OU/BBC
28 Nov 2007

Classics brought to life: new series of The Essay launches

Tx: BBC Radio 3; Monday – Thursday 11pm, starting on Monday, 10 December

Distinguished actor Tim Piggott-Smith will be bringing the poet Homer to life in an ambitious new series of BBC Radio 3’s The Essay, co-produced by The Open University and the BBC. The Essay: Greek and Latin Voices explores classical works outlining the significance of the works in their own times, providing personal anecdotes from leading contemporary poets, authors and philosophers and showing their connections to modern writing. The series broadcasts at 11pm for 15 minutes on Mondays to Thursdays, beginning on Monday, 10 December.

The series will feature a range of contributors - including poets, scholars, writers and broadcasters - giving their own personal perspectives on Greek and Latin texts and making them relevant to today by exploring enduring themes such as war, love, death and heroism. Each week, in four lively and accessible programmes, a different writer will be explored through comparisons to contemporary life, examinations of core themes and colourful personal anecdotes. Readings in translation will be given as well as tasters of original Greek and Latin.

Homer is the focus for the first week and ahead of the first programme, a special edition of The Verb (TX BBC Radio 3, Friday 7 December, 9.45pm) will see crime writer Colin Dexter, the creator of Inspector Morse, talk about his lifelong love of Homer and recount a personal tale about a passage from The Iliad, which he read at a funeral.

The Essay: Greek and Latin Voices then follows with Professor Chris Pelling (Oxford University) discussing why the heroes in Homer’s world are both human and superhuman. The real Homer, his status and the rich language used in his works are then explored on Tuesday and Wednesday with readings from Tim Piggott-Smith. The last programme of the first week, on Thursday 13 December, features Irish poet Michael Longley, who provides a personal account of how Homer has inspired him.

Dr James Robson, The Open University’s academic advisor to the programme, said: “What is so exciting for me is the way that the personal perspectives of the contributors bring new meaning and new life to the ancient authors under discussion. Voices from the worlds of contemporary politics, poetry and broadcasting remind us how authors as diverse as Homer and Horace continue to shape the world we live in – often in unexpected ways. Voices from the world of academia, on the other hand, remind us how scholars and their students – from the OU to Oxford –continue to engage with the ancient world in vibrant and innovative ways.”

The second week of the series turns to Latin material, with Professor Maria Wyke (University College London) introducing a week of Horace. This poet’s influence on Western culture has been major and on Wednesday 19 December’s programme broadcaster Martha Kearney (BBC Radio 4, The World at One) recounts her school and university encounters with Horace.

The series continues through to July 2008 with programmes broadcast in two week blocks.

The full press release can be downloaded by clicking on the Press Release link to the right.

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