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Modernity and the Shock of the Ancient: The Reception of Antiquity in the Late 19th and Early 20th C




Two personalities fought for possession of his soul, and he could not always keep back the lower of the two. They interpenetrated...something very, very old projected upon a modern screen.

Algernon Blackwood, The Wave: An Egyptian Aftermath, 1916.


The ancient world was vital to what it meant to be ‘modern’ at the turn of the last century. Yet antique reception in this period is vastly understudied in all areas except that of classical Greece and Rome. At a time when the looting or wholesale destruction of non Graeco­Roman ancient sites is creating new public interest in their importance to modern cultures around the world, it is crucial that this narrow picture is reconsidered.


This conference will re­evaluate the reception of the ancient past in the late 19th and early 20th century, and its relation to constructions of ‘modernity’. It will explore the reception of a geographically diverse antiquity – from Greece and Rome to Egypt, Mesopotamia and East Asia – in a variety of spheres including literature, public art and architecture, museum exhibitions, cinema, and consumer goods. As a new century began, the ‘ancient’ was signalling the ‘modern’ in both popular and high avant­garde culture, and was harnessed to a range of (often opposing) political agendas. In the process, a ‘new’ antiquity was born, the study of which illuminates what it means to be both ‘modern’ and ‘Western’, today as much as in the early 20th century.

FECHA /DATE/DATA: 10/06/2016

LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: Ashmolean Museum (Oxford, England)

ORGANIZADOR/ORGANIZER/ORGANIZZATORE: Eva Miller (DPhil Oriental Studies, University of Oxford) ; Sarah Green (DPhil English, University of Oxford)

INFO: web - facebook - shockoftheancient@torch.ox.ac.uk

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