstract philosophical meditation. With the help of Winckelmann, Greek art led the modern, nineteenth-century thinker to philosophy. While the eighteenth century might have witnessed the antiquarian turn away from the early-modern reliance on ancient texts towards material and visual culture, Winckelmann nevertheless encouraged his readers to see through Greek sculpture in order to locate philosophical truths which might be expressed in written texts. The 1764 edition of Winckelmann’s Historyreflects his intention to translate ancient art into a philosophical history about the rise, apogee and fall of ancient culture. It is adorned with merely 24 seemingly jejune, uninspiring engravings at the beginning and end of each chapter: ancient art had been transformed into text. The first art-historical response to Winckelmann’s work was Baron d’Hancarville’s catalogue of Sir William Hamilton’s vases. D’Hancarville set out a completely different vision of art history. He argued that ancient art represented its own origins: painted vessels and candelabra represented the natural origins – the shells and the trees – from which these artistic objects originally emerged. Reversing Winckelmann, the historiographical text had become the artefact itself. Winckelmann’s mode of viewing Greek sculpture, which perceived a philosophical truth beyond the art-work exerted a profound influence over subsequent art-historical writing, whereas d’Hancarville’s musings were banished from the new professions of Art History and Classics. This paper, however, shows how d’Hancarville’s catalogue represented an important culmination of eighteenth-century antiquarian thinking. The paper explores how Winckelmann can be seen as part of this chapter of intellectual history. The paper concludes by showing how Lessing’s discussion of the relationship between poetry and painting in his essay Laocoon suppressed d’Hancarville’s style of antiquarian thought, which helped to promote Winckelmann’s centrality for the subsequent history of ideas.


Paillard, Elodie (University of Sydney/University of Basel)

Sophocle et son public: Des héros ‘classiques’ pour l’élite?

epai7821@uni.sydney.edu.au – Friday 21/09, 13.30, Panel 4

La tragédie grecque a très tôt été l’un des éléments clés appartenant à la définition moderne de l’’idéal classique’. Il s’agira, en étudiant le cas précis de Sophocle (considéré comme emblème du sublime classique), de montrer comment les conceptions modernes du public de son théâtre ont influencé les interprétations de ses tragédies, jusqu’à en faire rétrospectivement des ‘œuvres d’art classiques’, selon le canon d’une esthétique normative héritée de l’idéal winckelmannien. Aux 18eet 19esiècles, et même au-delà du milieu du 20esiècle, l’une des tendances principales de la recherche était d’interpréter les tragédies de Sophocle du point de vue du pathos universel, du sublime tragique. Le public originel de son théâtre était idéalisé et compris comme une élite de citoyens mâles athéniens. Ainsi, parmi les personnages de ses pièces, seuls les héros ou personnages royaux étaient étudiés, parce qu’ils étaient les seuls à correspondre à ‘l’idéal classique’. Tout récemment les spécialistes se sont libérés de cette vision idéale des œuvres de Sophocle et ont accordé d’avantage d’attention au fait que son public originel n’était pas composé uniquement de l’élite athénienne. Les interprétations de ses pièces ont dès lors pu s’intéresser à d’autres types de personnages, dits secondaires, dont l’importance n’a pu être révélée qu’en renonçant à s’imaginer que les tragédies grecques avaient été composées à destination d’un public d’intellectuels qui concevaient le théâtre comme un art destiné à mettre en scène une esthétique ‘classique’. En vérité, les fonctions de la tragédie grecque étaient tout autres et je montrerai combien appliquer de manière anachronique les ‘normes classiques’ à la tragédie grecque aura occulté durant longtemps tout un pan de leur réalité. Finalement, il s’agira également d’explorer les raisons pour lesquelles ces idéaux dits classiques ont été appliqués à la tragédie grecque.


