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'Good and Bad Treachery: How (not) to be a Jewish Classicist?' Prof. Simon Goldhill (Cambridge)

Please join us at the Institute of Advanced Studies (Cosin’s Hall Seminar Room, CH002), on 10th May at 5pm, for this joint event between the Durham Centre for Classical Reception and the Centre for Jewish Culture, Society and Politics.


The classical tradition depends on an idealisation of antiquity that privileges ancient Greece and Rome as the authoritative origin of artistic and political value. So what happens if that tradition has excluded you, and your own authorities try to diminish the status of the classical - but you still find yourself searching for a place in European culture? That was the condition that faced the Jews of the 19th-century enlightenment especially in German-speaking countries, as they entered the university system. What then happened to the Jews of the twentieth-century, either side of the Second World war, who experienced the culmination of Western European hostility to Jews in the Holocaust - but who became classicists? Two iconic classicists, Moses Finley and Pierre Vidal-Naquet, friends and colleagues, both left-wing Jews, give two very different responses to the issues of authority, politics, value and, above all, how an academic expresses his or her positionality within the academy and its traditions - and tellingly both do so by writing about a Jewish historian faced by the Roman Empire, and, what's more, both focus on treachery as a rhetorical and political force.  This paper opens a new perspective on what tradition means across modernity, and how the politics of the discipline of classics are enacted.

The event will take place in person. Please contact Prof. Nora Goldschmidt if you have any questions.