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Subverting the Classics in the Early Modern Americas

Matthew Gorey, Wabash College (mgorey6@gmail.com)

Adriana Vazquez. University of California, Los Angeles (avazquez@humnet.ucla.edu)

As the field of Classics grapples with its historical exclusion of marginalized groups and perspectives, scholars have increasingly sought to complicate Euro-centric and colonial narratives of classical reception in the early modern period by highlighting moments of subversive engagement with classical antiquity. In the wake of various influential studies that explored anti-imperialist patterns of classical reception in early modern vernacular epics, there has been burgeoning interest in recent years in extending these modes of interpretation to the literatures of Latin America. This ongoing effort has shed light on diverse authors and texts that actively undermined, reclaimed, and reshaped the classical tradition in innovative ways. Such work often brings into focus historically marginalized readers and interpreters of antiquity and offers original and overlooked frames for approaching ancient literature and its role in the narratives of the colonial era.

This panel aims to showcase receptions of Greco-Roman antiquity that subvert the dominant narratives of those who used the classical past to champion elite culture and imperial conquest, with a focus on texts written in—or about—Latin America in the early modern period (ca. 1500 - 1800). Possible areas of inquiry include:

  • moments of classical reception that suggest alternative or subversive readings of ancient texts.
  • receptions of Greco-Roman antiquity by historically marginalized voices, by those who champion the cause of the oppressed, and by those who seek to decolonize, democratize, or deconstruct the legacy of the ancient past through disruptive and original engagement with ancient material.
  • how Latin American authors adopted or adapted classical literature to negotiate their own ethnic, religious, or national identities, often in contradistinction to European models.
  • the limits of subversive allusion, and texts that problematize particular aspects of classical imperialism while still subscribing to some broader imperial framework.

Our panel thus aims to solidify a new, competing reception narrative for the antique past in which authors in the early modern Americas—whether indigenous peoples, mestizos, or European colonists and travelers—engaged with classical texts to critique or subvert political and cultural authorities, using the ancient past as a negative model against which to develop new national literary traditions.

Please send an anonymous abstract for a 20-minute paper as an email attachment to info@classicalstudies.org, with the title “Subverting the Classics in the Early Modern Americas” in the subject line. The deadline for submissions is February 7, 2020. Submissions should follow the SCS guidelines for individual abstracts and will be reviewed by the organizers, who will make final selections by the end of March.

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