The Institute of Classical Studies
Sharing and promoting research in Classics.
Professor Joshua Katz (Princeton) is one of this year’s Dorothy Tarrant Visiting Fellows at the ICS. Here he shares an insight into his research into the language of Archaic Greek poetry from a comparative/historical linguistic perspective.
On sabbatical from my home institution, I am spending April and May at the Institute of Classical Studies, where the award of a Dorothy Tarrant Fellowship has made it possible for me to think about the language of Archaic Greek poetry surrounded by thousands of books and in the company of friends and colleagues old and new. I’d given a couple of talks at the ICS in past years but never before used the library. What a gem the place is—though on good days, of which there are increasingly many as early spring heads into summer, the leafy sunshine of Russell Square can exert an irresistible appeal. I am going to miss the view of the back of the British Museum from my office (if you have not made it to the exhibition ‘Charmed Lives in Greece: Chika, Craxton, Leigh Fermor’, go now!), the ability of the librarians to find within minutes a book that had unaccountably (and, let me stress, most unusually) been shelved in an entirely different room from where it was supposed to be, and the good humor of Greg Woolf, Valerie James, and so many others.
My recent publications have largely been devoted to the language of Archaic Greek poetry. In particular, I am interested in bringing linguistic and literary work together by demonstrating to literary scholars how an understanding of the deep linguistic background of Homer and Hesiod can be of more than narrow interest while at the same time pointing out to linguists that there is a wide world out there beyond the asterisk. In a paper titled ‘Toward an Indo-European Commentary on Hesiod’, soon to appear in a series published by Hempen Verlag, I offer a sample of what a specifically linguistic commentary on the first two verses of the Works & Days might look like: a commentary that examines an eighth- or seventh-century BCE poem from the perspective of Proto-Indo-European, the ancestor of languages from Greek to Latin to Sanskrit to Russian to Welsh to English that was spoken, probably on the Pontic-Caspian steppe, around 6000 or 5500 years ago. Comparative philologists, who have as one of their tasks to use established linguistic tools to reconstruct this proto-language, can be comically methodical, in a snail-like way, and one may wonder just how long it will take me to get to verse 10, not to say 100, not to say 828. Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that in my Tarrant Lecture, ‘The Goddess and Damned Wrath: How a Linguist Reads the Iliad’, held at the ICS on 8 May, I talked about the first, second, third, and sixth words of the poem that is conventionally considered the start of Western literature, thereby instantiating my not wholly tongue-in-cheek answer to the question, ‘So, how does a Linguist Read the Iliad?’: ‘Slowly!’
My talk extended some ideas about the start of the Iliad that I first presented in a pair of papers published in 2013, ‘Gods and Vowels’ (revised version in press) and ‘The Hymnic Long Alpha: Μούσαϛ ἀείδω and Related Incipits in Archaic Greek Poetry’, as well as giving a taste of a third one that is coming out shortly, ‘Μῆνιν ἄειδε, θεά and the Form of the Homeric Word for “Goddess”’. My goal was to give a new appreciation of what the beginning of the Iliad does and does not mean, to say something about where it comes from in pre-Greek terms and how it was received (and, as it were, mis-received), and to make a novel proposal about how it was first performed nearly three thousand years ago. More specifically, I hope to have shown the following four things about Μῆνιν ἄειδε, θεά, Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆοϛ | οὐλομένην ‘Of the baneful/damned wrath of Achilles son of Peleus sing, o goddess’.
(1) From the Indo-European perspective, all four of our most archaic hexametric poems — the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Theogony, and the Works & Days — have in their first verse a word that goes back to the Proto-Indo-European root *men- ‘think, engage in mental activity’ or its derivative *mneh2- ‘keep in mind’: forms of Μοῦσα ‘Muse’ in the Odyssey and in the two works of Hesiod, μῆνιν ‘wrath’ (etymologically something like ‘bad-mindedness’) in the Iliad. Indeed, this root underlies the very first syllable of three of them. Furthermore, three of the four are followed by a form of *h2weid- ‘sing’, as in ἀείδειν ‘to sing’ and ἀοιδή ‘song’, and three of the four main Homeric Hymns, as well as a number of the shorter ones, both begin and end with forms of *men-/mneh2- and/or *h2weid- (e.g., the Hymn to Apollo, which opens with μνήσομαι ‘let me remember’ [from *mneh2-] and finishes with the common hymnic closer μνήσομ’ ἀοιδῆϛ ‘I shall remember a song’). The two main roles of the Muse-inspired bard in an oral culture are to be the memory of the people (the Muses’ mother is Μνημοσύνη ‘Memory’, likewise from *mneh2-) and to sing of that memory. We are thus able to reconstruct the collocation *men- + *h2weid- as a pre-Greek poetic incipit, an idea whose implications for such matters as genre will need to be worked out carefully.
(2) The alternative opening to the Iliad associated with the Athenian book collector Apellicon of Teos (d. 84 BCE) goes like this: Μούσαϛ ἀείδω καὶ Ἀπόλλωνα κλυτότοξον ‘Of the Muses I sing, and Apollo of the famed bow’. As we now understand, the first two words of the so-called ‘Old Iliad’, which bring us to the caesura, are etymologically equivalent to Μῆνιν ἄειδε.
(3) The etymologically unexpected long initial vowel in ἀείδω (vis-à-vis ἄειδε, with a short one) is an instance of a hitherto unnoticed phenomenon by which the bard calls his audience to attention by elongating the most resonant of the Greek vowels: the ‘hymnic long alpha’, as I call it. Once we have noted that the goddess at the start of the Iliad is the Muse and that it requires adding the word θεά to establish metrical and semantic as well as etymological equivalence between Μούσαϛ ἀείδω and Μῆνιν ἄειδε, θεά, then we may suggest that the likewise difficult-to-explain long alpha in θεά, found here and throughout Homer, is likewise an instance of this same phenomenon. If this is correct, we have evidence not only for a detail of Archaic performance but also for the influence of that oral performance practice on written text.
