I am off to Bochum tomorrow to give a paper at a conference on Roman Memory. It is a mad excursion in the middle of term, and I have been working at ungodly hours (even on Beard standards, whose working hours would in a usual week displease the Lord, I imagine). The mitigating factor is that I will have one night in a hotel with a fully working bathroom, hair washing and drying facilities etc.
The new bathrooms at Beard/Cormack Towers are coming on apace and we already have a brand new working shower, but the lovely original Victorian bath is still on the top landing waiting to be transferred to the new bathroom a floor below. It has been, as you will see, painted a jolly blue colour, and on Tuesday will be heaved downstairs. The builder is worried a) if he is strong enough to take it and has got a few more guys in to help (they think four of them should do it) and b) whether the stairs are strong enough to take the weight, of it and them -- so is proposing to jack them up to be on the safe side. I have decided that it will be better to be out that day.
Anyway, the conference is part of a big project, but I am only giving a retrospect on a paper I wrote 25 years ago ("No more sheep on Romulus' birthday" it was called, and it was about the way in which the ancient Roman ritual calendar operated to re-present different versions of Roman time, in a fluid, shifting, constantly re-negotiated pageant -- that's the simple version). It's the kind of gig you get asked to do when you are 50 plus.
Going back to old work is always an eye-opener, and almost always a funny mixture of self-satisfaction on the one hand and 'how could I ever have written that?' on the other. In this case the retrospect has caused me to catch up with some of the mountains of recent work on cultural memory. Much of it is very good idea (and I really enjoyed reconnecting with the writing of Paul Connerton), but there is something a bit unnerving about a whole area of the humanities that appears to think that cultural memory is a very good thing. Like Connerton (who has recently written on "Seven types of forgetting"), I found myself longing for a bit of oblivion.
Anyway, the end of this new paper will ask how Roman ritual might have contributed to cultural amnesia rather than cultural memory -- not sure I have an answer to that, but let's see.