Thinking the Olympics: Modern Bodies, Classical Minds?

18th-19th September 2008 at the Institute of Classical Studies, Senate House, University of London

The 2008 Olympics in Beijing, poised between the return of the Games to Athens in 2004, and the future return to London in 2012, present a striking opportunity to reassess the role of the classical tradition in the modern, post-classical Olympic Games. Certain versions of a so-called Hellenic ideal have regularly been a feature of public discourse about the Olympics, and have occasioned much of the inventing of traditions that has surrounded the Games since their revival in the nineteenth century. Classical references were very visible in the 2004 Games, and the Athens celebrations were also accompanied by a number of books that together helped to redefine the understanding of the ancient games and their commemoration in poetry and pottery. The classical figures are considerably more muted in the publicity for the Beijing Games, so that it is legitimate to question how much and under what conditions the classical tradition has further relevance for contemporary Olympics, or contemporary Olympics for the classical tradition.

This interdisciplinary conference invites submissions that consider the versions of ancient Greece legible, or suppressed, in the iconography, histories, literature, and ceremonies, both official and unofficial, of the revived Olympic Games. Papers will centrally address some classical aspect of the modern Olympic Games, but may be substantially focussed on topics including, although not limited to

the poetics of athletics Olympic ideals in statuary, painting, ceramics and iconography
epic figures and the Olympics
the Games as theatrical performance
international games and globalisation
nationalism at the Olympics sport and war
race/ethnicity at the Olympics
gender and the Olympics
the Paralympics and classical ideals
the ethics of sportsmanship
Perspectives from a variety of relevant disciplines, including classical reception studies, history ancient and modern, literary criticism, cultural studies, history of art, anthropology, media studies, political science, philosophy, sports science, and the history of medicine, are all welcome.

The conference is supported by Goldsmiths, University of London and the University of Reading.

Please send a 300 word abstract, suitable for a 20 minute paper, to Michael Simpson (m.simpson AT, Department of English and Comparative Literature, Goldsmiths, University of London or to Barbara Goff (b.e.goff AT, Department of Classics, University of Reading. The deadline for the receipt of abstracts is 31st March 2008.