Inventing the Past: Greek Antiquity and Modern Identities

Classics and Ancient History, Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity

College of Arts and Law


Code 23392

Level of study Third/Final year

Credit value 20

Semester Note currently scheduled

Module description

The rediscovery of Greece by European travellers, artists and writers during the Romantic period was a major event, and the subsequent association of classical Greece with notions and images of beauty, freedom, history and sexuality had wider cultural and political repercussions. Why were the Greeks rediscovered in the eighteenth century and what has been the significance of this rediscovery for modern European culture? In the first semester we will consider Romantic and Victorian Hellenism and their impact on aesthetics, travel writing and the movement of Phillhellenism; we then move on, exploring the opposition between Hellenism and Hebraism in nineteenth-century England and beyond; and then to the relationship between archaeology and identity. Moreover the transformation of the Parthenon over the centuries raises a number of interesting questions while modern perceptions and the debate over the symbolic value or ownership of antiquity will offer an opportunity to explore the interface between classical Antiquity and modern identities. The seminar will also tackle wider questions of identity and revivalism by focusing on the relationship between Antiquity, Byzantium and religion in modern times, the revival of Athens as a Neoclassical city and the reinvention of the Olympic Games at the end of the nineteenth century and their cultural role today. In the second semester the connections between Greek Antiquity and language politics in Greece will be studied and the use of the classical and post-classical past by modern poets will be analysed. The literary appropriation of antiquity will be examined in relation to Orientalism, eroticism, mythical method and modernism together with the subtle use of irony in engaging with issues of identity and religion in a number of poems with antiquarian themes.