Re-Touching Horizons: Why “Ethics”?

The multiple discursive frameworks born through “reception theory” require continual re-touching; the horizon will never stand still, and so we seek to stand in, and re-shift, these horizons, again.

Dancing on this shifting ground, the “ethos” (and perhaps ethic) of the workshop draws on both the aesthetic traditions of reception and the moves toward more explicitly political theorisations; where political theory is placed in direct, and reciprocal, relationships with past narratives (whether they be Plato’s relationship with Hannah Arendt or Thucydides’ love affair with Nietzsche).

The notion that theory is in some way always already ethical has been the focus of much Levinasian scholarship. However, this workshop differs from that tradition with the concern for re-addressing the place of racial, sexual, gendered, class and environmental differences and inequalities, as central for the re-shaping of “reception” and “ethics”. By focusing on these diverse and all too marginalised positions, the place for both ethics and receptions to be re-touched beyond any neutral standpoint can be given (and received).

Drawing on Irigaray’s ideas of “ethics” as a critical site for sexual difference, and therefore for re-reading discursive practices, thinking through “ethics” can become the site for re-shaping “discourse” as a whole. And it is perhaps crucial that, like Judith Butler’s radical re-shaping of the horizon of Antigone, Irigaray too, re-reads and re(con)ceives Classical narratives as central to her ethics of sexual difference: per-forming a relationship with Aristotle, that God-Father of Western philosophical ethics.

Further, the work of Adriana Cavarero urges readers/receivers to confront the need for re-thinking ethics (and reading) away from narrow philosophical borders, towards a relational ontology which is reciprocal. That Cavarero’s work on narrative theory and ethics is read through explicit receptions of canonical classical texts offers a good horizon of contact between the various themes.

The conversation between “Classical” texts and contemporary ethical issues isn’t limited to feminist positions. Growing concerns about the impact of scholarship on environmental sustainability, the development of eco-criticism as a nuanced response to texts and ethical issues, and the need for sustainable pedagogical practices, also performs this relationship with e.g. Virgil’s poetry now being firmly in-bedded with eco-criticism traditions. This workshop offers the place for thinking around sustainability, ecology, and the place of academia to be really fine tuned and critically re-addressed.

The place of “Classical Reception” within Imperialist, Totalitarian, Misogynistic, Racist…. Violent discourses—where “Classics” seems so complicit and implicit in the framing of such narratives of power and cruelty—will be engaged with, and responded to, in critically self-aware gestures.

The opening up of textual responses to voices beyond the traditional horizons of Classics, receptions, texts,  marks a step towards re-shaping relationships with power and exclusion which so colour (and whitewash)  Classical “traditions”.

It is these relations (many, varied and indeed conflicting); these persistent, repeated and re-shaping, relationships that the workshop seeks to address.

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