This project looks at the post-war transmission of classical culture in the Low Countries and Europe at large. Due to complex and still ongoing processes of democratization and globalization, our access to and use of the classical repertoire has changed in many ways. Educational reforms, the rise of cultural industries, and the political ideal of the welfare state are just a few examples of new contexts in which the classical tradition (re)gains or loses its foothold, being contested, forgotten, reproduced, appropriated, neglected and celebrated. Already in mid-century Europe, the classical tradition no longer constitutes a self-evident part of cultural life, especially after the fascist appropriation of ancient Rome, but its continuing presence in post-war global culture has been widely (and rightly) acknowledged, especially in studies on avant-garde or progressive receptions of antiquity. These usually have to deal with the paradox that the use of classical antiquity can be seen to reveal hints of elitism, ethnocentrism and patriarchy, as the classical repertoire typically forms part of the cultural equipment of people striving for a social and cultural status quo. Why, then, using this classical repertoire in the context of innovation?
The perspective of anchoring enables us to throw new light on this paradox. Positing that creating or thinking the new appears to go hand in hand with a strong investment in, or even adherence to, the old, the concept of anchoring helps us to readdress the paradox mentioned above by looking into the question of the role of conservatism in processes of cultural change. Even though the concept of ‘conservatism’ is polarizing and therefore an uneasy object of scientific research, its presence as a cultural position in classical reception is frequently acknowledged but seldom seriously studied, except for extreme cases like fascism (even though, it should be noted, fascism cannot exclusively be understood as an expression of mere conservatism). In this project we look at a range of cultural expressions, such as comics, political journalism and cultural criticism, which are used as pilot studies to explore the great variety of conservatisms at stake in anchoring the new in modern European culture.