Greece, Rome, and the other civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean have provided the world of cinema with some of the oldest and most powerful stories of Western culture and history. They have also provided cinema with narrative, iconographic, and generic structures and genealogies whose force has informed not only specific films but also the principles themselves of script-writing and film design. In addition, they have provided film theorists and practitioners with ways of conceptualizing the sensorial and cognitive experience of film viewing itself. The classical antiquity of cinema is not a single and unified film genre but a complex body of film practices and theories diffused across a wide range of cinematic traditions, cultural contexts, and aesthetic experiences.
In its turn, cinema has played a prominent role in debates about the ever-changing nature of the past, whether accused of killing history and usurping other forms of memory, viewed as a factory of regressive nostalgia, or celebrated as enriching and broadening the ways in which we think of the past as altering the present and shaping the future. Film provides opportunities for historically situated, transnational and multicultural studies of the ancient world; for scrutinizing the wider appeal and accessibility of ‘the classics’, and for questioning what is valuable and canonical about them; for working with interpretative models which are derived not only from literary theory but also from visual culture, media studies and cultural studies, and which broaden our understanding of the intersection between the textual and the visual. Film offers an engagement with modern popular culture that can go beyond the polarities of compliance and resistance associated with ideology, while also holding the promise of a rebuttal of the Platonic critique of the arts. It can address cultural syncretisms, contradictions, and negotiations, while also providing insights into the transformative nature of the encounters between modern viewers and the utopian or dystopian fantasies the classical past has inspired.Less
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