(4) Finally, the enjambed first word of the second verse, οὐλομένην, supposedly a middle participle of ὄλλυμαι ‘perish’, agrees grammatically and forms a ring with the first word of the first verse, μῆνιν. It is semantically problematic: the ‘active’ translation ‘baneful, murderous’ is difficult to justify since the verb is in the middle voice; on the other hand, the ‘mediopassive’ translation ‘damned, doomed’ don’t make much sense as a description of Achilles’ wrath. A common solution is that the meaning ‘damned’ has been transferred from the optative of wish ὄλοιτο ‘may he perish!’ Mine is very different: the familiar feminine accusative singular aorist middle participle of οὐλόμενοϛ was not originally a participle at all but has replaced οὐλομενήν (note the different accent), the Arcado-Cypriot feminine accusative singular form of the otherwise unknown adjective οὐλομενήϛ ‘destructive-minded’, a compound of οὖλοϛ ‘destructive’ and μένοϛ ‘force, passion’ (cf. εὐμενήϛ ‘well-minded, kindly’ and δυσμενήϛ ‘ill-minded, hostile’) whose second member goes back in Proto-Indo-European to none other than the root *men-. In other words, μῆνιν … οὐλομένην is a hidden figura etymologica ‘destructive-minded bad-mindedness’.
The next word of the Iliad is the relative pronoun ἥ. I doubt that there is anything of broad interest to say about it. But the poem has 15,693 verses, and I invite others to join me in uncovering its linguistic gems.
by Joshua Katz
ICS Research Associate Dr. Caroline Spearing shares her response to an evening with Madeline Miller, who spoke about her latest novel, Circe, in conversation with Kate Mosse at the British Library on 30th April 2018. The event was jointly hosted by the Institute of Classical Studies, and supported by the British Library’s Eccles Centre for American Studies.
It’s not unusual for classicists to feel proprietorial about the ancient world, and perhaps above all about Greek mythology, which provided the gateway drug for so many of us. Attempts to tamper with the canon can come in for serious scrutiny and, often, harsh criticism – whether in 2004’s comedic Troy, or Colm Toibin’s 2017 House of Names, the history of the House of Atreus set in a dystopia closely modelled on the Northern Ireland of the Troubles.
However, as novelist Madeline Miller reminded us towards the end of her riveting conversation with Kate Mosse, this visceral sense of ownership is fundamentally misplaced. Myth belongs to everyone, and, moreover, myths exist outside any given literary or visual treatment. As such, as Ovid would no doubt have noted approvingly, it is endlessly mutable, endlessly adaptable to the preoccupations and concerns of any given time and place.
In today’s world, of course, and in a way that has acquired additional urgency since the breaking of the storm that is #metoo, those preoccupations centre on the previously-unheard female voice and on questions of female agency. Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad (2005) gave a voice to Odysseus’ long-suffering wife. Robert Icke’s version of the Oresteia at the Almeida Theatre in 2015 humanised the husband-slaughtering Clytemnestra. Pat Barker’s forthcoming novel The Silence of the Girls reimagines the Trojan War through the eyes of Briseis as, to quote the Penguin website, she fights ‘to become the author of her own story’.
Madeline Miller won the Orange Prize for Fiction (now the Women’s Prize) with her first novel, The Song of Achilles (2012). On 30th April, during a rare visit to the UK, she addressed an enthusiastic audience at the British Library on the subject of her second, Circe. The event, organised in association with the Institute of Classical Studies and introduced by our own Emma Bridges, took the form of a conversation with Kate Mosse, co-founder of the Women’s Prize and author of a series of highly successful historical novels including Labyrinth (2007) and the forthcoming The Burning Chambers. Like Miller, Mosse knows what it is to evoke the minutiae of a far-distant time and place. This generated some insightful discussion of the challenge of conveying an historical setting without drowning the reader in detail. ‘You use maybe 1% of your research,’ remarked Miller.
Miller told of her first encounter with Circe, as a teenager reading the Odyssey as a school text; of her fascination with this powerful and autonomous sorceress and her shock at her sudden capitulation. Turning to the character after completing The Song of Achilles, she explained, she felt a powerful urge to fill in the gaps in her story – and, above all, to come to understand what it was that made her turn Odysseus’ men into pigs. Research into Circe beyond the confines of Homer led her to imagine Circe in the context of a family which included Helios, the sun god; Aeetes, father of Medea; and Pasiphae, mother of the Minotaur – and what novelist, observed Miller trenchantly, will turn down the opportunity to write a Minotaur birth scene? Miller came to see Circe as a girl without agency in the midst of – literally – Titanic family conflict, empowered only by the practice of sorcery. To a hushed auditorium, Miller read, mesmerizingly, a passage from the novel describing the laborious and demanding process of concocting magic potions – a process sharply distinguished from the effortless supernatural agency of the gods.
Miller has also drawn on the Ovidian Circe, a largely comic figure prone to falling in love with the wrong man. Spurned by the handsome huntsman Picus, she turns him into a woodpecker. Her revenge on Glaucus is rather more grotesque – but I shall follow Miller in withholding spoilers from any readers unfamiliar with Metamorphoses 14. For Miller, the post-Homeric tradition enabled her to flesh out the story of Circe. It also provided her with enough material to confine the Odysseus episode to a mere two chapters – a neat inversion of the two Circe books of the Odyssey.
For Miller, the creative process is one of Virgilian perfectionism. She needs to be able to hear her characters’ voices, to write down their stories as though taking dictation. To do this, she explained, she spends the first five years of a novel’s gestation writing, discarding, and rewriting the first fifty pages – perhaps fifty times in all. (She reminded us of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’) Only then do her characters have the authenticity to carry a novel.
Asked by an audience member whether she read a post-Weinstein message (‘All men are pigs’) into the story of Circe, Miller responded that she preferred to focus on the common theme of female silencing and disempowerment. Other questions stimulated discussion of Circe as the first sorceress in Western literature and of the misogyny underlying much of the discourse of witchcraft.
Why, we wondered finally, does Greek mythology still hold such sway over the imagination? Why, when the ancient world has become at best a peripheral part of the school curriculum, do artists and thinkers still look so insistently to Greco-Roman culture for inspiration and illumination? Perhaps the ancient world provides a reassuring sense of permanence and longevity in a post-Trump, post-Brexit world of upheaval and uncertainty. Perhaps, as Miller suggested, the myths of the Greeks and Romans show us that some intangible core of human nature can be preserved intact across dizzying tracts of time and space. Just as, at the close of the Metamorphoses, Ovid insists on his immortality through his writings in a world in which cuncta fluunt (‘everything flows/changes’), so the culture which he represents has survived: quod nec Iovis ira nec ignis/ nec poterit ferrum nec edax abolere vetustas (‘which neither the wrath of Jupiter, nor fire, nor sword, nor the gnawing tooth of time shall ever be able to undo’). Ovid himself would surely appreciate the irony of using an example from Greek myth to explain Greek myth’s survival.
by Caroline Spearing
In this week’s guest post, Dr. Sally Waite (Newcastle University) tells us about a public engagement project which was recently supported by the ICS’s small grants scheme.
