From April 5th-April 12th 2010, Lisa Whitlatch, PhD Candidate, headed down to Sydney, Australia, for the conference “Genre in the Ancient World.” She was happy to trade the unpredictable New Jersey weather for sunny Sydney, and reports back on the environment of the conference and Sydney–
The time difference is not easy to get over. To arrive on a Wednesday, I needed to leave on Monday and travel, in essence, for 24 hours. But other than the length of the flights, everything was good. No crashing on a deserted time traveling island or something, after all. I stayed at the Ardmore House (http://www.ardmorehouse.com.au/) which is a cute, elegant, but affordable B&B. It’s in the heart of Newtown, which is one of the two main residential areas around the University. So it’s what you would expect from a college town–many cheap restaurants and shops.
That day, I was able to do some sightseeing. I went into downtown (CBD). I started at the Circular Quay, where I saw the Opera House and wondered around the Royal Botanical Gardens. There are so many strange birds in Australia! Then I took the ferry to Darling Harbor and walked around there. I spent some time in the Chinese Gardens, then had dinner and went back to Newtown.
The majority of the next three days was spent at the conference at the University of Sydney, Madsen Building, at the Centre for Classical and Near Eastern Studies of Australia. There were introductory remarks by Frances Muecke and the keynote from a comp lit professor at Melbourne, John Frow. It was a very interesting thought about what it means and if it’s possible to translate genre. The other speakers were: Professor Bernhard Kytzler (“Conditions Apply: On Limitations of Ancient Literary Genera”), Ms. Peta Greenfield (“The Normalisation of Violence? Sexual Violence in Modern Fiction and Ancient Poetry”), Ms. Rachel Yuen-Collingridge (“The physicality of Genre in the Papyri: the Expression and Subordination of Content”), Dr. Michael Champion (“Performing and Transforming Cultures and Genres in Late-Antique Gaza”), Dr. Marcus Wilson (“You Are What You Read: Genres in Seneca’s Reading”), Associate Professor Matthew Semanoff (“Avoiding Cliffs: Reserving Strategies of Seduction in Ovid’s Ars Amatoria”), Associate Professor Damian Stocking (“Generic Dysfunctions: The Political ‘Work’ of Aristophanic Comedy”), Dr. Scott Farrington (“Polybius and Biography’s Missing Link”), Dr. Graham Miles (“Genres of Painting and Genres of Text in the Imagines of Philostratus”), Ms. Helena Bolle (“The Proverbial Body: Genre and Physiognomy”), Dr. Astika Kappagoda (“From Grammar and Genre to Science in Herodotus’ Account of the Flooding of the Nile”), Ms. Britt Sarah Paul (“Crossing Gender, Crossing Genre: Muliebris vestis as a Generic Marker of Identity in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses (7.4-10)”), Professor Harold Tarrant (“Computer analysis of Common Greek Vocabulary as an Aid to the Recognition of Genre and Sub-genre”), Ms. Judy Goodsell (“Generic Experimentation in Ovid’s Heroides”), Dr. Jonathan Wallis (“quam bibistis aquam? Questioning Elegiac Identity in Propertius Book 3”), Mr. Murray Dahm (“Genre and the Breviarium of Festus – A Cautionary Tale of Neglect”), Ms. Sarah Gador-Whyte (“The Genre of the Kontakion: Poetry, Homily or Hymn?”).
Thus there were a variety of approaches and works considered. The questions and comments were always thoughtful and constructive, and overall it was a nicely done conference. To encourage discussion, there was a roundtable discussion at the end of the first day. The participants were Marcus Wilson, Michelle Borg, Lindsay Watson, Damian Stocking, and Anne Rogerson. We did not, in fact, come to a conclusion about what genre was or is, but the best work is in the discussion, right?
I presented my paper in the first panel of the second day. It was nerve-wrecking in that expected sort of way. There were some other graduate students there, but there were also junior faculty as well as senior faculty. Thankfully, everyone was polite, and the feedback on my paper (” ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?’: The Subversion of Hunting Imagery in Ovid’s Ars Amatoria“) was useful.
A conference dinner was held at a nice Lebanese restaurant (Hannibal’s) on Saturday. I only need say four words: belly dancing and Classicists.
The Classics community that I witnessed in Sydney was such a breath of fresh air (e.g. someone made a comment about how formally I was dressed for my paper, which would be expected in America.). It was a great opportunity for both them and me to engage with an international crowd (mostly Australian/New Zealanders, but with a few Americans and a German scholar for good measure). It’ll be worth keeping an eye on the Pacific Rim Latin Literature Seminars, just to see is any are held closer to us!
Then I went on holiday. I saw Town Hall, St. Andrew’s Cathedral and Queen Victoria Building, which is a fantastic mall. Then I walked over to Sydney’s Hyde Park (I really like going to parks) and the Australia Museum. I ended the day at St. Mary’s Cathedral.
On my last day, I went into the city, wandered around the shops at the Rocks, then took the Ferry over to the Zoo. It was lovely with an excellent view of the harbor. Then I went back to Darling Harbor for dinner. I had dessert at the Lindt Chocolate Cafe, which mostly I needed to see to verify that it existed. Let’s just say I wanted to eat everything there.
All in all, Sydney might be the nicest city I’ve been to (although with the current economy, it was not cheap). It didn’t have the rushed feeling of many cities, and it was well kept. If anyone can have an excuse to go there, GO. But beware the giant and tiny spiders…