Welcome to our new Fulbright scholar

Reading Classics extends an enthusiastic welcome to Bill Beck, who will be joining us for the 2015-16 academic year. Currently finishing a PhD at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Bill has won a prestigious Fulbright award from the US government in order to come to Reading. During the year he will be working on a translation of the scholia (ancient commentaries) to the first four books of Homer’s ‘Iliad’. Professor Eleanor Dickey, who will be working with Beck, comments, ‘I am very excited about this project. The ‘Iliad’ scholia are a vital resource for our understanding of the text and ancient interpretation of Homer, as well as numerous other topics, and yet they have never been translated into any modern language. Since they are often challenging to read — a normal training in reading ancient Greek does not enable someone to understand them — the lack of a translation means that only an elite group of exceptionally well-trained scholars has access to this valuable material. Bill’s project will make these scholia available to a wide audience and therefore do a tremendous service to the field as a whole. And he is the ideal person to undertake it: a project of this nature requires someone with a special combination of skills as well as energy and enthusiasm, so very few scholars are in a position even to contemplate it. Bill could have asked to conduct this project anywhere, so I am particularly pleased that he wants to work with us!’

Professor Annalisa Marzano, head of Classics at Reading, comments: ‘I congratulate Bill on his achievement, which is even more impressive considering that he won the award in the ‘All Disciplines’ category where he was competing not only with other Classicists but with applicants from a wide range of fields. His future stay in our Department while he will be conducting his research is yet another sign of Reading Classics’ thriving research community and numerous international links.’

Bill Beck comments: ‘I am thrilled to have the opportunity to pursue this project, and I am delighted to be able to come to Reading and to work with Professor Dickey, who has been unbelievably supportive of my project from its inception. I’m very much looking forward to getting to know the rest of the Department, as well; with a text as varied as the ‘Iliad’ scholia are, I will no doubt have much to learn from everyone there. Hopefully, this work will help bring the margins a little closer to the center.’


Dr Nicholls awarded a BA Rising Star Engagement Award.

Post from Dr Nicholls

I am delighted to have been awarded a British Academy ‘Rising Star’ Engagement Award (BARSEA). The BARSEA scheme is intended to allow humanities researchers at a relatively early stage of their careers to engage with the work of the Academy, and to organise events, training, and mentoring activities for colleagues in their own and other disciplines.

My application to the scheme was based on my work in digital visualisation. I have completed a large digital model of ancient Rome for use in research and teaching. I have developed that interest into an undergraduate module in which I teach undergraduates how to research and create their own digital reconstructions of our local town of Silchester. Last year this work won an award from the Guardian.

For the BARSEA scheme, I wanted to make contact with others engaged in similar work. Even within my own field of ancient history I know of several other visualisation schemes, and the recent REF – especially the impact case studies – show that this is true of other disciplines. There’s a lot to discuss for those of us working in this relatively new field – tools and techniques, aims, integration with existing research, new avenues of exploration. It would also be helpful to talk to those working in commercial digital studios, as there could be much to learn from each others’ approaches and techniques.

I know that I would find this sort of discussion helpful and interesting, and hope others would too. I proposed to the British Academy that I should use the funding offered by this scheme to find and talk to other projects, and bring them together for a colloquium, in Reading (next Easter) to discuss their work and how it helps their research.

The award scheme also supports training and mentoring events. As I have experience in teaching the software (SketchUp) that I use for a lot of my modelling, I thought it might be useful to offer a day workshop to researchers interested in exploring such techniques for themselves. This will happen in Reading next academic year, and anyone interested in participating is invited to contact me.

As well as running my own project, I look forward to working with my very distinguished fellow award-winners. They have a range of fascinating projects – law, oral traditions in African countries, energy ethics, and medieval multilingualism to name just a few – and we will be learning more about each other’s work at the Academy’s induction event in May.

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