What a Year!

Author: Bunny Waring.
31st December 2020

As the end of 2020 draws near it is time to take stock of all that has been survived and learnt over the last 12 months. From Brexit to COVID19, 2020 has required us all to react, adapt and rethink the way we teach, learn, communicate, organise, care and progress. Here, some of the Classics community at the University of Reading have shared their most memorable experiences.

Barbara Goff – Professor of Classics and Co-Head of Department says:

“A shout-out to the colleagues who organised our thrice-weekly coffee mornings in the first lockdown, keeping us all connected and moderately sane; to the colleagues who experimented with different Teams backdrops, keeping us highly entertained as their hair flew about into various enthralling scenes; to the cleaning staff who went above and beyond; to the support staff with whom I was suddenly having conversations about interior décor; to the brave students who suffered through meetings in my (very spacious) office with the arctic gale blowing through my (virtuously opened) window; to the students who studied my module Transformations of Helen online, contending with dodgy mics and cameras, but nonetheless reading carefully and responding critically; to the students who persisted in coming on to campus, enduring the view of me teaching in my Jimi-Hendrix-headband-visor. Here’s to slightly less embarrassment in the New Year!”

Eleanor Dickey – Professor of Classics says:

“It’s been great fun! First, all the conferences I’d agreed to go to were cancelled because of lockdown, enabling me to get to know my family again and also to do some real research. (Okay, so I still did not completely finish my book. But I tried!) Then in the autumn, I was able to continue teaching in person by switching my first-year module ‘Texts, Readers and Writers’ from the usual lecture-and-seminar format to a seminar-only format. So we were able to do all kinds of fun, interactive activities such as ethopoeia, an ancient rhetorical exercise in which students tell the story of a literary work from the perspective of one of the characters. The students became very good at this, and some of them were very creative filling in bits of the minor characters’ stories; it was lovely to hear their productions. And the MA Approaches module had 12 students, twice as many as the most I’ve ever had in it before, and every single one was a fun person to teach!”

Jackie Baines – Teaching Fellow and Admissions Tutor says:

“With the coming of online teaching due to the pandemic, came the making of screencasts for our lectures and teaching. In response to this new teaching environment, I made some screencasts to explain grammar points for the students of the beginner’s Latin language module. In Microsoft Stream, these screencasts come with automatic captioning and these captions struggle to reproduce exactly what is being said, particularly with unfamiliar Latin words. The resulting captions were some of the funniest things I have read all year. A new view of Latin 1st and 2nd declension noun endings! Below is a sample of how a few minutes of grammar were translated.

Enjoy the adventures of Sir Warham dative and others!”

