Skip to main content

This paper will launch the workshop’s discussion of the broader issues relating to teaching classical reception studies by addressing the underlying purpose of teaching this material; or, to put it another way, by asking what students can hope to gain by learning about classical receptions. Given that some might regard such topics as extraneous to the curricula of programs in Classics and related subjects, it is important to explore and account for the pedagogical benefits of classical reception studies. Prime among them, I argue, is the capacity for reception study to foster critical and analytical skills by giving students a new perspective on antiquity and its sources. Directing students’ attention to receptions of antiquity not only develops their competencies in dealing with different kinds of material, but also requires them to reflect on how we know what we do about antiquity, and why antiquity has continued to be so important to humankind and world cultures; in this sense, classical reception studies can contribute particularly effectively to the case for, to borrow Martha Nussbaum’s phrase, ‘why democracy needs the humanities’.

We must also look beyond the ideological arguments, though, in order to consider the practical consequences of studying reception at undergraduate or postgraduate level. In particular, where does it lead the student who wishes to pursue an academic career? If students develop a research interest in this field, is this compatible with a career as a classicist, or does it lead toward other disciplines, and how do prospects vary with different national contexts? Are there other career trajectories that can be well-served by a training in reception?