Graduate Interdisciplinary Seminar

GIS 3/5/13

[Apologies for the lateness of this post (it’s the unexpectedly sunny weather!)]

The second GIS of the term took place last Friday and our interdisciplinary crew was presented with two exciting papers: Christina Tsaknaki talked about morning and consolation (and the purpose of poetry) in Ovid’s exile poetry, and Daniel Unruh discussed the ways in which Herodotus depicts the communication between monarchs and democrats (Greeks and non-Greeks).

Christina’s paper examined various instances of Ovid’s exile poetry where Ovid complains about his situation, and she asked the question that had been apparently asked also from Ovid himself: would it not be better to endure the difficulties of his conditions in silence? Ovid appears, at first sight, to suggest that poetry helps to cope with his hardships and provides him with consolation. Yet, Christina offers a close reading of the poems and investigates the mythical figures Ovid is comparing himself to, to suggest that Ovid’s relationship with poetry has, in the end, an intresting twist: despite what he appears to be saying in several of his poems, he seems to think that poetry doesn’t have any immediate practical purpose. This conclusion was met with general approval and questions were raised with regard to Ovid’s commitment to this position in his earlier works.

Daniel’s paper shed light on the ways in which communication between democrats and tyrants is depicted in Herodotus. Through various case-studies, Daniel argued that in Herodotus’ view there is little room for a truly flexible interaction between these two: if a democrat is able to communicate with a tyrant, this means accepting certain basic notions about tyranny which threaten the premises of democratic identity, and accepting them will make it impossible to remain a proper democrat. Daniel’s well-argued reading aroused an interesting debate, touching on issues of religion, politics and anthropology.

After these academically stimulating papers, we went to Granta to celebrate the end of the week with some lovely drinks and joyful conversation.


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