Classics In The Anthropocene

Graduate Student Conference

April 19-20, 2019
University of Toronto, Department of Classics


View the schedule here.


Keynote Speakers:
Katherine Blouin (University of Toronto) – “Before the Anthropocene? Social Responses to Environmental Changes in Roman Egypt”
Brooke Holmes (Princeton University) – “On Sympathy: or, the Concept of Nature”

All are welcome to attend this free event. Please RSVP at uoftclassicsconference@gmail.com.

The recent popularity of the notion of “the Anthropocene” reflects a growing recognition that human societies and their natural environments radically and reciprocally shape and influence one another. Additionally, there is a looming sense that the ecological conditions under which humankind has thrived for millennia are about to undergo a set of epochal transformations. Speculations about the near-future range from optimistic to pessimistic extremes. Will there be a collective and self-conscious effort to re-shape civilization as we have known it, or a total extinction of life on earth? In either case, humanity faces an unprecedented crisis.

This crisis provides a novel horizon of meaning for the interpretation of human society and culture, past as well as present. The task of rethinking traditional categories such as history, culture, individuality, and nature, has become both possible and necessary. In many disciplines this work is already underway.

The question guiding this year’s conference is how the study of classical literature, philosophy, history, and archeology, might contribute to this rethinking. This might involve investigating the ways ancient attitudes have or have not influenced present ones; how ancient authors conceived of their environment; how ancient authors conceptualized the place of human beings in nature; ancient methods of exploitation and/or preservation of resources; ancient experiences of environmental change. Further potential topics of interest are (but are not limited to):

  • ancient conceptions of nature in general
  • natural disasters, cataclysms, conflagrations, apocalypses
  • nature, politics, imperialism
  • technology and human agency
  • scientific expertise and political deliberation
  • human migration and its relation to environmental change
  • nature in ancient mythology and/or religion
  • ancient philosophical thought about the finitude of civilizations, planets, etc.
  • individual and collective responsibility, inherited guilt: is the Anthropocene in some sense “tragic”?
  • philosophical ethics as learning how to die

2019 Graduate Student Conference Committee

  • Elliott Fuller
  • Joseph Gerbasi
  • Ted Parker
  • David Wallace-Hare
  • Justin Yule