October 19th saw the second instalment of the new-look GIS seminar in the Classics Faculty. Proceedings began with an impassioned cry by Hannah Price for graduates to get involved with the students’ Blog; if you’re reading this and you’re from within the Faculty, you’ve made an excellent start. If you’re not from the Faculty, you must be one of the 11,000 visitors we’ve had from all over the world and reaching this global audience is just one of the rewards for penning a piece for the Blog. Indeed, so convincing were the benefits of writing for this forum, that I have wrestled control of the GIS summary from Eleri for this week.
Philip Boyes presented the evening’s main paper, discussing ‘The Sea Peoples, Migration, and Nationalism.’ Reflecting on the failure of historians and archaeologists to adapt their narrative of the supposed migration of the Sea Peoples to changing archaeological practices, Philip identified a number of methodological problems with the existing approach. Key issues were the dependence upon questionable texts for the narrative framework and an essentialist view of identity. A slide showing the extent to which pots seem to equal peoples for scholars discussing the Sea Peoples brought gasps of horror from the archaeologically inclined members of the audience.
With these problems identified, Philip sought to explain the issues in light of experiences in the Levant after World War Two: the politically-charged issue of Israel and national identity affected the approach of archaeologists. Subsequent discussion largely focused on this area of the talk, with interest piqued by the potential differences between archaeology in the area pre- and post-war.
We then moved on to our first and, as it turned out, only snippet [despite the terminological queries of Ben Harriman the term remains in force until a better can be found]. Claire Jackson confessed to being troubled by the existing consensus that the Satyrica of Petronius was written during the reign of Nero. Could we not, she asked, push it later?
With attendees ranging from those intimately familiar with the text to those who have had to resort to Google and Wikipedia in order to blog about the issue here, discussion was naturally wide-ranging. What is at stake if the dating is changed, we asked. A new way of understanding the relationship between the Greek and Latin novel, Claire answered. Important implications for historians of Nero and linguists interested in ‘vulgar’ Latin, we suggested. Questions were asked about the specific grounds for dating the text to Nero, and then talk turned to whether the argument could be strengthened by examples of other texts which were incorrectly dated using the methodology used to date the Satyrica.
Discussion was so engaging that time expired before Eleri Cousins could ask for advice on including archaeological and literary theories in supervising undergraduates.
Do get in touch with snippets for the next couple of weeks; Claire’s example demonstrated that just a short, unwritten presentation or idea can produce an interesting and beneficial discussion.