The Study of the Human Past

“Hellas through American eyes. Representations of Ancient Greece in 19th-century American Scholarship”

Konaris Michael

Research ProposalShort BioPublications

Summary of the Research Proposal

The 19th century is a crucial period in the history of American classical scholarship: during its course American classicists sought to emancipate themselves from the initially strong European influences and articulated their vision for the development of a distinctively American approach to Greek antiquity. Moreover, in response to domestic utilitarian critics who argued that classical studies were of no value in the New World, American classical scholars contended that the study of ancient Greece was necessary in order to counter the negative aspects of the modern American way of life.

The project proposes to investigate the portrayal of ancient Greek culture in the writings of three leading 19th-century American classicists, namely, Edward Everett (1794-1865), Cornelius Conway Felton (1807-1862), and Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve (1831-1924) and how it was meant to contribute to the cultural and moral betterment of the United States of their times. The American conceptions of ancient Greece and their implications will be examined in the light of those prevalent in contemporary Europe. In this context, comparisons and contrasts will be drawn between the view-points of American scholars and, among others, of Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835) and Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (1848-1931) in Germany, Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) and Walter Pater (1839-1894) in England, Ernest Renan (1823-1892) and Salomon Reinach (1854-1932) in France, and Konstantinos Paparrigopoulos (1815-1891) and Dimitrios Vikelas (1835-1908) in Greece. By placing emphasis on the modern agendas informing the approaches of 19th-century classicists and by exploring the similarities and differences between the American and European traditions of classical scholarship, the project aims to cast light on the distinctive ways in which the ancient Greek past was interpreted, appropriated and utilized in the US and in European countries.

Michael Konaris holds a BA in Literae Humaniores, an MSt in Modern History and a DPhil in Ancient History from the University of Oxford and an MPhil in Classics from the University of Cambridge. He has been Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Freie Universität, Berlin, the Center for Hellenic Studies, Princeton and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris. In Spring 2017 he was an Onassis Fellow at the National Hellenic Research Foundation. He is currently an Associate Scholar of the Swedish Institute at Athens, working on the correspondence of M.P. Nilsson. He also teaches at the Open University of Cyprus. His research interests focus on the reception of ancient Greek religion and culture in the history of scholarship and on comparisons between ancient Greece and China. He is the author of The Greek Gods in Modern Scholarship. Interpretation and Belief in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Germany and Britain (OUP 2015).

Selected Publications

  • The Greek Gods in Modern Scholarship. Interpretation and Belief in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Germany and Britain (OUP 2015)
  • ‘A History of Changing Religious Attitudes in Greek Antiquity: M.P. Nilsson’s Greek Piety (1948)’, in J. Wallensten (ed.), A Celebration of the Work of M.P. Nilsson (Swedish Archaeological Institute, forthcoming)
  • ‘Religious History’ in A. Lanieri and K. Vlassopoulos (eds.), A Companion to the Modern Historiography of Ancient Greek History (Brill, forthcoming)
  • ‘Αρχαία Ελληνική Θρησκεία και Εθνικός Χαρακτήρας στο Έργο του Κωνσταντίνου Παπαρρηγόπουλου [Ancient Greek Religion and National Character in the Work of Konstantinos Paparrigopoulos]’, στο A. Tαμπάκη και O. Πολυκανδριώτη (επιμ.), Ελληνικότητα και Eτερότητα: Πολιτισμικές Διαμεσολαβήσεις και ‘Eθνικός Χαρακτήραςστον 19ο Αιώνα [Greekness and Otherness: Cultural Transferences and ‘National Character’ in the 19th century], τομ. B (2016), σς. 267-282.
  • ‘Dionysos in Nineteenth-century Scholarship’, in R. Schlesier (ed.), A Different God? Dionysos and Ancient Polytheism (De Gruyter 2011), pp. 467-478.