Reception has in the last decade or so established itself as an indispensible part of Classical Studies, with a series of important publications and even a journal (Classical Receptions Journal, http://crj.oxfordjournals.org/). Students and scholars of the classical tradition now investigate the influence of ancient literature, its use in political discourse, and its manifestations in films, TV series, graphic novels, and computer games. By contrast, there is still no developed field of study concerned with the reception of Byzantium in Europe, even though recent years have seen a growing number or publications (see below). The aim of the recent conference entitled “Transformation and adaptation – the reception of Byzantium between the 16th and 21st centuries”, held in Katowice on 5-6 September, was therefore to bring together scholars interested in the reception of Byzantine culture.
For two days, the participants enjoyed papers and discussions on the use of Byzantine elements in various forms and contexts: opera, politics, art and architecture, literature, fashion, comic books and scholarship. The conference started with a keynote held by Paul Stephenson (Nijmegen) titled “The Remains of Byzantium: Art, Things, Cultural Property, and World Heritage” which offered a philosophical and at times even poetic reflection on how our perception of objects are altered and shaped based on the perspective from which we view them. Among the many examples listed by Stephenson can be mentioned the ongoing discussion of the status of Athos as a site of world heritage. He related how the monasteries on Athos, The Greek State and the UNESCO committee approached the same landscape and cultural heritage in noticeably different ways all due to their different perspectives.
Speakers came from near and far, belonging to various nationalities and disciplines. No less than four of the speakers belong to the NBN and thus deserve some special mention here. Lærke Andersen, who is just finishing her doctoral dissertation at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, offered us a glimpse of her results in the paper “Watermelons, Egg-Whites and Cumin-Splitters: Erasmus’ Use of Eusthathius in the Adagiorum Chiliades”. Helena Bodin, who now shares her time between Stockholm University and the Newman Institute in Uppsala, shared her own and others’ memories of a scent from the 1980s in the paper “Byzance by Rochas: a double nostalgia”. Tonje Haugland Sørensen, from the University of Bergen, presented a new project under the title “Tessera and Tradition – The Neo-Byzantine chapel of Pope Pius IX in San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura, Rome”. And Ingela Nilsson, back in Uppsala after a sabbatical term abroad, was finally given the opportunity to speak about Coco Chanel in “Why does all I do become Byzantine? ‘Byzantine’ fashion in 20th- and 21st-century Europe”.
It is a great pleasure to see that Nordic byzantinists have such a strong interest in this important field in the making, and we hope that this conference is but the beginning of a new departure towards a developed field of study on the reception of Byzantium. Many thanks to Przemysław Marciniak, Katarzyna Warcaba and Jan Kucharski for organizing such a wonderful meeting, and to the National Programme for the Development of Humanities for generously supporting it.
IN & THS
For the interested reader:
- Altripp (ed.), Byzanz in Europa: Europas östliches Erbe (Turnhout 2011)
- Delouis, A. Couderc and P. Guran (eds), Héritages de Byzance en Europe du Sud-Est à l’époque moderne et contemporaine (Athens 2013)
- Kolovou (ed.), Byzanzrezeption in Europa: Spurensuche über das Mittelalter und die Renaissance bis in die Gegenwart (Berlin 2012)
- Marciniak and D. Smythe (eds), The Reception of Byzantium in European Culture 1500–2000 (Farnham 2014)
- Nilsson and P. Stephenson (eds), Wanted: Byzantium – The Desire for a Lost Empire (Uppsala 2014) (http://acta.mamutweb.com/Shop/Product/0015-Wanted-Byzantium/diva2%3a717798)