We’re thrilled to announce that our special issue of Classical Receptions Journal has now been published. Papers, from our 2018 conference, Anachronism and Antiquity, range across ancient and modern literature, art and thought, and encompass authors and artists ancient (including Plato, Thucydides, Hesiod and Galen), and contemporary (Paul Chan, Maggie Nelson, and Olaf Stapledon) via both Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley, Byzantine historian Laonikos Chalkokondyles, and Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Graves.
You can access the journal here on the OUP journals website; the introduction by Mathura Umachandran and Tim Rood is freely available to download as are abstracts for the other articles. For more details, see our Publications page.
As Mathura and Tim conclude in their introduction:
Anachronism and Antiquity has a commitment to collaborative modes of reading, thinking, and writing together, a model of academic work that has been one of the strongest parts of the apparatus of classical reception studies. Theoretical openness has translated into a mode of collective working together that, we hope, represents historical plurality over and beyond narratives of linear time which conceive of chronology as single and expect it to be experienced as such.
Our project’s book Anachronism and Antiquity, written collaboratively by Tim Rood, Carol Atack, and Tom Phillips, will be published in the new year by Bloomsbury Academic. The official launch date is February 6, 2020, but you can take a look inside now. Click on this link to read the opening prelude, ‘Look to the end’, in full.
Convenors: Dr Carol Atack, Dr Mathura Umachandran.
Venue: First Floor Seminar Room, Ioannou Centre, 66 St Giles’.
Time: Mondays, 14.00–15.30.
Week 1 (April 29)
Tim Rood, University of Oxford: ‘Anachronism and Antiquity’
Carol Atack, University of Oxford:‘Writing Plato’s Republic in the twenty-first century: Jo Walton’s The Just Cityand Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s Plato at the Googleplex’.
Week 2 (May 6)
NO SEMINAR (faculty meeting)
Week 3 (May 13)
Miriam Leonard, UCL: ‘Time and Revolution’.
Week 4 (May 20)
Tom Phillips, University of Manchester: ‘Shelley’s Antiquities’.
Week 5 (May 27)
Mathura Umachandran, University of Oxford: ‘Theorising Anachronism with Theodor Adorno and Erich Auerbach: “Late Style” and “Figura”’.
Week 6 (June 3)
NO SEMINAR (Faculty meeting)
Week 7 (June 10)
Catherine Darbo, CNRS Paris/Maison Française d’Oxford: ‘Anachronism in Ancient History of Greek medicine. Galen’s claim to be Hippocrates’ and Plato’s direct disciple’.
Week 8 (June 17)
John Marincola, Florida State University:
Newly installed in the White House in Washington DC is a group portrait depicting several of the Republican presidents of the USA in conversation with each other. According to the Guardian, a copy of the painting ‘The Republican Club’ by Andy Thomas is now hanging outside the Oval Office. (The Washington Post has the story of how the painting came to President Trump’s attention).
The use of portraiture to assert connections between individuals across time and space, and to say something about the relationships between them, has a long history in both fine art and more popular image-making. While the USA has its Mount Rushmore, a memorial on a huge scale to four past presidents, art history offers many further examples. Anachronism is often a feature of such pictures, given that their role is often to assert the continuity of the present with the past, and the flow of power from past to present.
Previously on our blog we’ve documented anachronistic group images, including the mediaeval favourites the Nine Heroes, and Raphael’s School of Athens. Of particular note is the fashion for anachronistic portrait groups in Tudor England; Lucas de Heere’s group of Tudor royals depicts Henry VIII with his children Edward VI, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I as each was at the peak of their own power as a reigning monarch. It was probably painted in 1572 when of the three only Elizabeth survived: as reigning queen, she is accompanied in the portrait by mythological figures of Peace and Plenty, but in depicting the two siblings who preceded her to their father’s throne she reminds her subjects of her legitimate connection and claim to the throne. It was sent as a gift to her trusted minister Francis Walsingham.
A later monarch, William III of Orange, decorated a staircase at Hampton Court with images of himself defeating twelve Caesars, representing his Catholic opponents in mainland Europe; the anachronistic parallel adds to the grandeur of the scene, magnificently painted by Antonio Verrio (1636-1707), a specialist in such images.
Another form of group portrait is the conversation piece, popular in the eighteenth century as a way of depicting friends, especially those connected by shared political and intellectual interests and pursuits. William Hogarth’s Hervey Conversation Piece, painted 1738-40, shows a group of friends surrounding John Hervey, Lord Ickworth; the painting still hangs in his ancestral home in Suffolk. Such portraits united groups of friends who might in life rarely meet, connecting them in time and space.
