Community profile

Professor Duncan Kennedy

Duncan Kennedy

Professor
Classics and Ancient History

I was born in Ireland, in a small fishing village north of Dublin. I did a Classics degree because I always wanted to do it. I became interested very early in language and started Latin and Greek at 11. I loved it much more than any other subject I did.

“Having a sense of where culture is moving is very important; because, although Classics is about canonical works of literature that have survived all kinds of cultural changes, in the Department of Classics we emphasise that you need to re-read these texts in light of the way people’s attitudes, cultural preferences and reference points are changing. This is what is most distinctive about what Bristol has done over the last quarter of century: it’s been the pioneer in what has become known as 'Reception Studies'. We are looking at these works not as instant works of genius that became frozen in amber in the time of their production, but as works that are constantly being re-interpreted. The conversation is never over, the debate about the significance of a text you’ve spent your life studying, trying to find out evermore about it, is never going to end. Debate is very much part of the Bristol ethos.

“I have an idealistic view of education. I think that education is not just about jobs and salaries, but about becoming good at what you choose to do in a much broader sense; perhaps being a perceptive manager of people, or a good listener. I hope that what the students are taking away from their degree here is that nothing is static, that they must continue studying for the rest of their lives, that they never reach the end of their journey of discovery.

“I like to be kept on my toes both by my students and my colleagues. I like to keep in mind that the moment you think you’re right is the moment you need to think again.”