Pranger, Burcht (University of Amsterdam)

The 1945 New Latin Translation of the Psalms and the École de Nimègue: A Classicist Drama

m.b.pranger@uva.nl – Friday 21/09, 14.00, Panel 4

In 1945 the Pontifical Biblical Commission,under the guidance of cardinal Bea SJ, published a new Latin translation of the Psalms: Liber Psalmorum cum Canticis Breviarii Romani, Nova e textibus primigeniis interpretatio latina cum notis criticis et exegeticis, cura Professorum Pontificii Instituti Biblici edita, Editio altera, Romae 1945. This new translation attracted the ire of Christine Mohrmann, who, through two interventions, one scholarly and the other personal, succeeded in having this translation be sidelined. First she published a devastating article in the recently established journal Vigiliae Christianae(1947), highlighting and criticising the classicist nature of the translation in which many early-Christian words and expressions had been replaced by ‘correct’ classical Latin. Next, she personally approached pope Pius XII who, on the basis of Mohrmann’s arguments, prevented the new translation from becoming officially accepted. In my paper I propose to retrace and resume Mohrmann’s arguments. My aim is twofold. First, I want to revive Mohrmann’s views on the matter since, in the article, she goes beyond the discussion of ‘words’. In the process she also counters, as it were, the argument rightfully brought up against the Ecole de Nimuègethat it employed too static a view of early-Christian Latin and Greek as a Sondersprache.In criticising Bea’s classicism, Mohrmann rather displays a dynamic view of language whose borders cannot be strictly drawn- a view that is eminently useful for the discussion of the enigma of classicist Latin’s static, absolutist and timeless view of itself. Second, I want to expand the debate between Mohrmann and Bea (who were good friends) to the more general problem of the predilection for classicist Latin on the part of Roman-Catholic writers as of the Renaissance and the Contra-Reformation up to the first (and second) half of the twentieth century. Coincidentally, Bea happened to be a Jesuit- an order that excelled in classicist ambitions while writing about early-Christian and medieval religious writers, or, for that matter, while writing at all. Given their classicist training, Jesuits, in their heart of hearts, could not and would not appreciate the proper and singular beauty of the language in which the tradition of their own Church had expressed itself. Time permitting, I would like to extend my argument to another Jesuit, Henri de Lubac, who, in his seminal Exégèse médiévale, fails to compliment any of his authors many of whom were drawn out of obscurity singlehandedly by De Lubac himself, for the beauty of their prose. Quite the contrary. In the case of Bernard of Clairvaux –another author whose stylistic qualities were brought to the fore by Christine Mohrmann- he is dismissive of the wildness of this fierce kind of religious language. I do not pretend that I can offer a full explanation of this paradox: Christian scholars of repute such as Bea and Lubac being unable to appreciate the linguistic basis of their own heritage. The underlying question will be:  what exactly was the meaning and impact of ressourcementestablished by the movement of the so-called nouvelle théologiein which Mohrmann, Lubac, and, up to a point, Bea participated?  How does this going back ad fontesrelate to the other, more famous, humanist and classicist ad fontes? Why is the lure of the latter so strong as to have so much power over those Roman-Catholic scholars to the point of making them forget the dynamism of their very own past?