The Legacy of Ancient Greece is one of six ‘pop up’ events for a larger research project led by Professor David Leat and Ulrike Thomas (Centre for Learning and Teaching, School of Education, Newcastle University). The project is centred on enquiry based learning with an emphasis on community curriculum making. A community curriculum involves pupils undertaking projects using community assets and resources with the aim of encouraging student curiosity, creativity and responsibility. Key to the community curriculum is some kind of end product with a public audience, underlining the emphasis on connecting with places and people outside the school. These connections, and the emphasis on an end product, raise aspiration, increase engagement and enhance the quality of the work produced. A community curriculum promotes different kinds of learning experiences, foregrounding creativity and hands on approaches.
The Ancient Greece ‘pop up’ is a collaboration between academics from the Centre for Learning and Teaching and the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at Newcastle University, curatorial and learning staff from the Great North Museum and Belsay School. The ‘pop up’ delivered an intensive introduction to Ancient Greece for Year 3 and 4 children (aged 7 – 9) at Belsay School, a small primary school in rural Northumberland. It took place in the Great North Museum, on the Newcastle University campus and in Belsay School over 6 weeks (February – March 2018). The focus of the ‘pop up’ centred on the theme of Greek legacy and the children worked with a potter and artist (funded by the ICS) to create original art works for an exhibition.
The central premise of the project was that we would organise the curriculum around key objects from the Shefton Collection and these would form the starting point for lessons and creative activities. The Shefton Collection of Greek and Etruscan Archaeology, named after Professor Brian Shefton who established the collection, has been housed in the Great North Museum since 2009. The use of the collection by local schools is well established; the Museum’s education team run two successful workshops centred on Ancient Greece. Our project aimed to embed the collection in a new curriculum, and we focused on five topics pertinent to the theme of ‘legacy’:
- Herodotos and the writing of History
- Superheroes: Perseus and Herakles
- The Olympic Games
We launched the six week project in school by thinking about what archaeologists do and testing our new archaeocube. The archaeocube is a specially designed, portable box to be used indoors, which creates some of the features of an archaeological excavation. This allowed the children to understand the concept of stratigraphy as they uncovered the different layers of the cube. Moving down through modern layers the children discovered coins, pottery sherds and spindle whorls from an imagined Greek house, a mosaic floor and finally a grave.
In the second workshop the children had the chance to handle more ancient Greek artefacts and were encouraged to think about what materials they were made from and what survives archaeologically. The children worked in groups to research the five legacy topics.
In the third week the children came to the Great North Museum where they were encouraged to look at any objects which interested them and then ask their own questions. They learned about Greek history and worked with Graham Taylor of Potted History. Graham demonstrated ancient Greek pottery making techniques and then helped the children to produce a clay model of the god Pan, who features in Herodotos’ story of the Athenian athlete Pheidippides who ran from Athens to Sparta during the Persian Wars.
In the fourth week the children came to the University Library where we looked at Greek coinage and superheroes. They made replica Athenian coins with Fimo modelling clay and silver powder. We thought about how Greek heroes could be compared with modern superheroes and listened to the story of Perseus and the Gorgon. The children then made gorgon faces from Plasticine, inspired by a gorgon antefix in the collection; the also learned about the Greek hero Herakles and then tried decorating a fragment of pottery with an excerpt from one of the twelve labours. They looked at an Athenian red-figure fragment showing the head of Herakles from the Shefton Collection.
For Belsay Primary School, the biggest local asset for the teaching of Ancient Greece is the magnificent Greek revival Belsay Hall. In the fifth week, working with the artist Mina Heydari-Waite, whose own practice is informed by Greek antiquity, the children designed their own Greek revival homes inspired by Belsay Hall, linking this activity to the theme of architecture. The children also worked with Mina to produce watercolour paintings of the goddess of victory Nike taking as their starting point a marble statuette once in the collection of the Victorian art critic John Ruskin and now in the Shefton Collection. This tied in with the Olympic Games topic and the children were able to handle an oil pot used by a Greek athlete and encouraged to think about other objects associated with athletes.
We have selected a range of the best artistic works relating to the five topics for an exhibition and in the final week, working with a graphic designer, the children created a small guide which will accompany the exhibition.
by Sally Waite
(All images © Sally Waite)
Editor’s note: The ICS is currently offering small grants (up to £500) to support public engagement activities run by UK-based researchers in classical subjects. The deadline for the current round is 15th June 2018. For further information visit our grants page.
Writer and producer Máirín O’Hagan introduces Barefaced Greek, who make accessible short films using text from Greek drama in the original language. Along with director Helen Eastman and actors from the films, Máirín will be sharing some of Barefaced Greek’s work at the ICS on 12th June 2018. Further details about the event are available at the bottom of this post.
Back in 2015, I set up Barefaced Greek, alongside director Dr. Helen Eastman, to make new work with ancient drama. For the past few years, we have been exploring the relatively uncharted territory of making modern, short films, using text from ancient drama, in the original language. We wanted to bring to life the drama and poetry of works written to be spoken aloud, and reanimate what some call a ‘dead’ language. Discovering and learning ancient Greek through the very textbooks used by my father and grandfather was a mysterious experience, filled with a sense of history, but drama is something that really comes alive in performance.
If drama students want an encounter with Shakespeare, not only are there plenty of live performances going on round the country at any given time, there is also a wealth of online material, where celebrated actors ‘give’ their Hamlet in an instantly accessible YouTube clip. The same is not true for Classical Greek drama, and teachers (myself included) find themselves using the same few videos (such as Tony Harrison’s wonderful Oresteia at the National Theatre) in an attempt to enliven lessons for new learners. Moreover, the complexity of the act of translation means that each adaptation or translation is fraught with competing pulls between sense, metre, sound, and even the question of whether to de-alienate an ancient, alien culture to seem more accessible to whichever time and culture we are translating into. For my part, the strangeness of the sound of Greek language, which its musical variation of vowel length and sound, and striking stringing of consonants, brings an atmosphere and intensity so much more suited to tragedy than the clipped English of received pronunciation. How much more chilling is an ‘aiai!’ or an ‘oimoi!’ than an ‘oh!’ or ‘ah!’!
