Greg Woolf, Director of the Institute of Classical Studies, delivered three Townsend Lectures in the Fall of 2018 titled "Classic Roman."
The dates and titles of the three lectures were:
Wednesday, September 12 - "Oh Brave New Romes!"
Friday, September 14 - "Post-Classical"
Monday, September 17 - "Cultural Creativity in an Age of Empire"
This series of lectures dealt with one of the great puzzles of Roman cultural history, the question of how across a range of media an imperial style was fixed, in the decades around the turn of the millennia. It dealt with canonization, classicization, standardization and their complex relations with political changes, moving back and forth between material culture and literary and intellectual life.
The first lecture examined cultural activity in the middle and late Republic, how it was organized, promulgated, dismissed….and replaced, again and again. Rome had no single cultural revolution but rather many. And then the canons were closed.
The second lecture looked at the nature of cultural creativity across first three centuries CE, under the shadow of the classicizing and canonizing projects of the recent past. It offered an entangled narrative of changes in material, intellectual and political style.
The third lecture considered the same phenomena from the perspective of the makers of culture. It examined the interplay between the agency of craftsmen, poets, patrons and also of Roman artefacts and the Roman sensorium as a whole. It considered the apparent stability of cultural norms and the difference between what was allowed to change, and what was not, and our narratives of lost coherence and fragmentation.
Together these lectures outlined a new map of cultural change in which political action is more of a consequence than a mover of innovation. They offer an alternative narrative to those that culturalize a political history of empire, whether that be in terms of revolutions, Augustanism or Golden Ages fading to silver.