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Black Classicism


 

Virtual Cooperation between the University of Cologne and the University of Kentucky

The project “Black Classicism” aims at raising students’ awareness of “race-craft” not only diachronically, but also synchronically, with respect to their own contemporary world. Students of Classical Studies are trained to keep in mind the gap that exists between the ancient culture and their own, and are constantly being cautioned against applying contemporary notions to the Greek and Latin texts they are reading. In this respect, our seminar, which in a first step explores the construction of race and Africanness in antiquity, can build on an existing tradition in our field. While students may not be aware that skin color is not a defining feature for the construction of “race” or “social status” in antiquity, they will not be too surprised to learn that antiquity often creates and manages its world along different lines than we do today. But, more importantly, they may also not be aware that texts that are in themselves completely uncontested may mean hugely different things to two different contemporary societies – e.g. that the texts of the African church father are read as theological treatises in Europe and the US, but that they are highly political in modern day Tunisia and Algeria, or that the Odyssey may be a part of World literature for white readers, while in African American communities it is being used for voicing their particular historical experience (see Charles R. Johnson’s novel “Middle Passage”).

The seminar brings together our long-standing interest in the representation of Africa in Classical texts and their relevance for local identity in modern Africa and in African-American culture. We share a common scholarly background and an interest in the poets Apollonius Rhodius and Callimachus who were based in North Africa), and we are both members of the EOS network (= Africana Receptions of Ancient Greece and Rome, see https://www.eosafricana.org/). We have both been invited to present on the “Africana” panel hosted by EOS on the Annual Meeting of the Society for Classical Studies in 2018 in San Diego. On the other hand, we bring distinctive specializations to our topic that will help students to see the question of “Africa”, “African” and “race-craft” in a nuanced way. Prof. Jackie Murray is a specialist in Greek literature and in the reception of Classics in African American and Caribbean culture. Prof. Anja Bettenworth is a Latinist with a special interest in the Reception of Classics in North-Africa and in French speaking Sub-Saharan Africa. Together with Claudia Gronemann (French Literature, Mannheim) she is the PI of the DFG-project “Darstellungen des Augustinus im Maghreb als historische und postkoloniale Wissensproduktion”. We have published extensively in our fields of expertise and have been planning for a long time to join forces in teaching.


 

Students' voices - Alisa, Maya & Logan (University of Kentucky)

The Eduventure team was able to join a session of the seminar "Black Classicism", which is co-taught by Prof Bettenworth (UoC) and Prof Murray (University of Kentucky). Beside having an immediate insight into the atmoshpere of the seminar and seeing how benefitial the exchange between UoC students and students of the University of Kentucky is experienced, we were able to spend a few minutes discussing other aspects of this unique transantlantic cooperation with some of the participating students.