Having worked together on recordings of original Greek language poetry, and the Cambridge Greek plays of 2010 and 2013 (Helen went on to direct the 2016 productions, too), Helen and I were certain that we were in love with original language performance, and that we wanted to make sure it was something that everyone could have access to. The divide between Classics education in private and state schools is much discussed, and it felt imperative to us that our work should be free, accessible, online, and the sort of thing that a teenager might find accidentally through Facebook or YouTube.
Teenagers, fortunately, are used to watching subtitled video content on YouTube, which brings us to another benefit of Ancient Greek not being a spoken language: if English speakers are watching our films with subtitles, this means that any nationality in the world can watch them with subtitles, too. As it is spoken nowhere, Classical Greek is as ripe for study and enjoyment anywhere. And so begins our new challenge, to provide subtitles in as many language as possible to our existing collection of films. With support from the ICS, we are looking to broaden the reach of our videos from the English and French titles which are already available, to share our films around the world. Subtitles, of course, reintroduce the complexities of translation, but in film these are governed by a stronger requirement: they must be short enough to read on the screen, leaving, I hope, space for the sound of the original language to dominate.
We are very much looking forward to screening our first collections of films at the ICS in June, following on from our first exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum last April. We will be screening and discussing work from Euripides, Aeschylus and Aristophanes. The public discussion that follows will include our director and producer, as well as actors from our film series, who will be able to shed light on the startling experience of learning Greek for performance.
In the meantime, for those interested, four of our films are available to watch on YouTube or via our website now, and might provide the perfect revision breaks for any students currently working towards their exams…
by Máirín O’Hagan
Editor’s note: The ICS looks forward to welcoming Máirín and her colleagues for ‘New films, old drama: and evening with Barefaced Greek’, which will feature a film screening and an evening of lively conversation on 12th June. This is a free public event, and all are welcome, but booking is essential. School groups are most welcome to join us. For further details and booking information visit the event page.
ICS Research Associate Dr. Caroline Spearing shares with us her journey through teaching and researching Classics, and talks about her research into Neo-Latin poetry.
My path to Research Associateship at the ICS has been a long and meandering one. After graduating from Oxford with a BA in Classics more years ago than I am prepared to admit, I spent a couple of years half-heartedly working towards a DPhil in ethnographical writing of the Second Sophistic, with a particular focus on pachyderms, under the endlessly patient tutelage of Ewen Bowie. Financial exigencies drew me into the murky world of A level resit teaching, where, in those far-off innocent days, completely unqualified and inexperienced graduate students were unleashed on the casualties of the British education system in return for rather less than today’s minimum wage. Over the course of a year, I was roundly assured that the Nile was in Britain, asked whether Octavian was ‘top geezer’ in Rome before Augustus came along, and had a student removed from my care when passers-by unaccountably objected to his promenading down the Cornmarket stark naked.
Teaching, I decided, was my passion and my vocation. A fortuitous set of circumstances led to a maternity cover at Abingdon School, where the headmaster declared on my last day, with finely-judged ambiguity, that ‘no one who has been taught by Miss Butler [as I then was] will ever forget the experience.’ I then joined Winchester College as one of a very few female members of staff and the only one under thirty. While the boys bombarded me with cheap innuendo and obscene graffiti, the redoubtable and exacting Stephen Anderson – now Rodewald Lector at New College, Oxford – succeeded in turning me into a plausibly competent classroom practitioner capable of explaining the difference between the gerund and the gerundive without turning a hair and equipped with an impressive repertoire of classics-related jokes.
After eight years, I moved to St Paul’s School as Head of Classics. Here I became accustomed to deflecting intrusive questioning about my personal life by claiming that my lawyer boyfriend – now my husband – ran a whelk stall in the East End, a policy that spectacularly backfired when the High Master’s Secretary attempted to engage him in small talk about the wet fish trade. After six years among the flower of metropolitan youth I decided that it was time for a foray into senior management, and became deputy head of a co-educational school in South-East London. Five years of spreadsheets, lesson observations, detentions, and meetings which felt like detentions, the whole interrupted only by maternity leave, left me in need of a break from an education system which felt increasingly like a treadmill.
My inclination was to spend the foreseeable future baking cupcakes, but Stephen Anderson and the late and greatly missed James Morwood persuaded me to go to see their friend Roland Mayer with a view to studying for an MA in Classics at King’s College London. After an hour of Roland’s urbane charm I was quite happily filling in an application form and, to my relief, was accepted onto the course. A particular draw for me was the opportunity to study Neo-Latin poetry, on a module taught by Victoria Moul and Gesine Manuwald: after all my years teaching canonical classical texts in minute linguistic detail, I thought it would be rather exciting to see how those texts had inspired Latin literature in very different times and places.
Nor was I wrong. A few weeks into the course we were asked to prepare ‘Violet’ and ‘Water-Lily’ from Abraham Cowley’s Plantarum Libri Sex (1668). I was less than immediately enthusiastic about a text which appeared to be a didactic work on botany. But these expectations were almost instantly overturned. ‘Violet’ is a Horatian ode, in grandiose Sapphics, which references some of Horace’s most elevated political panegyric in order to celebrate the pharmacological powers of a tiny flower. ‘Water-Lily’, by contrast, is Cowley’s attempt at an Ovidian metamorphosis, the story, in elegiac couplets, of a minor goddess who falls in love with Hercules and enjoys a single night with him before he departs on his mission to rid the world of monsters. Tormented by jealous grief, she weeps inconsolably until Juno takes pity and turns her into a water-lily, floating on a pool of her own tears. In a final twist, the flower explains that the antaphrodisiac powers of her root are designed to prevent other women from suffering a similar fate. When Victoria told us that this 7,000-line work had received very little scholarly attention, and was ripe for a PhD, I felt the hand of History on my shoulder.
I was awarded my PhD in September 2017, and know that I am extremely fortunate to feel no less passionate about the Plantarum than I did at the outset. Abraham Cowley (1618-1667) was an immensely successful English poet whose work is very little read today, but which deserves far wider study; he was also a rather less successful spy, working for Charles I’s queen, Henrietta Maria, during the English Civil War. The Plantarum is his longest surviving work in English or Latin, the product of the early Restoration, when the poet, failing to secure an appointment in the brave new world of Charles II’s court, made a very public retirement to the countryside. Often described as a didactic poem, it instead resists classification: among its more remarkable features are a debate between plants as to the purpose of menstruation; a contest between fruit trees of the Old and New Worlds; and a long narrative of the Civil War and Restoration. My thesis aimed to set the work in its Restoration context, looking above all at the ways in which themes and tropes from classical poetry are reworked so as to engage with the social and political issues of mid-seventeenth-century England.
