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Reception Studies

From Shakespeare to Troy, the Classical World has inspired productivity and creativity in a variety of different forms of entertainment, even in Lego by paying tribute to the marvellous Prof. Mary Beard and great advocate of Classical education, Joanna Lumley with their own Lego figures. The influence of Greek and Roman mythology, history, dramas, poems, and even architecture is visible and inescapable.

In popular culture, the Classical world has been richly celebrated on film. Epics such as Cleopatra have adorned our screens as has laughter created by the likes of Up Pompeii and Carry On, Cleo, not forgetting the marvellous Life of Brian, which I have cited elsewhere on this site.

The reception of the Classical world has become a fruitful and illuminating area of study in its own right. Classical reception papers form options on most Classics courses in universities. Classical reception in a variety of different genres of literature, drama, novels, epics, and many more are all highly interesting topics for study. Reference to the Classical world and the rich field of pickings it offers in later works was not simply about showing off one’s learnedness. It proves that its pervasive legacy and underpinning of our culture are inescapable.

The sheer power of ancient literature is captured in one of my own favourite novels, The Name of the Rose. Terrified of the implications for their teachings of the lost second book of Aristotle’s Poetica on comedy, the battle to keep it secret tears the monastery community apart.

Reception also extends to different translations and different interpretations, not only of literature, but also events. It is interesting to note how the period in which an author lives can influence their interpretations of ancient historical events. The Athenian empire of the fifth-century BCE is a very good example. Historians of the 19th century, undoubtedly influenced by the British empire and colonialism, saw the Athenian empire as a protectorate from the barbaric Persians, whereas the post-colonial and post-second world war observers paint a much more aggressive picture.

A rich and diverse discipline with an abundance of material, attesting strongly to the ancient world’s continuing influence and interest.

I cannot do justice to every branch of reception studies here, so if you wish to know more, please delve into the links below.

Explore Further (an super home for Classical reception studies)


See the Bloomsbury website for a wonderful variety of books on Classical Reception, including one on the influence of the Classics on Heavy Metal (definitely on my 'to buy' list).

A Companion to Classical Receptions (Blackwell Companions), ed. L. Hardwick, C. Stray.

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