Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Introducing the Board Members of FIEC

We are excited to introduce the Board Members of FIEC in the upcoming weeks as part of an interview series, which will give an insight into the structure and the main objectives of our Federation!
This week`s interview is featuring our new President, Gunhild Vidén, Professor emerita of the University of Göteborg:

1. What is your current position at the University of Göteborg?
I was professor of Latin until April this year. I am now emerita, but still connected to the department of Languages and Literatures.

2. What does your research focus on?
My main research interest is in history of ideas and attitudes, mentality and gender history, in my case based on literary evidence from antiquity (what is said as well as what is not said). I have studied attitudes to women in Silver Age literature, identity transition in early Christianity and attitudes to the body and physical aspects in the late Roman republic. At present I am involved in a cross disciplinary project on an early French translation of the Aeneid.

3. What made you study the ancient world?
It probably started because of my interest both in languages as such, and in history. Classical studies gave me the opportunity to combine these two things. They have continued to fascinate me through an increasing experience of how much there is to gain towards an understanding of the complexity of the world through the study of a period in time where it is still possible to get first hand knowledge and impressions of people’s thoughts and reactions. Studies of the ancient world can help us increase our understanding of human beings in different cultural and socio-economical contexts, as well as contribute to our understanding of how the world came to be what it is today. These things are crucial to finding tools to handle the problems of the world today, in combination with the insights and tools provided by the natural sciences.

4. What is your job as President of the FIEC board?
I see my main task in continuing the work of former presidents to save the classics when and where they are threatened, keep up the platform that FIEC tries to be for classicists all round the world, and find means of strengthening the collaboration between classicists across the world.

5. One of the main objectives of FIEC is to foster cooperation among classical scholars! Where do you see the future for classicists in that regard?
Cooperation has become more easy these days, with the fast communications that the internet provides and the outreach of social media. At the same time, classicists have become more specialised in later years, just as scholars within other disciplines, and there is a natural tendency that you go to conferences and look out for people who work with similar things as yourself. This is where I think FIEC has a role to play, in organizing the large congresses that encompass many parts of classical studies. It is important to make us remember that we are part of a larger whole, however tiny our own special corner of the field is.

6. Another very important objective is to point out the relevance of classical studies to governmental authorities. What do you consider to be the biggest challenges as well as opportunities for classics?
The biggest challenge at least in my own part of the world is the ignorance of the importance of humanistic competence in society, the one-eyed focus on economic capital without understanding of the need for cultural capital and the general lack of historicity. The opportunities must be created by the classicists themselves, by continuously reminding the world that we are there and we can contribute. There are many classicists who run blogs and podcasts, write articles in newspapers and magazines and contribute in other ways to keep the classics visible in the world. This work (usually carried out in the contributors’ spare time) must continue – gutta cavat lapidem.

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