As a Research Associate at the ICS, I am enjoying the opportunity to work up my PhD thesis for publication and to get stuck into a new project, the anthologies of Latin poetry produced by the universities of Oxford and Cambridge to mark major state occasions during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. First of all I want to look at poetry celebrating the marriage of Charles II and Catherine of Braganza, the Portuguese Catholic princess forced to accept her bridegroom’s pregnant mistress as her lady-in-waiting. Last but not least, the hic haec hoc joke still gets an annual airing in my undergraduate Latin language class.
by Caroline Spearing
 Three, of which the hic haec hoc joke is a total corker.
Dr. Liz Potter, ICS Publications Manager, shares news of a short-term offer inviting readers to access recent issues of the Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies (BICS) for free.
This week the ICS is pleased to offer free access to recent issues of BICS for a limited period from Monday 9th April (marking the closing day of the UK Classical Association conference), and ending on Friday 13th April.
For this period, we are making available the first of our commissioned themed issues:
- BICS 60-1 (’Roman History: Six Studies for Fergus Millar’) is edited and introduced by Nicholas Purcell. There are articles by Hannah M. Cotton-Paltiel, Avner Ecker, and Dov Gera; T. P. Wiseman; Claudia Moatti; Stéphane Benoist; Ted Kaizer; and Simon Corcoran.
- BICS 60-2 (‘Varronian Moments’) is edited by Valentina Arena and Fiachra Mac Góráin , and contains pieces by the editors; Giorgio Piras; Grant A. Nelsestuen; Duncan MacRae; Elisabetta Todisco; R. M. A. Marshall; Daniel Hadas; Daniel Vallat; and Wolfgang D. C. de Melo. The issue also has a general index and an index locorum.
While visiting the BICS site, classicists and archaeologists can also refer to our virtual issues on Mycenaean Studies; on Greek law and law courts; and on ancient philosophy — all of this material is free to access at all times. In addition, the BICS Mycenaean Seminar, and some recent BICS Supplements, are available on an Open Access basis on Humanities Digital Library.
On Thursday 22nd March the ICS hosted our first Public Engagement Workshop, bringing together academics working on classical subjects in order to share strategies for successful engagement activities, to explore the benefits and challenges of public engagement in Classics, and to generate ideas for new projects and events.
We were joined in the morning by five speakers with experience of working on a range of different types of engagement projects. Zena Kamash (Royal Holloway) set the tone for the day by sharing insights based on her extensive engagement experience, most recently in relation to her project Remembering the Romans in the Middle East and North Africa. Zena talked about the importance of collaboration (in particular with artists and museums) for her work and gave us some thought-provoking insights into the ethics of engagement. Laura Swift (Open University) shared her work on a different kind of collaborative project, with co-creation at its heart: Fragments, developed as part of Laura’s research into ancient Greek fragmentary texts, is an innovative partnership with theatre company Potential Difference which will result in the production of a new play. We were also joined by Michael Eades, Public Engagement Manager at the School of Advanced Study. Michael curates the annual Being Human Festival and was able to offer some excellent advice, based on years of experience, about what does and doesn’t work when it comes to planning and running engagement events. Excellent engagement can happen in virtual as well as physical spaces, however, and that was the theme of Jessica Hughes’ (Open University) talk. Jessica produces the podcast Classics Confidential, and talked about how online resources like this can offer a great way for academics to share their research with a wider audience. Finally, Jen Grove (Exeter) shared her work on the award-winning Sex and History project, which uses objects from cultures of the past to discuss sex and relationships with young people. Here again the theme of building partnerships resurfaced, as Jen talked about the mutual benefits of working with other people and organisations beyond the university.
The afternoon offered time for informal discussion, with attendees sharing their ideas for projects based on their own research. We were also able to think about some of the challenges faced by engaged researchers, and spent time discussing ways in which the ICS can support and facilitate public engagement in Classics in the UK. For a flavour of the day’s discussion, search for #ICSEngage on Twitter; those who livetweeted the event did an excellent job of capturing the key points which were raised. In future we’ll also be featuring guest posts from the morning’s speakers, so do subscribe to the blog if you’d like to be notified when these are published.
Many thanks to all who participated, and who offered ideas and suggestions for future events and initiatives. We’ll be sharing more news of ICS public engagement activities here in due course.
Readers of this blog who would like to share their thoughts on ways in which the ICS can support and facilitate public engagement in Classics in the UK are invited to get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Library Assistant Christopher Ashill shares some inside information on the way in which the ICS Library/Joint Library of the Hellenic and Roman Societies works in partnership with other libraries around the world to augment its collection.
Publication exchanges have always been an important way of acquiring periodicals and books for the Library’s collection. For instance, approximately 67% of the Library’s current periodical titles come by exchange (462 out of a total of 694 titles). Additionally, the Library is privileged to receive monographic publications from over 150 exchange partners. The total value of publications (periodicals and monographs) received by the Library on exchange amounted to £24,690 in 2017.
The Library’s exchange partners currently include libraries, museums, universities, professional associations and individual scholars in 50 countries worldwide, including organisations such as the Classical Society of Japan (Kyoto), the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures of the Polish Academy of Sciences (Warsaw), and the Instituto de Filología Clásica at the Universidad de Buenos Aires in Argentina.
In exchange for receiving periodicals and some monographs for the collection, the Library reciprocates by sending the printed copy of the Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies and/or publications of the Roman Society and Hellenic Society.
Many of the exchange partnerships have been enjoyed for several decades, but the Library is also pleased to foster new exchange relationships of mutual benefit. As a result, the exchange programme serves to foster a spirit of goodwill and friendly co-operation with the Library’s exchange partners worldwide.
by Christopher Ashill
Editor’s note: The library is currently running a fundraising campaign, further details of which can be found in this post.
 A full list of the countries where we have exchange partners is as follows: Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the USA.
Dr. Franco Luciani (Newcastle University) is Marie-Sklodowska-Curie Fellow on the research project ‘Servi Publici: Everybody’s Slaves’ (SPES). From April to September 2017 he was a Visiting Fellow at the ICS. Franco told us more about the project and the work he carried out during his stay here.
