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Our Mythical Childhood... The Reception of Classical Antiquity in Children’s and Young Adults’ Culture in Response to Regional and Global Challenges

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - OurMythicalChildhood (Our Mythical Childhood... The Reception of Classical Antiquity in Children’s and Young Adults’ Culture in Response to Regional and Global Challenges)

Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2021-03-31

The Project’s main objective is to explore the reception of Classical Antiquity in the contemporary culture of children and young adults in terms of the vital intersection space where the development of human identity takes place. We challenge the concept of the Graeco-Roman tradition as a petrified legacy of the past, on the one hand, and the vision of young people’s culture as an interim sphere of activities necessary only for maturation to “serious”, that is adult culture, on the other. In relation to these phenomena, we propose a novel approach based on the following two premises. First, we treat Classical Antiquity as a living cultural experience ever in the process of imaginative and meaningful transformations the world over. Second, we study the works for young audiences with a particular focus on their dual impact of a seemingly contradictory character that, however, is perfectly consistent with the objective to prepare young people for the challenges of life today. Mainly, these works endow the new generations with the traditional packages of ideas and values considered constant and universal and at the same time they take a position on the contemporary agendas and become important vehicles of often revolutionary insights into the most current problems tormenting society, like social inequality and environmental issues.
In our research, we also take into consideration the potential of the global influence of popular culture that has given a new dynamic life to the heritage of Classical Antiquity nearly all over the world, thus compensating for a significant reduction of the role of the Classics in education. In this context, the further major innovation of our studies consists in the application, next to the global, also of the regional perspectives. Previously often discarded as parochial and inferior, these perspectives are crucial when juxtaposed to the globalized reception of the Classics. For only then can the hidden trajectories of identity development be revealed and can the Greek and Roman heritage, as it is processed in children’s and young adults culture, manifest its potential of serving as a precious research marker of social, ideological, and cultural changes within local societies and in global context.
To analyze these issues to the fullest, the international team of scholars from Europe, Australia, Cameroon, and Israel, with consultants from the United States, carry out comparative studies of differing reception models in youth culture through three chosen aspects (filters) that facilitate such a comparative approach. So far, we have accomplished the research into the first two aspects: the classical myths and the reception of Greek and Roman history. The third aspect – the environmental issues and disability studies – will be analyzed at the last stage of the Project. Moreover, we engage in numerous dissemination activities to make optimum use of the potential of the Project and the universal appeal of the Classical Antiquity along with the natural connection that the educated public feels towards the theme of childhood, in the aim of encouraging novel approaches to inclusive education and citizen science.
Starting in October 2016, we focused on the Project’s first stage dedicated to the reception of ancient myths in the culture for youth. In 2017 we organized international workshops and a conference where the results were discussed, “Our Mythical Hope in Children’s and Young Adults’ Culture... The (In)efficacy of Ancient Myths in Overcoming the Hardships of Life”. In the subsequent year, 2018, we also organized international workshops, “The Present Meets the Past” that turned out to be necessary to sum up the first and initiate the second stage of the Project, and to fully use the societal potential of our research. This second stage, focused on the reception of Greek and Roman history threads, culminated in the workshops and the international conference, “Our Mythical History: Children’s and Young Adults’ Culture in Response to the Heritage of Ancient Greece and Rome”, 2019. The Project has already generated scholarly publications (peer-reviewed book chapters, articles in academic journals, and database entries). Four animations based on Greek vases have been prepared in line with the Project’s calendar and two sets of innovative materials for the use in the work with young people on autistic spectrum have been completed and published on one of the Project’s four scholarly blogs. We have set up and regularly updated the Project’s website. We have organized or taken part in more than 150 research dissemination actions (incl. participation in over 35 conferences the world over). The Our Mythical Childhood Survey database has been created, with a user-friendly interface, where we gather and analyze the most vital examples of the reception cases. Last but not least, we have set up four social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram) and we have been using them regularly to communicate our research results with society.
Among the most important achievements of the Project beyond the state of the art, the elaboration and development of a deliberate policy in regard to Open Access should be mentioned. Our progress in this respect was recognized by the fact that the Project was chosen as a subject of analyses “among 15 projects that have achieved outstanding results in open access uptake or good research data management, sharing and reuse practices” (V. Banelytė, Public Policy and Management Institute). The PI was invited to an interview that served as a basis for the report “Case studies on Open Science in the context of ERC projects” ( 2018). The PI also expects the Project to generate novel impulses for ground-breaking collaboration between scholars and educators, incl. the work with children on the autistic spectrum. The PI decided to strengthen the potential of the Project for the future endeavours through the establishment (2017) of The Cluster The Past for the Present – International Research and Educational Programme, created by four humanistic faculties of the Universities of Warsaw, Bologna, and Munich, and joined (2019) by the Faculty of Education of the University of Cambridge that at the first stage of the Project (2017) hosted and co-organized one of the Project’s conferences (“Mythology and Education”, 27 Oct. 2017). Thus we make use of the output of our studies in innovative societal initiatives, like schools projects. Moreover, the PI successfully applied for the label of the European Year of Cultural Heritage and organized the international workshops “The Present Meets the Past” (2018, The PI develops the collaboration with Prof. Véronique Dasen, the PI of the ERC Advanced Grant “Locus Ludi” (2017–2022, Fribourg). The additional value of the Our Mythical Childhood research beyond the state of the art regards the creation and development of a new holistic model for research work in the Humanities at large by encouraging the participation in research of the scholars from their regions and in their regions, collaboration with artists, and organization of citizen science-oriented activities with the aim to engage the young people in their first scholarly attempts, and thus to stimulate scholarly dissemination and societal integration on the frontiers of scholarship, education, and culture.
Logo of the stage 2 of the Project - conf. Our Mythical History, artwork by Zbigniew Karaszewski
The OurMythicalChildhood Team at the workshops The Present Meets the Past
The participants in the workshops The Present Meets the Past
The logo of the Project - a painting by Matylda Tracewska
Logo of the workshops in the European Year of Cultural Heritage - The Present Meets the Past
Logo of the stage 1 of the Project - conf. Our Mythical Hope, artwork by Zbigniew Karaszewski