Anachronistic assemblies also feature in more popular artistic contexts. Pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth produced the cover art for the Beatles’ album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967); their work presents a montage of historical and contemporary personalities, including images of the band members in earlier years.
Anachronistic groups were also created in the ancient world. Group depictions of philosophers might assemble figures who were not contemporaries, or suggest that contemporary thinkers were linked to the Seven Sages of the past. Polybius reports that Roman families kept masks as portraits of family members, which were brought out for funeral processions, providing both a link to the past and a reminder of the power and influence wielded by leading families:
After the burial and all the usual ceremonies have been performed, they place the likeness of the deceased in the most conspicuous spot in his house, surmounted by a wooden canopy or shrine. This likeness consists of a mask made to represent the deceased with extraordinary fidelity both in shape and colour. These likenesses they display at public sacrifices adorned with much care. And when any illustrious member of the family dies, they carry these masks to the funeral, putting them on men whom they thought as like the originals as possible in height and other personal peculiarities. And these substitutes assume clothes according to the rank of the person represented: if he was a consul or praetor, a toga with purple stripes; if a censor, whole purple if he had also celebrated a triumph or performed any exploit of that kind, a toga embroidered with gold. These representatives also ride themselves in chariots, while the fasces and axes, and all the other customary insignia of the particular offices, lead the way, according to the dignity of the rank in the state enjoyed by the deceased in his lifetime; and on arriving at the Rostra they all take their seats on ivory chairs in their order. There could not easily be a more inspiring spectacle than this for a young man of noble ambitions and virtuous aspirations. (Polybius 6.53, translation Shuckburgh).
Other works by Andy Thomas show similar anachronistic groups of US presidents engaged in social activities such as playing poker and pool, perhaps paying tribute to the less serious side of the conversation piece tradition. In contrast, when the living former presidents of the USA are photographed together, it is often to send a serious message to their fellow citizens or to solicit their help for disaster relief or similar serious causes.
We start the new academic year with an addition to the Anachronism and Antiquity team. We’re very pleased to welcome Dr Mathura Umachandran as a postdoctoral research associate. We also send congratulations to our colleague Dr Tom Phillips, who has joined the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Manchester as a lecturer in Classics.
Mathura Umachandran received her PhD from the Department of Classics at Princeton University in March 2018. Her dissertation, ‘Antiquity in Dark Times: Classical Reception in the Thought of Theodor Adorno and Erich Auerbach’, explored how both men developed positions and methods in articulating their alienation from the particular forms of philhellenism that had anchored German philology and philosophy. As a postdoctoral researcher for ‘Anachronism and Antiquity’, Mathura will continue to develop her interests in this particularly urgent moment of classical reception in the history of German thought. She will also contribute to the project’s activities for 2018-19, its final year, including a seminar series to be held in Oxford during Trinity Term 2019.
Mathura will investigate how Auerbach’s re-tooling of the concept Weltliteratur (World literature), as it was derived in the German Romantic tradition, is a complex attempt to develop a hermeneutic model for literature that was committed to historical difference without rendering Greek antiquity an aesthetic example. She will also continue her research on Adorno this year, laying the foundations for a monograph on the reception of antiquity in the thought of the first generation of the Frankfurt School. She will investigate whether Adorno’s most radical conceptual intervention into the philosophy of history, ‘negative dialectics’, can properly describe the place of antiquity in his thought, from which it would be possible to generate a new theoretical model of classical reception.
Mathura’s other academic interests include thinking about race at the interstices of the antiquity and the academy, classical reception in contemporary art, poetry and political discourse, and issues around social justice in education at all levels and venues.
UPDATE: the deadline for applications for this post was August 6th, 2018.
Come and work with us! One of our postdoctoral research assistants is leaving the project to take up a permanent academic post, and so we have an opportunity for another postdoctoral scholar to join us for the final part of our project.
Research Assistant (Anachronism and Antiquity)
Faculty of Classics, Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies, 66 St Giles’, Oxford
Grade 7: £31,604 – £38,833 pro rata per annum
The Faculty of Classics invites applications for a temporary Research Assistant to join an existing research team led by Professor Tim Rood on the Leverhulme-funded project Anachronism and Antiquity. The position is for 13 months (1 September 2018-30 September 2019).
Reporting to the Principal Investigator, Professor Rood, the appointee will research and write two articles for submission to peer-reviewed journals on topics relating to anachronism. Additional duties are detailed in the further particulars.
The successful candidate will have a relevant first degree and a doctorate, or equivalent research experience, in a relevant discipline; degree-level knowledge of Ancient Greek and Latin and good knowledge of relevant modern languages; the ability to manage their own research and administrative activities; and the ability to work well in a team and collaborate with co-editors and colleagues.
The closing date for applications was 12.00 noon on Monday 6th August 2018.