WHAT’s IT LIKE? Episode 6: Ms. Roberta Dainotto – A PhD Researcher Specialising in Ancient Greek Philology.

Interviewee: Ms. Roberta Dainotto. Interviewer: Bunny Waring.
Date: 16th July 2021

Welcome to the Classic Department’s series What’s it Like? During these episodes staff, volunteers and students who specialise in all fields of Classics, Archaeology and Museums, will share with you the realities of their jobs. What to be a Linguist? Museum Curator? Archaeologist? Lecturer? Well Travelled Researcher? A Barrier-Breaker? Have No Idea? Then read on!

This week: Ms. Roberta Dainotto.

A PhD Researcher Specialising in Ancient Greek Philology.

 

Name: Ms. Roberta Dainotto
Area of Specialism: Classics.
Topics of Interest: Ancient Greek Rhetoric.
Job Title: PhD student in Classics, specializing in ancient Greek Philology.
Job Responsibilities: I am finalising my PhD studies and this is my current -and only- occupation! This means that I am trying to finally put together a few years in what I wish it will be a good output (fingers crossed). In the meantime, I am also trying to face new challenges and open up new possibilities, since doing just one assignment for months is quite weary some days. Moreover, I aim to prepare the ground for my future steps. Recently, I have succeeded in a selection to a pre-doctoral fellowship at the Harvard University’s Centre of Hellenic Studies (CHS), which will allow me to work simultaneously on a new project for the next year. I am extremely glad of this appointment which will allow me to approach a different subject under the supervision of a new team of professors – a priceless opportunity to consolidate my field of study.

Introduction 

 I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Classics at the University of Crete. I have earned BA and MA degrees in Classics at the University of Catania, which is where I come from. I decided to move to another country because I wanted to approach my subject of study from a different perspective, to enhance my knowledge and skills with the guide of Professors from different backgrounds to mine. The desire of facing new challenges has always lead me to achieve the highest scores, and with the same intention, during my doctorate, I have spent a couple of semesters abroad, respectively at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Reading. I would say that these were the best choices for me, both for my study and my personal growth.

What is your daily life really like?

I actually spend most of my days sitting in front of my laptop, working. This answer may sound banal and monotonous to those who do not do research or deal with more dynamic subjects than ancient texts -although in recent times remote working seems to be the constant for everyone! My life is filled with continuous appointments and deadlines that I try to respect by organising and managing my time in detail. In Greece, we generally do not pursue teaching activities during doctoral research, so much of my daily work often focuses on the same set of activities for long periods. During ‘normal periods’ however, I combine my research routine with seminars and lectures in various fields. I really like to attend these because they help me to look at things from different perspectives and most of the time they give me food for thought for my work or other disparate subjects that I would like to scrutinise further. I dedicate a great amount of time to the University. I like being there as I have immediate access to the library and I can share some pleasant conversations with other colleagues of mine to attenuate the anxiety of writing.

In contrast, under pandemic restrictions, I have stayed home every day, using my desk as my workspace, with lots of folders scattered all around the room. In the long term, such a timetable can be demanding. For this reason, I try to vary my days – alternating my study with long walks in the open or exploring my local area, restoring myself and recharging my batteries or dedicating myself to my friends and family, the best balance to start afresh!

What is the best part of your job?

There are so many things I could mention to answer this question. I will try to list them but I am already pretty sure I will forget something. I have always loved the idea of doing research and dedicating my time to my greatest hobby, which is the study of the ancient world. I think I am blessed with the great opportunity I am benefitting from, and I feel that I am doing what I was meant to. I started studying ancient Greek and Latin back in High School, and after many years, I am still fascinated by learning aspects of the Greek culture, which is so relatable to modern times – in the long run, that has shaped me. Thus, I would say that the first positive aspect of doing research is to explore further a subject you are already interested in. The pressure is high and constant in academia, but the task is stimulating and varied, and this is an excellent incentive, especially considering that PhD research requires a lot of time alone, dedicated to your study. Working on something you are really interested in compensates for all the endless nights and busy days.