Prettejohn, Elizabeth (University of York) – KEYNOTE

The Future of Winckelmann’s Classical Form: Walter Pater and Frederic Leighton

liz.prettejohn@york.ac.uk – Thursday 20/09, 11.00, Keynote Lecture

Winckelmann’s thought and writing are routinely acknowledged to have had a profound influence on the artistic practices of the half-century after his death, known under the label ‘Neoclassicism’. Standard accounts of modernism in the arts, however, assume that this influence came to an abrupt end around 1815. According to such accounts, the anti-classical reaction that followed the Battle of Waterloo and the demise of Neoclassicism, as inexorably as night follows day, was itself a motive force in the generation of modern art and modernism. This paper will argue, on the contrary, that Winckelmann’s ideas not only remained relevant, but gained in power through the generations after the fall of Napoleon. Mediated by critics and artists among whom Walter Pater and Frederic Leighton will serve as the principal examples, Winckelmann’s thought made a decisive contribution to twentieth-century modernism in both theory and practice. In particular, the articulation in both criticism and artistic practice of ideas about classical form, indebted to Winckelmann, had a subtler and more complex impact on the modernist doctrine of ‘formalism’ than literary or art historians have acknowledged. A renewed attention to classical form will help future scholars to write a more nuanced account of modernism in the visual arts. More importantly, it will call attention to artistic projects that have been excluded from histories of modern art due to reductive assumptions that classicism and modernism are inherently contradictory. The paper will concentrate on the art of Frederic Leighton as a case study of an artist whose historical importance and aesthetic merit have been occluded by reductive thinking of this kind.


Rijser, David (University of Amsterdam)

Winckelmann as Victim: the Origin of Winckelmann’s Aesthetics in Vida’s De arte poetica of 1527

d.rijser@uva.nl – Thursday 20/09, 16.45, Panel 2

The longest and ideologically most marked chapter of Walter Pater’s 1897 study The Renaissance, surprisingly, is devoted not to any artist or writer of the period to which the title refers, but to Johann Joachim Winckelmann, who is there presented as a last instance and ideal representative of what Pater considers the essence of the Renaissance. Rather than as the aesthetic censor of a normative system devised by Winckelmann himself and subsequently called (neo-) Classicism, Pater sees Winckelmann as an exemplification of a particular form of aesthetic freedom that characterized both certain antique artists and certain Renaissance ones, and that comes into being when form and content merge to the utmost degree, unbound by any rule of decorum. Following the footsteps of Pater, the lecture will study to what extent the characterisation of Winckelmann’s Classicism as phrased by the CfP of the Ghent conference itself is an example of the tendency it seeks to redress: to impose normative status upon perceived antique evidence for the sake of cultural politics. On the basis of the new Winckelmann that is thus allowed to come into view, it will suggest innovative perspectives on the role of Classicism in artistic and intellectual European history from ca. 1500 to the early 20t Century, arguing for strong cultural continuities of this brand of Classicism from the High Renaissance well into Modernism.


Spacciante, Valeria (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa)

divertissement to escape rules: Jean Giraudoux’s Elpénor

valeria.spacciante@sns.it – Friday 21/09, 11.00, Panel 3

I would like to analyse Jean Giraudoux’s Elpénor (1935) as a case study of the troubled relationship between a highly educated author and the classics. His work is composed of four tales, each parodying a section of the Odyssey. Both for its style and contents, it is a very good example of an author’s attempts to go against epic normativity. Originally, Elpénor comes out as a canular, namely as an entertainment against the boring rhetorical exercises Giraudoux was required to do during his years as a École Normale Superieure student. Yet, it engages a more complicated relationship with the classics: the book’s general trend is in fact to reverse the traditional image of the epic character, perceived by the author as being responsible for World War I. The author believes the epic’s fault lies in sensationalising war and making it noble. For this reason, Elpénor tries to establish a new image of the hero. Giraudoux chooses Elpénor, an irrelevant companion of Ulysses and barely named in the Homeric poem, and puts him at the centre of the work as the main character in the place of Ulysses. Elpénor experiences Ulysses’ adventures and relates the Trojan war from his point of view. In this way, Giraudoux gives a voice to all the secondary characters, generally cut off from epic. The author’s tendency to deconstruction of epic is reflected in Elpénor’s style, which is ironic and tends to build a critical dialogue with the Homeric hypotext: the text often polemically alludes to the Odyssey to ridicule it. Moreover, it is totally independent of any compositional rule, mixing different styles, tones and stories. Finally, I think that Elpénor can be fruitfully studied as an example of a challenge to Winckelmann’s classicism, that becomes even more interesting if one considers Giraudoux’s classical background.


