At-Large Panel, Society for Classical Studies: Untimeliness and Classical Knowing

  • January 10, 2015
  • 8:00 AM – 10:30 AM
  • 146th Annual Meeting of the Society for Classical Studies, New Orleans, LA

Behind investigations of encounters with antiquity after antiquity—whether framed as reception studies, the classical tradition, or the history of scholarship—lies the question of time.  Whether we frame it through reception studies, the classical tradition, the history of scholarship, or the postclassical, in all recent reflections on our current practices and preferences and on our ways of classical knowing lurks an attitude to time. To look back self-consciously to the classical past is inevitably to evoke an idea of untimeliness and often to declare that the writer is out of joint with his or her own time. And to be a classicist, it might be thought, is to open oneself always to the charge of not being fully of one’s own time: dusty and backward-looking as much as revolutionary and staring at a brighter future. Nietzsche may be the best-known (yearning) theorist of the untimely.  But untimeliness as an idea marks the crucial question of the modern subject’s relation to – and self-consciousness of – time and one’s place in history.

The aim of this panel is to reexamine the concept of untimeliness in relation to our ways of knowing antiquity. Is a scholar or artist simply “of their time,” rather than timely or untimely, and if so what explanatory force does such placement provide? What is it to be fashionable or out of date where classical knowing is concerned? How does the notion of kairos as a classical value – judicious criticality – develop against such painful and fragmented nostalgia? Is all classical knowledge undermined by the loss of the past?

The four papers and response are deliberately intended as short, programmatic thinking pieces whose case studies aim to prompt reflection on how temporality is and has been inscribed into the expectations and structures of our discipline.


Introduction (10 mins.)
Brooke Holmes (Princeton University) and Constanze Güthenke (University of Oxford)

1.  Simon Goldhill (University of Cambridge)
“Classics and the Precipe of Time” (20 mins.)

2.  Constanze Güthenke (University of Oxford)
“The Untimely Scholar: Radicalism and Tradition” (20 mins.)

3.  Miriam Leonard (University College London)
“Tragedy and the Intrusion of Time: Carl Schmitt’s Hamlet or Hecuba” (20 mins.)

4.  Tim Whitmarsh (University of Cambridge)
“Quantum Classics: Untimely Chronologies and Postclassical Literary Histories” (20 mins.)

Response (20 mins.)
Glenn Most (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa/University of Chicago)

General Discussion (40 mins.)