One more reason for liking the study of the ancient Greek society is that it highlights the ideals which have founded the basis of western culture, such as democracy, ideals of equality, criticism, justice, acceptance or scrutiny of the other, going beyond unambiguous interpretations and offering plural ways to read an event. Indeed, the awesome thing about studying the past, is its feasibility against modern concerns, providing a great contribution to the modern way of thinking. Overall, Classics teaches you to be boundless in thoughts and respectful of others – two of the best qualities for a human being.

I have been, and still am, so lucky to be in contact with people who have open minds. I would say that this is doubtlessly another aspect to include, namely the chance to continuously enlarge your academic network, meeting many encouraging people who unreservedly give more than you ask for. I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of scholars and fellows during the conferences I have attended, the days spent at University or periods spent in offices other than mine, which have definitely changed my approach to my study and have helped me growing up as a student and as an individual.

The last aspect I think worth noting is the chance to travel a lot. The lack of a set routine, allows more flexibility in plans. Particularly, in my department, PhD students are not asked to work on anything but their specific dissertation so everyone can organise their time as conveniently as possible. Moreover, the participation in conferences or activities far from my department or the need to consult other libraries where some exclusive documents are hosted, results in the encouragement of mobility.

Why do you think your specialism is important?

I have always believed that any individual should spend a bit of their time learning about past cultures. This comes from the strong belief that understanding ancient societies (and more widely, other societies) helps greatly to develop an awareness of what we are surrounded by in contemporary times. Understanding other people’s reactions to specific concerns, serves as an example to our own and can offer solutions. Particularly, my field of study is extremely useful for this. I study the dicastic trials and how the methods of argument employed by individual speakers interfaced, evaluating the ways in which storytelling contributed to the shaping of each case. The importance of competing stories in Athenian courtroom practice, is directly relevant to the idiosyncrasies of Athenian cultural practices and helps to understand the society and its members, by transcending the limits of purely factual and legal questions. I focus specific attention on issues of citizenship, inheritance trials, liturgies and the perception of the self. The broadness of these topics ensures a detailed investigation on themes which are very close to the contemporary us, and it is fascinating to understand what has changed between the ancient ways of thinking and what still remains today.

If you didn’t have the job you do, what else could you apply your skills to?

If I had not had the chance to start a PhD, I rather think I would have become a teacher or, maybe, a publisher. Since I was a child my greatest desire was to write books, especially for use in schools. I had always loved the processes behind publishing, experiencing it as I grew up via my parents working in that field. This is one of the reasons for my choosing Philology as a topic. At some point, I had also wondered about studying either chemistry or engineering. I was very enthusiastic about the idea of producing and contributing to a tactile subject (if I may use this definition), through a more practical approach. In any case, I think that an analytical and critical spirit is also strongly required in the sphere of classical studies – the ingredients of these sciences and humanities are common, although differently applied, and I do not regret my choice!

Did you always want to be what you are today?

This is the toughest question of the form. I still wonder what I am today! A PhD is not an especially defining commitment in your career. You feel part of the University but you are no more a proper ‘student’ than you are a full member of the staff! It is such a liquid position! Overall, this is twofold. On the one side, it gives you all the possibilities at hand, an exciting platform of opportunities on which to build. On the other, the lack of definition and concerns for the future are worrying. This means that throughout the years you alternate stages of comfort and discouragement. But this is part of the game, so in the end you learn to live with this feeling.

However, to answer the question, I would say yes – I have always loved doing research, and I still feel the same enthusiasm as my first day as an undergraduate student.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

I would like to withdraw what I said before. This is the most challenging question! I have really no idea of what is next. I am full of dreams but I need to stay focused on the immediate achievements. Within 5 years I hope my doctoral thesis will be published,  then I could focus on other aspects which really interest me. I hope I would have a position in one of my top universities as a postdoc or a lecturer (may I include the University of Reading, too?!). I assume these would be my next achievements, however, I know how difficult these are to procure, so I try to remain confident but with my feet on the ground. Whatever will happens as long as I am happy, then its convenient. Moreover, I have many other personal goals that I wish to pursue, but I would rather not say them out loud for superstition’s sake!

What 3 tips would you give to someone who wants to follow a similar path?

