Reception

The Siegestor, Munich, modelled on the Arch of Constantine

Reception explores the relationship between past and present and the role of the receiver (the reader, viewer or listener) in the transmission of culture. This research theme draws together scholars from across the Faculty of Arts in the study of the reading, reinterpretation and refashioning of texts over the centuries.

The ways in which texts from other cultures, including the past, are ‘received’ by modern readers is a vital issue in a pluralist and increasingly globalised world. Reception is concerned both with the study of specific examples – such as the way that the ancient Greek historian Thucydides has been cited in debates about current US foreign policy, or the way the Bible has been interpreted by successive centuries – and with the development of theories and methodologies for understanding this process.

Bristol has been a recognised world leader for more than a decade in the study of the reception of classical antiquity. This research continues, not least through the Institute for Greece, Rome and the Classical Tradition, but the scope of the Reception theme is broader, involving academics from all three schools in the Faculty of Arts and covering such topics as the development of ideas of gardening and landscape in China and Europe, interpretations of the Book of Revelation, and the impact of the rediscovery of Pompeii on the popular imagination in the nineteenth century.

The Reception theme covers topics as diverse as the development of ideas of gardening and landscape in China and Europe, interpretations of the Book of Revelation and the impact of the rediscovery of Pompeii on the popular imagination.

In collaboration with the Institute, we support the organisation of conferences and workshops (many of which result in important publications) and the development of large-scale research projects, such as the current four-year Thucydides: Reception, Reinterpretation and Influence project based in the School of Humanities. There is an MA programme focused on Classical Reception, based in the Department of Classics & Ancient History but involving taught units from across the Faculty as well as a substantial community of graduate students researching topics from the place of Thucydides in modern military education to the importance of Sparta for Michel de Montaigne’s theories of education.

Bristol academics have made substantial contributions to major general works on reception, including Martindale & Thomas, eds., Classics and the Uses of Reception (Blackwell, 2006: chapters by ten past or present members of the research theme) and Hardwick & Stray, eds., A Companion to Classical Receptions (Blackwell, 2007: chapters from six members); Professors Charles Martindale and David Hopkins are co-editing the five-volume Oxford History of Classical Reception in English Literature, one of the largest projects in literary reception ever, the first volume of which appeared in 2012.

Recent specialist studies by current academic staff include Neville Morley’s Antiquity and Modernity (Blackwell, 2009); Ika Willis’ Now and Rome (Continuum, 2010); Shelley Hales & Joanna Paul, eds., Pompeii in the Public Imagination from its Rediscovery to Today (OUP, 2011); Veronica Della Dora, Imagining Mount Athos: visions of a Holy Place, from Homer to World War II (University of Virginia Press 2011); James Clark, Frank Coulson & Kathryn McKinley (eds.), Ovid in the Middle Ages (Cambridge 2011); Katherine Harloe & Neville Morley, eds., Thucydides in the Modern World (CUP, 2012). Works by colleagues who have only recently left Bristol include Alexandra Lianeri, ed., The Western Time of Ancient History (CUP, 2011, with contributions from two current Bristol academics) and Liz Prettejohn, The Modernity of Ancient Sculpture: Greek Sculpture and Modern Art from Winckelmann to Picasso (I.B.Tauris, 2012)