On the weekend of March 14, students, faculty, and community members filled the Kelsey Museum to hear experts from around the world discuss the classics in the context of Africa and African diasporas. The event brought together scholars of classics, classical reception studies as well as cultural and intellectual historians of Africa and African diasporas to discuss transnational dialogues and debates on classical traditions (both traditional European classics and traditions founded on African antiquity).
A heterogeneous world of writers, intellectuals and political figures in Africa and in African diasporas created new classicisms in their transformation and contestation of European textual traditions founded on ancient Greece and Rome, and in their engagement with the traditions of African antiquity. Few would hold that there was or is a singular black Atlantic classicism – each author has her or his historical moment of engagement with “the classical.” Nevertheless, the historical frame of African/diasporic cultural construction has long been understood as transnational, mobile and interconnected. This conference seeks to explore precisely these transnational dimensions of classicism in the work of intellectuals and artists of the Black Atlantic. We seek to bring classicists and scholars of classical reception into conversation with cultural and intellectual historians of Africa and African diasporas to trace conjunctures and disjunctures of the classicisms created in the Black Atlantic, as well as the historical circuits and trajectories of the ideas and thinkers that created them.
Schedule of Events
Friday, March 14
1-2pm: Paolo Asso (University of Michigan) - The Idea of Africa in the Ancient Roman Literary Imagination
2-3pm: Mira Seo (Yale/NUS) - Latino’s Library and Cervantes’ Bibliomania: Poetics of Lepanto
3:15-4:15pm: Dan-el Padilla Peralta (Stanford) - Athens and Sparta of the New World: Classical confrontations in Santo Domingo
4:15-5:15pm: Justine McConnell (Oxford) - ‘A high-level fuku, the local version of House Atreus’: Junot Diaz’s Engagement with Classical Antiquity
5:30-7:00pm: Keynote: Emily Greenwood (Yale) - Middle Passages: Mediating Classics in Black Atlantic Contexts
Saturday, March 15
10-11am: Margaret Williamson (Dartmouth) - What’s in a Name? The ironies and legacies of classical slave names in the British Caribbean.
11am-12pm: Michele Valerie Ronnick (Wayne State University) - The Mysterious Mr. Hartley (1861- c.1935)
12-1pm: Lunch (free)
1-2pm: Butch Ware (University of Michigan) - “Black Egypt and the United States of Africa: Cheikh Anta Diop’s Vision of the Classical Past and the African Future”
2-3pm: Tracey Walters (Stonybrook) - Bernadine Evaristo’s The Emperor’s Babe and the Blackening of British History
3:15-4:15pm: Adam Lecznar (Univ. of Bristol) - After Antaeus: Tragedy between Cesaire and Nietzsche
4:15-5:15pm: Patrice Rankine (Hope College) - Everybody’s Classics: Performing blackness in the plays of August Wilson and Suzan-Lori Parks
Sponsored by Contexts for Classics. Cosponsored by the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, the Office of the Vice President for Research, the International Institute, the Institute for the Humanities, the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies, the Department of History, the Department of Comparative Literature, the Modern Greek Program, the Department of Classical Studies, and the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies.