About Postclassicisms

The investigation of the impact of classical culture beyond its own lifetime and the formation of historical and current disciplinary structures for studying Greco-Roman antiquity has been among the fastest-growing trends within Classics in the last ten years. These research programs and intellectual energies have coalesced under the rubric of Reception Studies. Yet the specificity of that term can be misleading. For Reception is not simply a subfield of Classics. The practices and concepts animating it and related intellectual movements were already constituent parts of classical cultures themselves (as a complex “sense of the past”). Nevertheless, despite the fact that this heritage has shaped the intellectual and practical engagement with the ancient world in the West since antiquity, it has often been overlooked in its effect on how we in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have selected and interpreted ancient materials.

What we are calling “Postclassicisms” therefore suggests nothing short of readjusting the perspective of and on Classics that our discipline inhabits.  By this term we mean a plurality of positions that are informed by a historicized understanding of the discipline of Classics and mindful of its present and future.  These positions build on the critique of the classical canon undertaken over the past few decades.  They also also insist on the inextricable role of classical antiquity in informing the present and the importance of the study of antiquity for the practice of history and the humanities themselves in a technologically advanced, rapidly changing, globalized world.

The network is designed to enable and encourage participants to examine the historical practices through which we as classicists have acquired, defined, and charted our knowledge of antiquity.  The recording of antiquity, the formation of the canon and the definition of “the classical” began already in antiquity. The post-classical, then, is not so much a recent discovery of classicists seeking to extend the reach of a traditional field. Instead, it is at the very core of how a traditional field came to be. In this sense, we are as interested in examining the frameworks of studying antiquity that have prevailed as we are in giving new attention to the roads not taken, to the practices and approaches that we might from our disciplinary standpoint want to consider “mis-receptions.” Our interest lies in teasing out the choices that have yielded disciplinary standards and ways of reading and conceptualizing classical literature and questioning the self-evidently correct insights those choices have produced.  Our aim is to work collectively to extend the initial inquiries and methods of Reception Studies beyond reception narrowly understood to a broader inquiry into our own disciplinary practices and to situate those practices in more ambitious transnational and interdisciplinary configurations.

Postclassicisms is an ongoing project supported by the Global Collaborative Network Fund at Princeton University and directed by Brooke Holmes (bholmes@princeton.edu).