·(Timing)1:22 -First attention feminine puella.
· 01:25 -Accused him to Alam genitive plural. I dated through a lie
· 01:30 -ablative por la. It is actually along a dirt poor law. Plural
· 01:35 -nouns up well, I accused of porlas genitive por la room.
· 01:41 -Dative and ablative Hoooly Screw
· 01:44 -Elise. And the second attention masculine ending in US.
· 01:49 -Sadwith nominative singular said woman accused of said, we
· 01:54 -genitive said whoa and said, whoa, same endings dative a
· 02:00 – narrative singular plural nominative said we accused of
· 02:04 – said worst genitive plural. Sir Warham Dative, and ablative
· 02:09 – serwis serwis do look at any similarities so you can see in
· 02:16 – the date of inhabited plural ISI
· 02:19 – SIS. And I asked both the 1st and 2nd declension. There is a.
· 02:25 – A similarity is there not between the genitive plural? Who
· 02:29 – are Lauren and the genitive probe Sir war room our room, or
· 02:34 – am so just be aware of that poor Lisa and a stem-nouns, so that’s
· 02:39 – hence the A in there. Also note that there are cases where there
· 02:44 – they are the same as each other, but of course the case could be
· 02:49 – different. So if you got poor
· 02:52 – lie. Could be genitive singular plural, I could be
· 02:55 – dated singer, or it could be nominative plural.
· 02:59 – In the second collection, masculine said we could be
· 03:03 – genitive singular or nominative plural, so you’ve got to lookout
· 03:08 – for those kind of differences.
· 03:11 – This week we will look at nouns which have a slightly different
· 03:14 – ending. In the second
· 03:16 – declension. But nominative singular, like we’re poor.
· 03:21 – Lee, bear again.
· 03:24 – They.
· 03:26 – Look different there, but their
· 03:28 – endings. Immediately become the same. It just depends what you
· 03:33 – and add it onto. So poor boy, poor prayer room, Prairie.
· 03:38 – Libre. A book becomes Libre Libre, so sometimes it
· 03:43 – retains the E. Sometimes it loses the E and then the
· 03:47 – important thing to note is what is this the purpose of these
· 03:52 – cases? What do they do? We’ve already seen that the nominative
· 03:56 – is for the subject of the
· 03:58 – sentence. Accused of is for the object of the sentence. The
· 04:04 – genitive is for the possessor of
· 04:07 – an object. So the goals book or the book of the girl. The
· 04:11 – girl would have to go into the genitive case.
· 04:15 – In English, the genitive is often represented by of or an
· 04:20 – apostrophe, so just watch out what’s going on there, date if
· 04:25 – it’s two or four, the word dative comes from a Latin verb,
· 04:31 – which will be looking at this week, and it becomes a learning
· 04:36 – verb to learn. Doe Dorie I give.
· 04:40 – So give two SO two or four. You’re giving a book to the girl
· 04:47 – you need to put her Twilight into the dative, where lie to
· 04:53 – the slave said. Woe to the
· 04:55 – slaves serwis. And the ablative is used for by with or from,
· 05:01 – very often with prepositions, and sometimes without
· 05:05 – prepositions. So if we’re going with a sword gladi Yo, and you
· 05:10 – need the ablative case.
· 05:14 – So that also brought in at this point are the second attention
· 05:18 – neuter nouns. The majority of endings from genitive onwards
· 05:21 – are the same as second declension masculine, but what
· 05:25 – you need to note is that in normative singular ends in, Umm.
· 05:30 – And they could have similar. Singular is the same, UM then?
· 05:36 – In the plural, Bella Bella surrendered a so there could be
· 05:40 – some confusion with other nouns. So just be careful. You will
· 05:44 – have to learn a list of neuter
· 05:46 – nouns. Sometimes that’s all you can do, or most
· 05:50 – times all you can do you have to learn the list.
· 05:54 – And finally, this week will be looking at prepositions which
· 05:59 – take the ablative, and they’ve got our AB by or from.
· 06:05 – AOX from out of so the difference between R and AB or A
· 06:10 – at X if it’s just the R or the A, The next word begins with a
· 06:16 – consonant. If the next word begins with a vowel, will have
· 06:20 – to say AB or X come means with…

The Ure Museum: The Nine Lives of A Mummified Cat’s Head

By Dr. Claudina Romero Mayorga, November 2020.

This year’s edition of Heritage Open Days (11-20 September) at the Ure Museum was a bit different. For the annual HOD we would normally host a talk and open the museum on a Saturday with free activities for families, but the pandemic forced us to step up and go virtual. What could we offer to attract people back to their computer screens during a time when families had already been online for 6 months!?

Since the theme for this year was “hidden nature” we chose to focus on the mummified cat’s head that is spending its afterlife in one of our cases. Our staff and some colleagues in the Department of Classics created a series of short videos under the title “The 9 lives of the Ure Museum’s cat’s head”. Each life of the cat – and each day of the festival – would be devoted to discovering a specific aspect of our feline. After all, the internet loves cats.

Dr Hana Navratilova started with Bastet and the wide range of powers that this Egyptian goddess displayed. Prof. Ian Rutherford then offered a refreshing and honest point of view: what we know–and don’t—about the ancient Egyptian custom of sacrificing cats. Dr Claudina Romero Mayorga gave us a gory insight into the mummification process and a step by step guide to mummifying a sardine (and to keep our cat well fed in the afterlife). Prof. Rachel Mairs provided us with an eco-friendly vision of ancient Egypt by focusing on how papyri were recycled into cartonnage.

The Ure Museum curator, Prof. Amy Smith and the assistant curator, Jayne Holly, then reminded us of their important “behind the scenes” work. By tracing back the cat’s provenance—where it comes from, when was it added to our collection, who gave it to us–we discovered bits of our own history. Lending our feline to another museum and running some tests in the lab to become part of the ancient Egyptian Animal Biobank also expanded our knowledge of this spooky artefact.

All videos were posted on our website and advertised on social media, enabling us to engage with people around the world. Our number of followers on Twitter and Facebook rocketed; international institutions liked our posts and we created a series of colour-in pages that accompanied each video for younger kids. In the end, our Heritage Open Days were more accessible than ever. If you missed the videos, you can still watch them at: https://collections.reading.ac.uk/ure-museum/whats-on/cat/.

New Artwork to be Inspired by University Classics and Archaeology Collections

     

A creative take on artefacts in the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology at the University of Reading will be produced thanks to Meeting Point, a scheme putting art in unexpected places.

The Ure Museum, in the Classics Department, located in the Classics Department in the Edith Morley building on the Whiteknights campus, has been chosen as one of six museums and heritage sites to work in partnership with artists to commission a new work of art inspired by each venue.

