CFP: Symposium: Ancient Greek Pots and Social Class in Britain, 1789-1939

May 5, 2016, King’s College London

This symposium is convened by Dr. Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis under the aegis of the AHRC-funded Classics and Class research project based at King’s College London and directed by Professor Edith Hall and Dr. Henry Stead.

Classical material culture has been part of British material culture from at least the 17th century onwards and as such has played an important role in delineating class distinctions. Its popularity in the late 18th and 19th centuries is to be seen within the context of British colonialism and rising luxury consumption, itself a marker of class. In 18th- and 19th-century Britain, Greek pots were seen as the cheap cousins of more durable and “elevated” marble sculpture. While the reception of marginalized Greek pots is receiving increasing scholarly attention, research has focused predominantly on elite reception, notably collections in the houses of the rich, and expensive ceramics, furnishings and fashions, inspired directly by Greek pots and indirectly by their two-dimensional images in publications.

This symposium seeks to explore the reception of ancient Greek pots through the lens of social class and to bring to prominence hitherto marginalized working class and middle class engagements with this area of Classical material culture. The grounding of this project is threefold: first, the pots themselves are connected to non-elites of ancient Greece through their cheap material and manufacture by non-elite craftsmen, whose work had a direct analogue in that of the laborers in the Potteries and other factories; second, through their depiction of non-elite Athenian lives; and third, arguably, through their use by non-elites. A class-focused exploration of the reception of Greek pots offers the opportunity to analyze non-elite responses to ancient non-elites.

Abstracts of up to 300 words should be sent to alexia.petsalis-diomidis at kcl.ac.uk by 16 November 2015. Possible themes include (but are not limited to):

  • Greek pots and the objects they inspired within broader British material culture and consumption
  • Roles of gender in different class engagements with Greek pots
  • Roles and agencies of craftsmen inspired by Greek pots (e.g. potters, cabinet makers)
  • Widening access and viewing experiences of working and middle classes of Greek pots in houses and museums
  • Roles of Greek pots and inspired objects in demarcating class (particularly the appeal and consumption of cheaper objects such as Dilwyn pottery)
  • Relationship between different class engagements with classical pots (agency, top down models of influence or interpenetration)
  • Influence of arts & crafts movement on Sir John Beazley’s approach to Greek pots
  • View from abroad: class and ancient Greek pots in countries other than Britain (particularly Italy, France, Germany, Ottoman Empire). This could include the role of class in (licit and illicit) excavating, collecting and imitating Greek pots.

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