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This conference, a collaboration between staff and graduate students in Classics and Religion departments at King's and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, will probe how the study of ancient religion might contribute to contemporary public discourse. We often appeal to religion in antiquity to identify the origins of current ideas and norms, emphasizing the continuity of the past and the present. However, ancient texts can be equally valuable as a resource for articulating alternative notions of society and the nature of the human subject. In what ways and using which methodologies can a study of the ancient world, and religious phenomena in particular, produce a series of what Nietzsche might refer to as “untimely meditations” on the present? Furthermore, this implies the need for a closer examination of the reception history of classical texts, as well as of ancient Jewish and Christian literature. How have contemporary notions and concerns been mapped onto these literatures through the ages? If patterns can be identified, what do they have to tell us about our present as readers of the past? The goal would be to set up a rich dialogue between ancient texts, modern readers, and current concerns. A special emphasis will be placed on changing visions of the human subject, around issues of race, gender, class and other related concerns. The conference will aim to bring together scholars of Religious Studies and the Classics–both faculty and graduate students–and will have a broader public appeal as well by dint of the contemporary framing of its subject matter.


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