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Why Classical Studies is important

news editor9 May 2012

Annette Mitchell writes about Professor Miriam Leonard’s inaugural lecture.

Is Classics important today? After studying ancient history for more than 10 years, many people ask me what can you do with it? And it is a question I often asked myself until I started reading Freud and got curious about all the references he made to antiquity. By sheer coincidence, when I was accepted for a PhD on this subject in 2007 Miriam Leonard was joining the Greek and Latin Department and she became my supervisor.

I had heard of her before, but I thought it would be a good move to read more of her work and rooted out a copy of Athens in Paris: Ancient Greece and the Political in Post-War French Thought (2005). This was the first time I really got a sense of ‘Reception Studies’.

‘Reception Studies’, as a sub-discipline of Classical Studies, not only covers how antiquity is received in future times, but also considers how antiquity is used to express important political, social, cultural questions in future times.

Professor Leonard’s inaugural lecture on 1 May, entitled ‘Tragedy and Modernity’, squarely honed in on this latter aspect. She explained how specific German philosophers have used Greek tragedy, in particular Sophocles’ play Oedipus Tyrannos, to express certain conditions, since the mid-1700s.

Professor Leonard mainly concentrated on Hegel and Freud, explaining how both used Oedipus Tyrannos to encapsulate what they believed to be the modern condition.

(more…)