Vessey, Mark (University of British Columbia) – KEYNOTE

On the Production of a Late(r) Latin Literature

mark.vessey@ubc.ca – Saturday 22/09, 9.00, Keynote Lecture

Classicism as institutionalized after Winckelmann can be thought of as a grid of preferences: of early over late(r), of Greek over Roman and Latin, of Graeco-Roman over (e.g.) Jewish or Christian, and, in literary contexts, of higher forms (epic, tragedy) and stylistic registers over lower ones. Remarkably, in the course of the last seventy-five years, those classicizing preferences have yielded to new impulses in scholarly and wider historico-literary discourse that have made possible the emergence, as a distinct and reputable field of study for classically trained researchers among others, of a ‘late’ or ‘later Latin literature’, datable from the Silver Age to the eve of the Carolingian Renaissance, of substantially Christian content, rich in demotic forms (homily, creed, Wundererzählung) and idioms. How is such an emergence to be explained? What–besides more articles, editions, commentaries, monograph series, handbooks, encyclopaedias, databases, journals, conferences, and academic career opportunities–might it portend? What does it promise? My talk will approach these issues from the point of view of Anglo-American historical and literary critical practices since the end of the Second World War, with one eye on older and deeper relationships between Anglophone and Continental European philologies since the advent of Classicism and Romanticism, and another to the future of Euro-Atlantic historico-literary styles of mind in a digitizing, globalizing knowledge and heritage economy.


Zwiep, Irene (University of Amsterdam) – KEYNOTE

Winckelmann’s converts. The Wissenschaft des Judentums and the classical Jewish canon

i.e.zwiep@uva.nl – Friday 21/09, 9.00, Keynote Lecture

Besides marking the 250th anniversary of Johann Winckelmann’s death, the year 2018 celebrates the bicentenary of a movement known as the Wissenschaft des Judentums. In 1818 classicist Leopold Zunz (1794-1886) published a typo-ridden booklet which, for want of a better terminology, was given the title Etwas über die rabbinische Litteratur. The book’s revolutionary force was inversely proportionate to its size. In a few broad strokes Zunz redefined the amorphous corpus of Jewish tradition as a modern European culture, formulated a comprehensive research agenda, and appealed to his co-religionists to help him reclaim their heritage from the Christian academy. On the one hand the initiative reflects a personal biography – Zunz had entered the school system via the traditional cheiderin 1799, and left it with a doctorate from Halle in 1821. Simultaneously it mirrors the wish of the Berlin-Jewish elite to become, in their own terms, ‘one of the many currents in the ocean of universal culture’. The idea soon caught on. Following Zunz’s guidelines, scores of young scholars began to document and scrutinize Jewish literature for the sake of integration and assimilation. Hardly surprising, the new Jewish philology triggered a revision of the Jewish canon. In the hands of Zunz and his fellow-Wissenschaftler, the holy writ became the playing field of man, binding texts were dismissed as historical contingencies, and timeless authorities were relegated to the pre-modern margins. In modern research much of this process has been charted, with undue emphasis on new players and emerging normativities, most famously the hybrid legacies of Hellenistic Alexandria and the medieval ‘Muslim-Jewish symbiosis’. In this paper I will recapitulate the main stations in this complex operation, and then point the lens at its supposed losers, whose fate has received rather less attention. Precisely what happened to Bible, Talmud, prayer and other mainstays of traditional Judaism? Which aspects of their canonicity were dismissed as obsolete, and which were reintroduced as modern European categories? How fragile was their stature and, conversely, how tenacious their authority? I will try to answer these questions by revisiting a few early Wissenschaft publications, including—inevitably—Zunz’s Etwas(1818), Moritz Steinschneider’s entry ‘Jüdische Literatur’ in Ersch & Gruber’a Encyclopädie(1845) and Abraham Geiger’s Urschriftund Übersetzungen der Bibelof 1857.