The Meeting Point programme is led by contemporary arts agency Arts&Heritage, which supports small and medium scale museums to put art at the heart of their programmes and to forge new relationships between the contemporary arts and heritage sectors.

Professor Amy Smith, Curator of the Ure Museum and Head of the Classics Department at University of Reading, said: “Meeting Point is a great way to keep museums at the forefront of cultural activity, that is, to help ever wider audiences see the connection between contemporary creative arts and the collections of historical, archaeological and sociological information encapsulated in our museums.

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We are really looking forward to discovering how artists might respond to different aspects of our collection, perhaps even our archives which themselves tell great stories about those who collected and curated the collections in the 19th-20th centuries. We are also hoping to recruit an artist who is interested to share their creative process with the students.”

The Meeting Point programme has previously worked with venues in the North East, North West and the midlands, partnering more than 20 museums with artists from across the UK.

As well as commissioning a new artwork which responds to their collection, each venue also receives training in best practice for working with artists.

Steph Allen, Executive Director at Arts&Heritage, said: “Arts&Heritage works with museums and heritage sites which have little previous experience of commissioning contemporary art.

We’ll be working with these six venues to pair each with an artist who will create a brand new piece of work – which could be anything from sculpture to a sound installation – created especially for the venue and inspired by its history and collections.”

Arts&Heritage is funded as a Sector Support Organisation by Arts Council England through its National Portfolio Organisation funding.

The other museums selected to take part in the Meeting Point Programme are Didcot Railway Centre; the National Paralympic Heritage Centre in Aylesbury; Furzey Gardens in the New Forest National Park; and‘a space’ arts; and The Brickworks Museum in Southampton.

 

-The Meeting Point Team

Seminar Series Programme -Autumn 2020

The Department of Classics’ Autumn 2020 seminar series will take place on Wednesdays at 4pm, via MS TEAMS. To request a link to attend one or all of the following sessions, please email a.c.smith@reading.ac.uk

7 October: Prof. Thorsten Fögen (Durham), Rival or ally? Competition, controversy and polemics in ancient technical discourse

14 October: Dr Maria Pretzler (Swansea), The Beginning of the Peloponnesian League – not quite as Herodotus tells it?

21 October: Dr Chris Stray (Swansea), Uncovering Kenneth Dover: A scandalous eminence.

28 October: Dr Jennifer Cromwell (Manchester Metropolitan), The use of indigenous languages in conquest societies: the case of Coptic in early Islamic Egypt

11 November: Prof. Fiona Macintosh (University of Oxford), Archiving and Interpreting Performance

18 November: Dr Jack Hanson (Reading), Cities, temples, and scale: A comparative approach

25 November: Dr Julia Hamilton (Leiden), Secondary epigraphy in Old Kingdom Saqqara

Dr Matthew Nicholls Wins Guardian Higher Education Award for Teaching Excellence

It may not quite be the Oscars, but the recent Guardian Higher Education Award ceremony in London was certainly an exciting night out, and I was delighted to come home with the award for Teaching Excellence. The award recognised my work in using digital modelling of ancient cities in my University teaching – both my large model of Rome, now nearing completion, and my course on Digital Silchester. Those projects have been the subject of various other posts and articles, by me and others, so I thought I’d post some thoughts here about the evening and the award itself.

The call for entries was circulated in mid-October, just as the academic year was getting underway. The University collected nominations and decided which ones to enter; my suggestion for the HEA-sponsored Teaching Excellence category was selected and I was asked to write a series of 300-word paragraphs outlining my work, describing how it was delivered, stating its outcomes with relevant evidence, and listing any funding received. At this stage I was not particularly hopeful about the outcome; the entry process did not allow for any pictures to be added to the strict word count, and as mine is such a visual project I thought that this would limit how well I could convey it to the judges.

In early December, however, I was excited to learn that I had been shortlisted (alongside the University of Nottingham’s 5-year pharmacy degree programme). To be one of two shortlisted entries was extremely gratifying, given the level of competition. I was pretty sure that I would not go on to win: all the other entries in the awards scheme, including Nottingham’s, seemed to be big projects run by groups of people, whereas mine is essentially an individual piece of work – albeit one strongly and consistently supported by my department and by the wider University. But to find out, I would be going to the awards ceremony in London in the new year.

The 26th of February eventually rolled round, and I headed down to London in a very smart chauffeured car with Gavin Brooks, the Pro-Vice Chancellor (Teaching and Learning), and David Carter, one of my Faculty’s Associate Deans. The Guardian was hosting the awards in style at 8 Northumberland Avenue, a distinguished Victorian hotel building off Trafalgar Square now restored (after a period as offices for the Ministry of Defence) as a very grand conference venue. There were between two and three hundred people there, representing the shortlisted universities and the sponsors of the various awards.