The SPES project sets out to provide a full-scale reconsideration of the position of public slaves in the Roman society through a multidisciplinary and comparative study. Slavery played a central role in the economy and society of Rome: slaves performed all kinds of manual labour and domestic services, and some of them even had highly skilled professions. Besides private slaves, owned by private masters, and imperial slaves, who were property of the emperors, there also existed the so-called ‘public slaves’ (servi publici): these were non-free individuals, not owned by a private person, but by a community. Their masters (domini) were the Roman people as a whole (populus Romanus), in the case of Rome, or the entire citizen body of a municipality (municipes) or a colony (coloni), whether in Italy or in the provinces. Therefore, public slaves in Rome were under the authority of the Roman Senate, whilst in other cities they were under that of the local council.
A number of literary and epigraphic sources from the Republican period and the first three centuries of the Empire show that public slaves in Rome were mostly employed as attendants to priests, and magistrates. Servi publici also worked as custodians of public buildings, such as archives, temples, basilicas, and libraries. From Augustus to Claudius, a familia publica aquaria, comprised of 240 public slaves, was used for the maintenance of the water conduits. Other servi publici carried out generic public works (opera publica).
The epigraphic evidence from Italy and the provinces attests that during the Empire public slaves were employed in the cities for very similar tasks as the ones described for Rome. They were in fact commonly employed as attendants of magistrates. On the contrary, their involvement within the religious sphere as attendants of priests and aeditui is scarcely attested. Many inscriptions from different parts of the Empire show servi publici acting in the administration of the cities as treasurers (arcarii), transactors (actores), and archivists (tabularii). Other epigraphic sources suggest that public slaves could be employed in the management of markets (macella) and granaries as horrearii. Some servi publici were probably also involved in the Trajan’s ‘welfare’ program of alimenta. Finally, in some cities of the Empire servi publici were entrusted with the task of maintaining the public baths, as well as of producing lead-pipes and bricks.
The purpose of my research stay at the Institute of Classical Studies was to acquire the necessary skills for and lay the foundation of the online database for the project. The database will gather every relevant piece of information for the study of the public slaves and freedmen in Rome and in the municipalities of the Empire in a clearly organised way. Following the model of the online edition of Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania (IRT), each epigraphic text will conform to the EpiDoc and EFES guidelines. As a Visiting Fellow at the ICS I conducted a crucial part of the SPES project under the mentorship of Dr Gabriel Bodard. In order to gain the necessary knowledge to build the EpiDoc schema-based database, I attended an EpiDoc training during the first week of my Fellowship (April 3-7, 2017). Then, I organised many textual (literary, legal, and epigraphic) sources relevant for the study of public slaves and freedmen in Rome and in the municipalities of the Empire in a database conformed to the EpiDoc guidelines.
During my Visiting Fellowship, I also used the very useful and rich library of the ICS, which allowed me to complete the rough drafts of two articles for edited books, to write an article for a journal, and five chapters for a handbook and to prepare a poster for the 15th International Congress of Greek and Latin Epigraphy. I also prepared the book proposal of my monograph, which will be the main outcome of the SPES research project. In addition I enjoyed the dynamic and stimulating cultural life of the Institute by attending the Ancient History Summer Seminar Series 2017, the Director’s seminar Series, and the Digital Classicists Series. I myself delivered a seminar within the Director’s seminar Series, in order to present an ongoing aspect of my research project: this event gave me the opportunity to receive helpful feedback and comments from advanced students and colleagues.
My collaboration with the ICS continues also now that the secondment has finished: I have received an ICS Conference Grant for the organisation of the forthcoming event entitled ‘Being Everybody’s Slaves. Public Slavery in Ancient and Modern World’. The conference, which will take place at Newcastle University on March 22nd-24th 2018, will bring some of the most prominent experts of ancient and modern slavery to discuss central methodological issues and focus on the interpretation of the concept of ‘public’ slavery. Its remit goes well beyond Roman public slavery as it encourages the collaboration between experts working on different historical periods. The conference aims to provide a methodologically up-to-date discussion of the nature of the phenomenon, introducing for the first time a theoretical and comparative approach encompassing public slavery in the Roman period as well as some early modern and modern manifestations of it.
I am planning to come back to the ICS very soon!
by Franco Luciani
The conference which Franco mentions is part of the ‘Servi Publici: Everybody’s Slaves (SPES)’ project, which is based at Newcastle University, and has received funding from the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (H2020-MSCA-IF-2015) under grant agreement No 704716.
Information about the ICS Visiting Fellowships scheme is available here.
Here at the ICS we’ve recently been spending a lot of time thinking about monsters of various kinds, after we hosted an event entitled ‘Why do we need monsters?’ We’re also co-publishing with Futurefire.net a new anthology of fiction and non-fiction entitled Making Monsters, for which the call for submissions of short stories and poetry is open until 28th February (details via this link). In connection with this we’ve had the opportunity to talk to five indigenous authors from the South Pacific, all of whom have recently had their work published in an anthology titled Pacific Monsters. This conversation touched on areas relating to comparative literature, mythology and its reception, and cultural sensitivity—all topics which are key to ongoing discussions in Classics.
We began by asking each of the authors to introduce themselves.
Tihema Baker (TB): Kia ora tātou. I’m a Māori writer from Ōtaki, Aotearoa New Zealand, and my iwi are Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga, Te Āti Awa ki Whakarongotai, and Ngāti Toa Rangatira. I am the author of the YA novel Watched, and I have a couple of short stories published out there. I currently work full time as a public servant.
Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada (BK): Aloha mai kākou pākahi a pau. I’m a Hawaiian-language legal and literary translator, scholar, poet, photographer/videographer, and sometimes blogger (hehiale.wordpress.com). I’m pretty new to fiction writing, so just have a few stories floating around out there. I currently have the strange and long job title Content Strategy Lead for the Network of Native Hawaiian Schools, which mostly means I write and help shoot short documentaries and commercials about the importance of Hawaiian ʻāina-, language- and culture-based education and help run our social media.
Iona Winter (IW): Kia ora koutou, Hi everyone, I’m of Māori (Waitaha/Kāi Tahu) descent, from Ōtepoti Dunedin, Aotearoa NZ. My short fiction has been anthologised and published internationally, and this year I begin a PhD in Creative Writing. My research is on Pūrākau Mana Wāhine: Traditional Women’s Knowledge, as passed on orally and between generations. I am very interested in the intersection between written and spoken word.
