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Durham Centre for Classical Reception

Living Poets: A New Approach to Ancient Poetry

The aim of this project is to develop a new approach to classical poetry, based on how listeners and readers imagined the Greek and Roman poets. From antiquity to the present, people have produced a vast range of narrative and visual representations of the ancient poets, drawing from three main sources: their understanding of classical poetry, other representations, and their own personal, lived experience. The main contention of this project is that representations of the ancient poets tell us something crucial – not about the actual poets of Greece and Rome, but about their readers. Classical poetry has been transmitted for over two millennia: this project focuses on the people who recognised its value, ensured its survival, and reconfigured its relevance for their particular contexts. These people often had a powerful sense of the poets’ presence: they saw the ancient poets in dreams, had imaginary conversations with them, made fun of them, wrote biographies and anecdotes, produced portraits, and visited the places where they were supposed to have lived and died. An analysis of how readers imagined the Greek and Roman poets offers a powerful means of investigating the shifting social and cultural value of classical poetry from antiquity to the present.

For a more detailed descrition of the project, click here