WP 7: Canonization of the New (Classical Greece, 550 - 323 BCE)

(Postdoc) The Making of Classical Athens

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Radboud University
Erasmusplein 1
6500 HD Nijmegen

Dr. Suzanne van de Liefvoort & Dr. Sven Betjes

Postdoc project (3 years, 1.0 fte), Leiden University
Anchoring Work Package 7: Canonization of the New (Classical Greece, 550-323 BCE)

Prof. Dr. Ineke Sluiter (Leiden)

Salary range
A minimum of € 4.332,- and a maximum of € 5.929,-, including full benefits.

Project description

New ideas and inventions that affect social life cannot thrive unless they become embedded in the society for which they are intended. Innovation will always be connected somehow—both in the ways it is communicated and perceived, and in terms of content—to what people know, believe, want, value, and can understand. This is true even of radical, path-breaking, ‘revolutionary’ ideas and insights. This phenomenon of ‘anchoring’ is central to the current research agenda of the Dutch classicists.

‘Classical Athens’ was itself something new: primarily a construct of the Second Sophistic, its accompanying sense of uniqueness and difference (newness) can easily be traced even earlier, in the literature of the fourth century BCE, such as Socratic dialogue, oratory, historiography and maybe also in middle/new comedy. ‘Classical Athens’ was defined as a more or less distinct period through a process of ‘lumping and splitting’, which exaggerates both the internal coherence of the period, and the difference with what went before and came after. The orators constantly harken back to a golden past, when the Athenians defeated the Persians and had not yet been vanquished by the Spartans. Plato and Xenophon set their dialogues in the fifth century BCE, when Socrates was still alive, but at the same time expound radically innovative ideas. Historians such as Xenophon and Theopompus took Thucydides for a model and continued his work, but at the same time pioneered new ways of doing history after the Peloponnesian War. The contribution of comedy to the canonization of ‘Classical Athens’ is less clear, though the genre undergoes intriguing changes in the fourth century BCE, which somehow set it apart from ‘old’ comedy.

We are interested in the construction of ‘Classical Athens’, and particularly in its cognitive aspects. For example: how and why did ‘Classical Athens’ become a reference point? What were the social, political and aesthetic values associated with ‘Classical Athens’ in the fourth century BCE, and how did they change? What purposes did emerging notions of ‘Classical Athens’ serve in the fourth century? How did it help people to deal with newness and crises (social change, political upheaval, and changing tastes)? How do authors, texts, and genres position themselves vis-à-vis what they define as ‘Classical’, and in what ways do they flaunt similarities to and differences from the ‘Classical’?

Candidates are invited to design a structured proposal of their own around these questions. We are particularly interested in projects dealing with one of the genres of philosophical literature, forensic oratory, maybe also historiography or comic drama (or a cross-section of texts belonging to these genres). Candidates are free to adopt a more literary or linguistic/rhetorical perspective, as they prefer, which may be combined with a historical perspective. In their proposal, candidates should outline their suggested approach, main research question(s), expected original contribution to the field, and deliverables. More information about this program can be found on the website (www.anchoringinnovation.nl). Another good starting point to get acquainted with the research program is an article by Ineke Sluiter, entitled “Anchoring Innovation: a Classical Research Agenda”.

Host institution

The Faculty of Humanities of Leiden University is an international center for the advanced study of languages, cultures, arts, and societies worldwide, in their historical contexts from prehistory to the present. Our faculty is home to over 6,000 students and 800 staff members.

The Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS) is one of the seven Research Institutes of the Faculty of Humanities. LUCAS is dedicated to ground-breaking research that explores the multifaceted relationships between the arts and society.

Terms and Conditions

PD project, 3 years (1.0 FTE, 38 hrs per week), starting date to be agreed upon, with a preference for September 1, 2024. Initially the employee will receive an 12-month contract, with extension for the following 24 months on condition of a positive evaluation. Salary range from € 4.332 to € 5.929 gross per month for a fulltime appointment (pay scale for PDs, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities). If desired, the position may be held part-time and thereby extended in length to 31 December 2027 at the latest.

Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3%), training and career development. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. For more information, please visit http://www.workingat.leiden.edu/. Please note that if the successful candidate is not already registered as living in the Netherlands, it is required that the candidate will officially relocate to the Netherlands on the starting date of the contract at the latest.

Tasks of the Postdoc will include

  • Completion of a monograph or, alternatively, at least three substantial articles within the contract period;
  • Participation in meetings of the project research group(s);
  • Presentations of intermediate research results at workshops and conferences;
  • Participation in the academic community of the national research school OIKOS, and the wider Anchoring Innovation project;
  • Participation in staff meetings of the Leiden Classics team and the intellectual life of the department and the institute;
  • Organization of at least one workshop.


  • A PhD in Greek Literature and/or Linguistics, held by time of appointment;
  • Thorough expertise in linguistic and/or literary research;
  • An excellent track record of research and publication in relation to stage of career;
  • A strong cooperative attitude and willingness to engage in collaborative research;
  • Excellent command of English;
  • Some organizational experience;
  • Willingness to move to the Netherlands for the duration of the position.


The Anchoring Innovation program is strongly committed to diversity within its team and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.


Enquiries about the position can be addressed to Professor Ineke Sluiter (I.Sluiter@hum.leidenuniv.nl). Questions about the procedure can be directed to Dr Sven Betjes (anchoring@let.ru.nl).


In order to be considered, applications must include the following information (in the same order), in one PDF file (not zipped):

  • Cover letter;
  • CV, including a list of publications and distinctions, and the contact information of two academic referees;
  • Research proposal of 1500 words. This does not include the bibliography and (if appropriate) an appendix containing a list of sources;
  • Transcript of records (i.e. a list of BA and MA courses);
  • Copy of relevant diploma or statement by PhD- supervisor confirming that the applicant will hold the required degree at the time of appointment.

Please submit your complete application to Dr Sven Betjes, the coordinator of the Anchoring-programme via anchoring@let.ru.nl before April 15, 2024.If you are invited for an interview, this takes place on May 28th, 2024 (presumably online).