Raymond (Ray) Gates (RG): I’m an Aboriginal Australian author, descended from the Bundjalung people of northern New South Wales, currently living in Wisconsin, USA. I have a number of published short stories and am concentrating on my first novel this year, as well as some commissioned work and a collaboration with an actress/filmmaker that I’m hoping will work out. My day job is a home care physiotherapist
Michael Lujan Bevacqua (MLB): I am an Assistant Professor in Chamorro Studies at the University of Guam (I am from the Kabesa/Bittot clans of Guam). My academic work deals with researching the colonization of the Chamorro, the indigenous people of Guam and also theorizing various ways that they can decolonize. Creatively I have a company with my brother Jack, called The Guam Bus, where we create comics and childrens books in English and Chamorro, that promote Chamorro culture and history.
In what ways does contemporary fiction (perhaps including film and visual art) make use of traditional myths and stories from the Pacific region?
RG: Speaking from an Australian perspective, I really don’t think it does, at least not in the mainstream. Aboriginal stories and characters are either presented inaccurately, stereotypically, or as some form of primitive mysticism. The exceptions are those being created by (or in close conjunction with) Aboriginal peoples. An example would be the Netflix series Cleverman which essentially tells the story of what Aboriginal peoples have experienced over the last 200+ years using a fictitious people in a dystopian future Australia.
MLB: In terms of Guam, the Marianas and Micronesia contemporary fiction uses very little (in either good or bad ways) from this corner of the Pacific. There is most definitely a Polynesian hegemony when the rest of the world imagines the Pacific, and Micronesia tends to pierce through the haze in only military terms. For example, Guam as a site in World War II, nuclear or otherwise missile testing in the Marshall Islands and now threats from North Korea. So while other parts of the Pacific have to contend with theft of cultural practices and knowledge and gross misrepresentations, in Guam and Micronesia it is primarily erasure. One of the few ways in which these islands have entered into the creative imaginary is H.P. Lovecraft’s use of Nan Madol on the island of Phonpei for his story “The Call of Cthulhu.” In Guam itself however there is a greater drive amongst writers and artists today to try to convert our traditional stories into contemporary media.
TB: I don’t think contemporary literature explicitly draws on traditional Māori myths and stories, at least in what I’m familiar with. I think Māori literature is generally quite grounded; the work of our most well-known Māori writers (for example, Patricia Grace or Witi Ihimaera) tends to explore the real, lived experiences of Māori, and the effects of colonisation we constantly grapple with. That said, what is strong across Māori literature, I think, is spirituality, which is very much present in and partly inherited from our traditional myths and stories.
IW: Unlike Tihema, I do think some of our contemporary literature draws on traditional Māori mythology, with writers such as Keri Hulme, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku and Alice Tawhai. I agree that Māori literature is often well grounded, and spirituality is a significant thread linking us back to traditional ways of life. Witi Ihimaera (Whale Rider, Sky Dancer, The Matriarch) and Patricia Grace’s children’s books have also drawn on traditional mythology, lending contemporary twists to ancient tales. There are many Māori film-makers, artists and musicians (thinking about art in a more holistic form) who also draw on mythology in their work – Robyn Kahukiwa (visual artist), Lionel Grant (master carver), Merata Mita (filmmaker), Vincent Ward (filmmaker), and Lisa Reihana (visual artist) are a few who come to mind. In my experience, non-Māori writers are often mindful, cautious and seek advice from Māori when writing about our traditions. And yes, as Tihema has mentioned, we do constantly have to manage the effects of colonisation.
BK: I think that if we’re talking about contemporary North American literature/film, Hawaiʻi experiences an erasure of sorts. Not to the degree that Michael talks about in regards to their area, but Hawaiʻi is often the touristic backdrop for people’s fantasies but Hawaiians are not necessarily real actors in the story. Even when there are the weird tiki (which isn’t even our word) curses featuring in the story, the curse usually comes from some relic of a vanished people. In literature actually coming from Hawaiʻi, there is more of an awareness of our actual moʻolelo, but so many stories only connect with Pele, to akua of the volcano Kīlauea, and often still rely on romanticized and touristic understandings of the traditions connected with her. I think that our poetry scene here has been very fertile for a while, so you see deeper connections with our moʻolelo there from amazing Hawaiian poets like Haunani-Kay Trask, Noʻu Revilla, Jamaica Osorio, ʻĪmaikalani Kalāhele. Poets who are not Hawaiian even go past the expected moʻolelo that they tell at tourist lūʻau and reference things like Kapo’s flying vagina.
How do you incorporate supernatural monsters or traditional myths and folk beliefs into your own writing?
BK: One of the important things that informs the way I write about kupua and other beings from our moʻolelo came from an experience I had with translating Ka Moʻolelo o Hiʻiakaikapoliopele. It is one of our traditional moʻolelo that appeared over ten times in our Hawaiian-language newspapers, and the version we translated ran about four hundred pages. It’s a pretty epic tale featuring Pele and her beloved youngest sister Hiʻiaka, who is sent across the islands to find Pele’s lover that she met in a dream. But one of the first critiques I heard of our translation was that we used the word “supernatural” to describe some of the beings in the moʻolelo, because these beings were not above or outside of nature for our people. They were very much “natural.” And so that is the approach I try to take to incorporating kupua and our moʻolelo into my writing. When I write fiction, I try to create worlds where they are a natural part of the fabric of reality, and when I write blogs or academic pieces about issues affecting our ʻāina, our land, I try to show people that our moʻolelo are woven into the fabric of this world as well.
MLB: The main drive behind my creative work is to provide the type of media that didn’t exist when I was young. Growing up, my brothers and I were absorbed into the worlds of European mythology, video game worlds and most definitely the narratives of Marvel, DC, Image and Valiant comics. There were stories of Chamorro cultural and legends and spirituality, but while they were exciting in some ways, they did not appeal to some growing up watching TV, movies and playing video games. They seemed too outdated and old, they lacked an exciting contemporary dimension that would make them feel like they were a part of the world we were growing into. For years, we talked about making comics together, but it was only after I had children that I really felt the need to take seriously the connection between our culture and contemporary media forms. I wanted to make sure that my own children and others would have the ability to identify their own history, culture and stories with popular media that they would no doubt be bombarded with. One of the things that Chamorros struggle with is centuries of colonization that have made them feel alienated and disconnected from their ancestors of the past. When European colonization took place in the 17th century, most of Chamorro religion and many cultural practices at the time were prohibited, leading to them feeling a fundamental estrangement from those that had come before. In recent decades there have been sustained movements in Guam to overcome that barrier, by reviving practices that were once lost and also promoting the use of Chamorro culture and language in new and innovative ways. My work is part of that, taking those ideas from our elders or from history books, and trying to rework them into ways where they can make the heart of a young Chamorro today race or beat. Where they can feel connected and excited about them, just as much as the next episode of Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. My brothers and I accomplished this most notably in our comic Makåhna which is the Chamorro word for a wizard or a sorcerer. We took seriously the notions of magic or supernatural power in Chamorro culture and created a world (next issue comes out later this year) where Chamorro power isn’t just relegated to faded text in anthro texts or priest reports, but where they jump off the page with motion and action.
