Discussion / Events / Graduate Interdisciplinary Seminar

GIS 26/4/13

The new term has brought new conveners (Elena and Laura) to the GIS stage, which explains, regrettably, the more pedestrian and pun-free style of the present post. Anyway, the GIS programme for the term is available online (Classics Faculty homepage), so that anyone planning a trip somewhere during term time has now no excuse but to reconsider and postpone journeying until after the end of term!

The springish (or at least semi-sunny) weather had seduced many to come out from their hiding places and spend their afternoon with fellow-grads, so we had quite an extraordinary amount of people (and thanks are due to Tom’s parents for adding extra gravity to the session!). The first GIS of the term was dedicated to ancient history and we had James McNamara and Yuddi Gershon guiding us through some of the difficulties of dealing with (the texts of) two ancient historians who, in pace with the common practice of historians, were making up their own stories.

James talked about Tacitus’ Annals and after giving a short overview of Tacitus’ general disdain for the current political and oratorical/rhetorical situation (including interesting insights regarding the uses of delatio and declamatio) in Rome, asked what it is that Tacitus thinks one can possible achieve with eloquence. The imperial atmosphere seems to suffocate the flourishing of oratory and so one of the uncanny conclusions that came out from James’ paper (and was confirmed in the discussion) was that there appears to be a direct link between the flourishing of oratory and civil strife/struggle. James also pointed out Tacitus’ approach to history-writing (e.g. treating speeches as free literary constructs rather than  instances of historical truth), and this is where James’ paper shared common ground with Yuddi’s.

Yuddi talked about Dionysius of Halicarnassus’ (DH) historical works and concentrated in particular on the so-called ‘Constitution of Romulus’. While many scholars seem to want to see DH’s account of the constitution as a single brief moment in Roman history (and contrast it to the long discussions of the constitution in Livy etc), Yuddi suggested that DH gives us a more nuanced view of this and that his account is, rather than focusing on the here-and-now, very much informed by looking backwards and forwards in time. Both papers evoked enthusiastic discussion so that it was inevitable for most people to continue socialising in a more informal environment in Granta.

Before we retired to Granta, however, Stephen (Harrison) encouraged all grad students to get involved with PhD stand-up comedy. He claimed, based on personal experience (and Eleri was nodding to this very enthusiastically), that, first, this is a very cool thing to do, and second, that this event had been dominated far too long by scientists who, as we all know, are definitely inferior in funniness to classicists! Ask Stephen for more information on this.


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