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Call for Papers

Recomposed: Anglophone Presences of Classical Literature 

Special Issue Editor: Paschalis Nikolaou

(Synthesis 12.2019)

While works like Agamemnon or the Metamorphoses are part of a different (moral) universe, they are also considered as a global inheritance and their restatement or appropriation across languages occurs either through established paths of interlinguistic transfer or through varied modes of reference and increasingly intersemiotic retellings. These works have enabled us to enunciate constants of human behavior, selves and societies, and to establish connections across time.  

In an Anglophone context, the (re)uses of drama and poetry from Greek and Roman antiquity have been insistent, not least in the ways Anglo-Saxon cultures and political actors, as early as Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Age, often (mis)read themselves as successors to the philosophies embedded in texts such as the Iliad. Editors’ and publishers’ strategies have also informed the reception of the classics: from the serialized appearance of Chapman’s and Logue’s Homer to Ted Hughes’s classical translations as the first section in the posthumously published Selected Translations, such practices suggest interesting shifts in how this material is p(r)ossesed.

In the twentieth century, literary movements and groups have deployed classical texts as catalysts for change; from Pound’s Homage to Sextus Propertius to Ted Hughes’s The Oresteia, the limits and possibilities of translation are integral to the poetic process and to a poet’s body of work. Others return to the classics also in response to recent geopolitical events (for instance, Slavoj Zizek’s Antigone in 2015; Seamus Heaney’s translation of Sophocles’s tragedy as The Burial at Thebes in the middle of the War in Iraq in 2004). Poets like Alice Oswald offer radical versions of classical works (her Memorial of 2011), and often feature treatments of ancient myth in their collections (for instance, Orpheus or Tithonus within Falling Awake, 2016). Experiment with hybrid textualities in the work of someone like Josephine Balmer enunciates a modern consciousness in classical surroundings, or situates classical thought in the present. Moreover, in the present day, cover design and font selection (for instance, the use of photography and covers suggestive of modern warfare in Stanley Lombardo’s translations of Homer and Virgil), as well as instances of intersemiotic or transmedial approaches, for instance Anne Carson’s forays into graphic novel territory with Antigo Nick (2012) or web-based, digital configurations of ancient texts, significantly affect the reception of the classics. 

In multiple ways then, classical writing inflects contemporary discourse at the same time as new forms and an increasingly visual culture re-encounter and propose, through these familiar texts and classical scenes, new relationships between image and text. Given the wealth of such (re)transmissions of literary expression, the special issue Recomposed: Anglophone Presences of Classical Literature invites contributions that address (inter)textual and sociocultural relations, as well as developments before and after figures such as Pound; the current status of both the classics and classical translation within Anglophone literary systems, also in terms of themes and characters; publication or performance contexts; case studies of textual permutation.

Other possible topics include, but are not restricted to, the following:

  • Fragments of classical texts within modernist poetry (The Waste LandThe Cantos etc)
  • Changing practices in translating, and in presenting the translations of classical texts
  • Retranslation as a means of adjusting to cultural currents, global events, ideological and political shifts
  • Embeddings and refractions of classical literature in Shakespeare’s plays
  • Shifts in the content, scale and significance of paratextual material, and connections to ways of viewing and/or theorizing translation, from John Dryden to Josephine Balmer
  • The role of (series) editors, and publishers in the dissemination of classical texts (Loeb Classics, Penguin)
  • Visual components and their role–for instance in intensifying anachronisms–across (re)imaginings of classical literature for the screen or the stage
  • Contemporary meeting points of classical translation, theatrical translation and adaptation (e.g. Simon Armitage’s The Story of the Iliad)
  • Classical literature in the subcontinent, Canada and across former British colonies

Abstracts of 300 words should be submitted to Paschalis Nikolaou at nikolaou@ionio.gr by 20 January 2019.

Notification of acceptance will be delivered by 15 February 2019.
Accepted articles should be submitted by 15  July 2019.

Articles should be 6,000-7,000 words long and include a short biography of no more than 300 words.

All inquiries regarding this issue should be sent to the guest editor, Paschalis Nikolaou, at the above email address.