Wednesday, January 12, 2005

More on the APA

I listened to the first selections of section 35: Memory and Destruction, presided by Harriet Flower who has done some important work recently on damnatio memoriae.

The second paper, 'City-Destruction in Athenian and Theban Social Memory,' was delivered by Bernd Steinbock of Michigan and incorporated modern psychology in a way I'm not used to (i.e. in a good way) and powerfully used the Morgenthau plan, fueled by Nazi propaganda and spread by word of mouth, as a parallel to the way social memory is formed in wartime. I was especially interested in Steinbock's mention of the First Sacred War though I expected him to emphasize its role in influencing social memory. All in all a refreshingly good paper.

The first however, Julia Shear's talk on 'Stasis, Good Victory, and the Athenian Demos,' plodded along to a predictable end (the Athenians de-emphasized stasis in accord with decree of Demophantos -- *yawn*), so it was especially annoying when she showed up during section 44: Athenian Culture and History only to unduly attack a presenter who'd received a bachelor's degree just a year ago. Sarah Murray's 'Man Overboard: A Re-evaluation of the Underrepresentation of the Navy in Classical Athenian Art' might have benefited from some polish, but that's hardly a thing to hold against a young scholar.

Murray argued succesfully that the navy itself had never been depicted on Athenian vases, countering a common view that there was a decline in their representation during a certain period due to fear and disdain on the part of the citizenry. In the second half of her paper, Murray showed that pride in naval victory was depicted through mythological symbolism. One vase employing a divine scene showed two individual sailors on the opposite side exercising.

This vase alone damaged Shear's criticism, which was essentially that the Athenians may have taken pride in naval victories while hating the sailors. But I suppose anything is possible.

What was really objectionable was that Shear, while pretending to question Murray, began lecturing all in attendance, turning several times to address the room as though we were her students, virtually pleading with us to see through Murray's holes. Then she would turn back to Murray and tell her sternly that her work was essentially evasive and incomplete.

To her credit Murray handled herself well and countered Shear successfully.

I'm afraid I may end up focusing on negatives, but I will eventually get to Robert Tordoff, who delivered one of the most satisfying papers of the convention.

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