'Cruelty and Compassion'


Classics at Leeds would like to thank all speakers and delegates who participated in the 8th Annual Postgraduate Interdisciplinary Conference held on 19 June 2017 at the University of Leeds.

Cruelty and Compassion marked the 8th Annual Postgraduate Interdisciplinary Conference hosted by research and taught postgraduates based in Classics at Leeds. The conference builds on the successes of previous years, once again attracting a high volume of speakers and delegates from across a number of disciplines and institutions.

This year, the organising committee championed an interdisciplinary and international approach with the aim of encouraging participation from postgraduates working in fields beyond Classics. The multifaceted conference theme 'Cruelty and Compassion' was therefore selected for its potential to facilitate wide-ranging discussions. We encounter references to both cruelty and compassion on a daily basis: in current affairs, literature, film, art, historical accounts and in our everyday lives. How we address evidence of cruelty and compassion is dependent upon the individual and on the accepted norms of their society. Our views on cruelty and compassion centre on how we define both concepts, the contexts in which they appear, and the cultural, psychological or social impact they may have.

The conference programme included 26 papers in parallel panels approaching these issues from a number of angles and a wide range of disciplines. The day opened with panels on violence and the body, and different approaches to justifying violence. These were followed by sessions exploring compassionate readings, and violence and the 'other', before the day closed with papers on medicine, magic and mental health, and responses to violence. The opportunity was also taken this year to invite delegates to offer performance pieces instead of 'traditional' papers, which attracted a number of presentations on dementia and domestic violence, and rape in film and culture.

Speakers and delegates were welcomed from several universities within the UK, including Manchester, Liverpool, King's College London, University College London, Durham, Birmingham, Swansea, Sheffield, and Cambridge. We were also delighted to welcome international speakers from the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands), the University of Athens, and Università di Pavia (Italy).

The conference delegates were also treated to two extended keynotes papers from the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures at the University of Leeds. The conference was opened by Dr Marta Cobb (Teaching Fellow in the Institute of Medieval Studies, and Senior Congress Officer for the International Medieval Conference) with a paper entitled A Special Connection to the Afterlife?: Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory in the Visions of Medieval Female Mystics. Dr Bev Back (Lecturer in Latin Literature and Language (Teaching & Scholarship), and Admissions Tutor for Classics) launched the afternoon panels with Reflections on Pedagogy, which encouraged postgraduate teachers to think about their pedagogical practices, with a particular focus on ensuring inclusivity and recognising diversity in the classroom. Dr Back also underlined the exceptional work being undertaken by the Women's Classical Committee UK.

Dr Marta Cobb, Teaching Fellow / Senior Congress Officer, International Medieval Congress:

"The event was well-organised, and I was impressed with the diversity of the work being presented and the backgrounds of the presenters. It's not often that you hear work about the representation of the story of Tereus in Greek drama alongside a discussion of compassionate management practice!"

Emily Walsh, MA Philosophy at the University of Birmingham:

"As this was my first conference experience, I wasn't sure what to expect and was more than a little nervous to say the least. However, as soon as I arrived my nerves faded. I couldn't be more grateful for the organising committee for making the environment at Leeds such a friendly one and I couldn't be more grateful for the experience. It was a truly fascinating, inspiring day."

Elinor Cosgrave, Chair of the Conference Organising Committee:

"It was a pleasure to head the conference committee this year and to welcome speakers and delegates from different stages of postgraduate study and from institutions across Europe. The delegates approached the conference themes from drastically different disciplines, including Classics, Healthcare, Comparative Literature, and Film Studies. However, we soon found common ground and, outside of the panel discussions, had plenty to talk about especially given recent events in which both cruelty and compassion are evident. I’m grateful to the conference committee and the Devonshire Hall team for all their hard work and support. On behalf of the conference committee, I’d also like to thank all speakers and delegates for attending and making the day a success!"

The conference was once again generously funded by the LEAP Researcher Training Hub and the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies.

Special thanks must go to Elinor Cosgrave, who chaired the organising committee, and to the rest of the conference organising team: Andrea Basso, Henry Clarke, Natalie Enright, Maria Haley, Claudia Li and Sophie Milner.

The official conference hashtag #LeedsCC17 has been published through Storify.

For the full conference programme, abstracts of the papers, and further information about the conference, please visit our conference blog.

Follow Classics at Leeds on Twitter @LeedsClassics and Facebook.

We look forward to welcoming speakers and delegates to the 9th Annual Postgraduate Interdisciplinary Conference in June 2018!