The Classical Tradition and Reception Studies

About Us

'Classical reception studies' is the study of the diverse ways in which ancient texts, ideas and objects have been given new meanings in later political, social and cultural contexts. While reception-orientated methodologies may be applied within research on the ancient world, one of the fastest-growing areas of research within Classics over the past twenty years has been the study of the 'afterlife' of the classics in the modern world, from the Renaissance to the present day.

The Department of Classics at Reading is recognised world-wide as a pioneer in this area, having established one of the first taught master's courses in the subject in the U.K. (MA in the Classical Tradition). Our present research pushes the boundaries of reception studies beyond discussions of modern literary, aesthetic and performative uses of ancient texts and objects to investigate the roles ancient material has played in the formation of modern societies, political ideals and institutions, and cultural practices across the globe.

Areas of international excellence include classics in colonial and postcolonial contexts (Goff, Vasunia), the history of scholarship and education (Goff, Harloe, Vasunia), the study of political thought and political change (Carter, Goff, Harloe, Vasunia).

Reception studies demands a multi-disciplinary approach, and we are well-connected both with other departments in the university and with institutions elsewhere in the UK and abroad. The Department is a founding member of the Classical Reception Studies Network, based at the Open University, and Goff and Vasunia are founding members of the Ancient and Modern Imperialisms Network, which is based in Reading. Within the university we enjoy collaborations with the Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies (Department of History) and the Centre for Political Theory (School of Politics and International Relations), as well as with colleagues in the School of Languages and European Studies.  These have recently led to the founding of  an international research network to study the Legacy of Greek Political Thought.

As we extend the scope of reception studies to encompass non-literary material, contemporary culture and extra-European contexts our research contributes strongly to new directions in reception theory. Via research collaborations, publications and knowledge transfer activities we help to set the agenda in debates about the future shape of reception studies - and indeed of Classics.


  • NEW BOOK: Barbara Goff has just published Your Secret Language: classics in the British colonies of West Africa (London: Bloomsbury, 2013). Read about it here:  Your Secret Language
  • Two new collections in reception studies have appeared edited by members of the group. In Barbara Goff 's Thinking the Olympics: The classical tradition and the modern games, co-edited with Michael Simpson (Goldsmiths), classicists, cultural and art historians, and scholars of comparative literature debate the tensions between Olympic ideals and instrumental objectives in the ancient and modern games.  Katherine Harloe's Thucydides and the Modern World: Reception, reinterpretation and influence from the Renaissance to the present, co-edited with Neville Morley (University of Bristol), brings together leading scholars from a range of disciplines to explore the different facets of Thucydides' modern reception and influence, from the birth of political theory in Renaissance Europe to the rise of scientific history in nineteenth-century Germany and the triumph of 'realism' in twentieth-century international relations theory.


  • Legacy of Greek Political Thought Network
    The Network held its second workshop in Bristol, in December 2012.  Please read our LGPT blog for a report on it.


  • The Network held its first workshop in Reading on 2-3 December 2011, funded by a British Academy Small Grant.  Speakers included Bonnie Honig, Kinch Hoekstra, Jonathan Sachs, Kostas Vlassopoulos, Sara Monoson, Elizabeth Wingrove and Alexandra Lianeri.  For enquiries about this  international research network, please contact Professor Barbara Goff or Dr David Carter.



  • Several new books have appeared in Ancients and Moderns, a landmark series published jointly by I. B. Tauris and Oxford University Press under the general editorship of  Phiroze Vasunia. The series examines important contemporary issues from the perspective of classical reception studies. Death: Antiquity and its legacy by Mario Erasmo and Gender: Antiquity and its legacy by Brooke Holmes follow the successful volumes on luch and fortune, by Esther Eidinow; the art of the body, by Michael Squire; slavery, by Page duBois; and politics, by Kostas Vlassopoulos, which have appeared since 2009. For more details and a full list of forthcoming titles see the publishers' websites.



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