Reflections on teaching in Brazil

As autumn draws on, I look back on the warm and sunny winter days I spent in Belo Horizonte, the chief city of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, in August 2018. I was visiting the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG) to deliver a mini-module on animals in antiquity, co-taught with an old friend there, Dr Rafael Scopacasa. The module recruited a good-sized group of both undergraduate and postgraduate students, from a wide range of academic backgrounds: UFMG has no Classics Department, instead including the study of antiquity within the Faculdade de Filosofia e Ciencias Humanas, and our class discussions certainly benefited from the variety of perspectives this brought. Debate was lively – requiring rapid translation between English and Portuguese at times! – as we tackled topics including farming, chariot-racing, domestic pets and animal metamorphosis in Greek and Roman mythology. Particularly fascinating were the local Minas folktales which the students were able to bring in as comparanda for their Classical counterparts. Most cultures seem to have their own myths of magical animal transformation, and it was a unique opportunity to explore some of these.

The author with students on the closing day of the module.
Organiser Rafael Scopacasa at left. (Photo: Emma Aston)


Praça de Serviços, UFMG: the main eating and facilities area for students and staff.  (Photo: Emma Aston)


Belo Horizonte Municipal Library. (Photo: Emma Aston)

While in UFMG I was also given the opportunity to deliver a paper to the Faculty on a current research interest, the use of horses in ancient Greek warfare and racing. The warm reception I was given was typical of my treatment in the University, where people went out of their way to show hospitality and to integrate me into the academic life of the community. I attended part of a conference, the Fifth Congresso Brasileiro de Retórica, organised by Maria Cecília de Miranda Nogueira Coelho, one day of which was held not in Belo Horizonte but in the nearby town of Ouro Preto. This, and a trip to Sabará under the expert guidance of Prof. Eduardo França Paiva, highlighted the enormous importance of mining in the history of Minas Gerais – even the name evokes the process which, historically, gave the region its great wealth and importance. The landscape is marked by centuries of industrial extraction; the towns owe their lovely 18th and 19th century churches and houses to the proceeds of the mines. This is a very different Brazil from Rio at carnival time, probably the image of Brazil that would come most readily to the outsider mind, or even from Saô Paulo, where I also spent a few days. Seldom have I encountered such a strong, and strongly cherished, sense of regional identity – of great interest to one who works on regional identity in ancient Greece.


Church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo, Ouro Preto, designed by Aleijandinho, famous 18th-19th c. architect and sculptor. (Photo: Emma Aston)

‘Tales of Love and History’ in the Sheldonian, featuring Dr Katherine Harloe

On 7 November Dr Katherine Harloe will be taking part in a public panel discussion in Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre with James Ivory (of Merchant Ivory Pictures), Professor Richard Parkinson (Oxford/British Museum), and Professor Jennifer Ingleheart (Durham) on the topic of ‘Tales of Love and History’. The event is organised by The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities as part of a week of showings of Merchant Ivory films in Oxford, in the context of the ‘No Offence’ LGBT history exhibition, which has just arrived in the Ashmolean on tour from the British Museum. A link to the page to reserve free tickets is here:

Dr Harloe’s participation in this event relates to her current, British Academy-funded research project on ‘Winckelmann’s love letters’, as well as to two UROP projects she has recently supervised: the digital exhibition on Winckelmann and gay history (available at completed by student Connell Greene, and the more recent ‘Offences against the person: tracing hidden LGB histories through the Berkshire County Archives’, which she worked on with students George Stokes and Amy Hitchings.

New exhibit on Classical themes in the Women’s Suffrage movement

In the early 20th century suffragettes and suffragists—many of whom were Classicists or had received a Classical education—adapted Classical themes, especially imagery, in their campaigning magazines Votes for Women and Common Cause. In response to the the suffrage movement magazines also used classical parodies—for example Antigone saving her sister rather than her brother. Now you can learn all about the important role Classics played in women’s suffrage through a display just launched in the Classics hallway, opposite the entrance to Edith Morley room 40 (appropriately enough because Edith Morley herself was a suffragette!). Professor Barbara Goff has created this exhibit, in celebration of the centenary of the women’s vote, based on the research of Rebeca Bird-Lima and Anna Godsell (who have just completed their BA’s at Reading). Ure staff Jayne Holly-Wait and Claudina Romero Mayorga have added some artefacts to the display while Ure volunteer Matthew Knight has designed it.

Research seminars in the Classics Department this autumn

All seminars start at 4 p.m., except for the one on the 10th October, which is this term’s Reading Classical Association talk; this starts at 5 p.m.
All seminars will take place in Edith Morley G25 (except for that on 10th October, which will be in EM 127), and all will be followed by light refreshments in Edith Morley G40.
The Percy Ure Lecture is at 5 pm on 23rd November, and is held in the Van Emden Lecture Theatre, Edith Morley Building.

Everyone welcome!

10th October (5 p.m., EM 127) – Llewellyn Morgan (Oxford): ‘Death and Redemption in Aeneid 10.’ Reading Classical Association talk.
17th October – Daniela Colomo (Oxford): ‘Two recent discoveries in literary papyrology: Homer and Euripides.’
24th October – Jen Grove (Exeter): ‘From EP Warren to Alfred Kinsey: Collecting Classical Erotica and Theorising Sexuality in the first half of the 20th century.’
31st October – Amanda Wrigley (Reading): ‘Oral Poetry and the Aural Imagination: Homer, Modern Poets and Radio.’
7th November: no seminar
14th November – Peter Wilson (Sydney): ‘A Potted Political History of the Sicilian Theatre (to ca. 300)’
21st November – Thomas Kiely (British Museum), ‘The Iron Age sanctuary of Salamis-Toumba in Cyprus. Re-excavating the excavations of 1890.’
23rd November (5 pm, EM Van Emden Lecture Theatre) – Eighth Annual Percy Ure Lecture. Greg Woolf (ICS, London): ‘The Empire of Things and the Empire of People.’
28th November – Naoise Mac Sweeney (Leicester): ‘Classics in contemporary political discourse – a global vision?’
5th December – Phoebe Garrett (Australia National University): ‘Running in the family: Ancestry narratives in Suetonius’ Caesars.’