IW: Similar to Brian’s comments, I was raised to understand that the ‘supernatural’ is a normal part of life. When I write, everything is interconnected. There are no splits between mind-body-spirit-environment-ancestors, because nothing occurs in isolation from a Māori perspective. I’m grateful to have been raised without a colonised religious approach to life (my parents were hippies) and my grandfather spoke freely about Te Ao Wairua (the spiritual world). That said (writing-wise), as with ‘myth and folk beliefs’, not everything is spelled out and readers are required to do some exploring too. Like sitting in a wharenui listening to our elders kōrero – sometimes you have no idea what they were talking about until afterwards. It’s holistic but not necessarily linear.
TB: I feel like there’s a distinction to be made in this question between deliberately incorporating our traditional stories – or aspects of them, such as “monsters” – into my writing, and the influence that those stories have generally on my writing. Like Bryan and Iona, our traditional stories have informed the way I was raised, the way I live, and who I am. That influence extends to my writing no matter what the text is about. As an example, my novel features a unique energy called “Cosmic Energy”, which is basically life-force, present in all things. In my mind, my Cosmic Energy is essentially what we Māori refer to as mauri. And while the expression of this Cosmic Energy in my novel is admittedly a pretty Westernised one, I know exactly where the inspiration for it came from. There are probably plenty of other examples like this throughout my writing I’m not even aware of because it’s just part of who I am, and it’s reflected in whatever I put on the page. But at the same time, that general influence on my writing is, I think, quite different to consciously drawing on traditional stories and knowledge to tell a certain story. For example, for Pacific Monsters, I deliberately drew on our mythologies and traditional knowledge about Patupaiarehe to tell a contemporary story about them – which was a type of story I hadn’t really tried my hand at before. As a contrast, I did not do the same for another of my short stories, Kei Wareware Tātou, which is about two Māori Battalion war veterans. Of course, the latter story will have been influenced in some way by the traditional stories that have shaped me and my writing, but it wasn’t directly inspired by them and didn’t strongly incorporate aspects of them. So (to finally answer your question!) for me personally, I don’t explicitly incorporate traditional stories or “monsters” in my writing unless that’s the type of story I want to tell, however, they definitely influence me and my writing in a general sense.
RG: I may have interpreted the question a little differently. In terms of “how” my first thought is “carefully and respectfully”. Appropriation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures is an ever growing concern and many communities are watchful for people misrepresenting our culture and beliefs, or including things that should not be included without permission (if then). Just because our culture is rich for storytelling does not mean everything should be offered for public consumption. This has produced a culture of fear in the spec fic market, where editors and publishers are afraid to include content that is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander based in case it offends. What they should be doing – what I encourage them to do – is work not only with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors, but with those communities from which stories are drawn, to ensure content is culturally safe and help get it out there. That is potentially a win-win for everybody. Unfortunately, many do not want to take the time and effort to make that happen.
BK: I also wanted to follow up on Ray’s answer a bit too about many not wanting to take the time and effort to responsibly present or re-present traditional stories. In some cases in our culture here in Hawaiʻi, there are traditions that are related with particular families or lineages, so like for a particular hula, a certain family is responsible for stewarding it and passing it along, so you have to approach them if you want to learn it.
But for a lot of our moʻolelo, our traditional stories, they were made a lot more free through the vehicle of the Hawaiian-language newspapers. From 1834 to 1948 or so, we had over a hundred Hawaiian-language newspapers, and it was here that a lot of our people shared our moʻolelo, sometimes for preservation purposes, sometimes for entertainment, and sometimes even for critique. One aspect of the newspapers that appealed to Hawaiians was that it mimicked oral culture in a way; it was interactive and people could have conversations through letters and editorials in a way you could not with books.
But it also lead to the development of a very literary Hawaiian and “authored” moʻolelo. So for example, the moʻolelo of Pele and Hiʻiakaikapoliopele was said to have been published in the newspapers over 13 times, written in very different styles and for very different political and cultural purposes, so now they are known as the Kapihenui version, the Hoʻoulumāhiehie version, the Poepoe version, etc. What that shows to me is that our people were not afraid to re-present our traditional stories because they were solid in their cultural foundations. They were not merely vessels of the oral tradition; they would take chances and experiment.
This is where the rub comes for contemporary literature though. All these examples are in Hawaiian. And our language, though growing at a healthy rate, is still at a place where even those of us who speak Hawaiian have a hard time accessing some of these moʻolelo and understanding the cultural referents within them.
So most of us who work with these moʻolelo do so as part of language revitalization and historical recovery kinds of efforts. Very few of us write fiction (though a growing number do write and perform poetry). So as with the contexts we have been discussing above, sometimes the people who want to re-present our stories come from outside our community, and they often either do not understand the work it takes to truly get a grasp on these moʻolelo or do not want to put in the time to actually learn Hawaiian to access this archive. So they just end up relying on problematic retellings or translations the translation projects I have been a part of are not above reproach in this manner either) or popular retellings from tourist materials.
And to tie this all back into the question of working traditional beliefs and moʻolelo into our writing, I would say that I do it very deliberately, because by having been taught these moʻolelo and having been given the language ability to access them, I have also been given a kuleana, or responsibility, to ensure that they live and gain mana, which besides referring to the power that is inherent in all things also is the word we use for a version of a story. So by re-telling these stories, I am trying to give mana to our more rooted moʻolelo and show those outside our community a more kuleana-centered way of approaching the telling or re-telling of our stories.
Many thanks to each of the authors for taking the time to share their thoughts with us; our conversation has already inspired some fruitful discussion here at the ICS on ways in which the points they raise might relate to our own understanding of, and approaches to, classical mythology and its reception. Pacific Monsters is one of several anthologies in the Books of Monsters series, which is published by Fox Spirit Books and which features art and fiction based on mythologies from around the world. The series is edited by Margrét Helgadóttir, who will be contributing a non-fiction essay to the ICS/Futurefire.net Making Monsters anthology. Making Monsters will be published later this year; the call for fiction and poetry submissions (closing 28th February 2018) is here.