I had been shortlisted for a BUFAVC award for Learning on Screen in 2013, so the format of the evening, including the long and increasingly tense wait for one’s own award category to come round, was familiar. After an hour or so of high-decibel mingling over some very nice canapés and Champagne, we moved into the large ballroom, set out with tables (bearing yet more canapés) facing the stage. The evening’s host was Victoria Coren, who writes the poker column for the Observer. She moved fairly briskly through the award categories, keeping the evening moving along with good humour.

The announcement of each category’s winner was preceded by a little video in which the chairman of the judging panel made some remarks about the field of entries – a high standard, difficult to choose, and so forth – and then a sentence or two about why they had chosen the winner (without revealing who it might be). The first intimation that I might have won came when the judges for the Teaching Excellence award said that they had chosen to reward a scheme that was about teaching, rather than about organising teaching – David and I had time to exchange a could-it-be? sort of glance, and then ‘University of Reading’ was announced as the winner – a really exciting moment. A burst of rather loud and lively music and some flashing lights gave me time to walk up to collect my trophy and pose for pictures, with Victoria Coren and Stephanie Marshall, the Chief Executive of the Higher Education Academy.

David had prudently brought his iPad along and hooked up to the venue’s wifi to Tweet a series of images and messages. Like most events of this type now there was an official Twitter hashtag and a live video feed of messages, so we enjoyed seeing ours scroll past, and then seeing nice emails, FB posts, and Tweets pouring in.

The excitement of winning a trophy at a big national ceremony was wonderful, and the sort of thing that does not come often in a career. The trophy is on my desk, my mother has a copy of the photos, and the whole thing left a warm glow that will, I should think, last a while. That apart, though, I was particularly glad about two things.

One was the recognition for the support I’ve enjoyed from my departmental colleagues and students, and from the wider University. They have all consistently supported me through allowing me to try unusual new modules, through TLDF, Digitally Ready, and UROP grants and a University Teaching Fellowship, and more broadly through an environment that genuinely encourages innovation and the use of technology in teaching practice. Reading is very supportive to those willing to try something new, or adapt a practice or technology to their own subject.

The second, connected to this, is that the HEA in judging the award chose to recognise a project that is essentially the creation of me as a single academic, which links my research straight into my teaching. The other award categories on the night reflected the nature of modern universities as large, diverse businesses run largely by committees and teams: there were honours for business partnerships, communications and PR campaigns, community engagement, facilities projects, HR initiatives, and so on. These are all important, but it does seem to me that research and teaching are really our ‘core business’, and in my own humanities discipline, the individual researcher/teacher model is still at the heart of a lot of what we do – though we work well as a team, my colleagues and I all enjoy pursuing our own specialised work and conveying it to our students.  I was very pleased that this way of working was able to hold its own on the night.

Matthew Nicholls

Classical Association Conference 2013 – Plenary Lecture

If you had to miss it, or if you would like to relive Prof. Charlotte Roueché’s powerful lecture ‘Back to the Future? Rediscovering Classics in a Digital World’, you can now do so on YouTube. The lecture was delivered on occasion of the 2013 Classical Association conference at the University of Reading:

2013 Classical Association Conference at Reading

The 2013 Classical Association Conference will be hosted by the University of Reading and will take place from Wednesday 3rd to Saturday 6th April.

Highlights of the conference include the presidential address by Robin Osborne, plenary lectures by Alan Sommerstein on translation and Charlotte Roueché on digital Classics, and an informal evening with the author Tom Holland.  Over two hundred speakers will participate in parallel panel sessions on a huge range of subjects, including: the Ancient Ideal in Contemporary Greek Music; the Changing Character of Ancient Warfare; Christianity and the Roman Emperors; Travel Writing and the Idea of the Past; Classics in Children’s Literature; the Ancient Bibliocosm; and a great many topics in Greek and Roman literature and history.  Among the numerous coordinated sessions are panels organised by the American Philological Association, the Council of University Classical Departments, the Joint Association of Classical Teachers, the Classical Reception Studies Network, the International Network on the Legacy of Greek Political Thought, and KYKNOS. One particular highlight of the conference will be the number of panels on issues in Classics teaching, in both secondary and higher education.

Excursions on the afternoon of Thursday, 4th April, will include visits to the Roman town of Silchester, the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, the Museum of English Rural Life, and a Thames river cruise.  Delegates will also be able to visit our exhibition hall for browsing and purchasing the latest books from a variety of publishers.

Delegates will be leaving comments on papers and excursions through the conference twitter account @CA2013Reading.