The inauguration of the week
While everyone is thinking about Donald Trump’s inauguration in Washington DC, I have been to an inaugural occasion much closer to my heart. That is Greg Woolf’s inaugural lecture as Director of the Institute of Classical Studies in London, and Professor of the University.
Greg and I go back a long way: he was a graduate student in Cambridge when I was a young lecturer (and many glasses of plonk have been consumed between us). And here he was introducing himself, as it were, as the new(ish) Director of what is in effect the coordinating research centre of Classics in the country, and the best specialist classical library (which you will shortly be able to support when they launch their appeal).
There are quite a few conventions about inaugural lectures. You are kind of expected to speak to a wide audience and a specialist clientele; you need to look back at your predecessors (cue powerpoint images of largely elderly gents) and offer a vision for the future; you parade some intellectual meat in your specialist area; and you simultaneously treat the whole thing with a degree of self irony.
On all of this Prof Woolf got it spot on. I disagreed fundamentally on his discussion of the different versions of ‘humanity’ (question: how does the very nature of the ancient and modern view of what it is to be human differ? . . . I didn’t see quite the difference that he wanted to posit. But it was a rousing performance (and he made the joke about the different inaugurations).
And after there was a nice celebratory dinner, to which Michael Fallon turned up. Say what you like about Sir Michael, he is a loyal supporter of Classics, and rather less self-advertising that some other political classicists we could name.
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