  • Work hard to gain your goals. It does not matter how long your path takes, how difficult the road would be. All efforts are worthy of the energy spent in the end!
  • Do not think that a success lasts forever. Of course, a good result carries joy and satisfaction, but the fact that you have reached it should incentivise you to go further!
  • Focus on the big picture. Do not be discouraged if something goes wrong and you have not been able to achieve what you have aimed for in one month. Take all opportunities you can, meet as many people possible, do not close your door to extra activities and stay open to academic life and chances. All these things are part of your Ph.D – Do not limit yourself.

A Final Note

I have spent only a short period at the University of Reading- which was meant to last longer, but the pandemic forced the city’s closure. Nevertheless, those months were significant to me. I have experienced many things, from the volunteering activities with the Ancient Schoolroom, to participating in some enlightening seminars. I met the members of a remarkable department and long chats with Professors and colleagues have helped me to produce considerable pieces of my thesis, developing some theories which are now under peer review for publication. I feel lucky to have been part of this great department, and I wish this experience could be followed with other opportunities in future.

A part of the work I have done during my studies at the University of Reading is now published in an article which you can read here and I have recently been awarded a fellowship in Hellenic Studies! 

MA Colloquim 2021: Current Research Including Identity, Irrigation and Infliction!

Author: Katherine Harloe. Edits: Bunny Waring
Date: 16th June 2021.

 

The Department of Classics welcomes all to the 2021 MA Colloquim, where current researching students give papers on their work in progress.

Join us for some fascinating seminars and discussions online via Microsoft Teams on

Tuesday 29 June 2021 between 10:00am – 5pm

 

ALL ARE WELCOME TO THIS FREE EVENT.

 

Please register by midday, 25 June at https://forms.office.com/r/a3vHf1wPTr
or by emailing execsupporthumanities@reading.ac.uk

 

PROGRAMME

10:00 am: Welcome (Katherine Harloe)
10:15 – 11:15: Session 1

Chairs: Rebecca Lightfoot, Aidan Richardson and Elliot Zadurian

Massimo Rossetti: To what extent did the Romans develop a state centralised water
policy in the late Republic and early Imperial eras?

Curtis Hill: The wealth of the Roman senatorial elite: a source of control or a catalyst for
conflict?
Klara Hegedus: The Catilinarian conspiracy of 63 BCE. The act of a degenerate individual,
or an almost inevitable by-product of the changing political order?

11:15 – 11:30: Break
11:30 – 12:30 pm: Session 2

Chairs: Sue Vincent, Dulcimer Thompson and Jess Wragg

Louis Hope: To what extent did a Panhellenic identity exist during the period from the
beginning of the Persian Wars to the invasion of Persia by Alexander the Great?

Aaron Cox: All roads lead to Rhodes? A brief look into the politics of the Hellenistic
Mediterranean.

Charles Stewart: Demos, aristocracy, and empire: power relations and political
institutions in the Greek cities of Asia Minor under Roman rule.

12:30 – 1:30pm: Lunch
1:30 – 2:30pm: Session 3

Chairs: Aaron Cox, Charles Stewart and Louis Hope

Dulcimer Thompson: Examining the presence and effect of internalised misogyny in the
female characters of Classical literature.

Jess Wragg: Breaking the boundaries: gender nonconformity in Ancient Greece.

Sue Vincent: Hecabe – from magnificent matriarch to murderous mother?

3:30 – 3:45pm: Break
3:45 – 4:45pm: Session 4

Chairs:tbc.

Elliot Zadurian: Unjust deliveries of justice: the implications of the agon and law-court
scenes in ancient Greek Drama.

Rebecca Lightfoot: ‘The Bad Place.’ an exploration of punishment and the afterlife in
Egypt, Greece and the Near East.

Aidan Richardson: Is Plutarch’s claim to be writing “not Histories but Lives” true?
4:45pm: Wrap up/closing remarks

Registration for the AMPAL Conference is now open! (Until 10th June 2021)

Author: Doukissa Kamini. Edits: Bunny Waring.
Date: 2nd June 2021.

 

You are warmly invited to register to attend the Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Ancient Literature (AMPAL) 2020-2021 to be held online at MS Teams from 17th to 19th June 2021! Registration will remain open until 10th June 2021.

The theme of AMPAL 2020-2021 is ‘Fear in Ancient Culture’, about which, Postgraduates from both the UK and abroad will provide a series of presentations on literary, interdisciplinary, and historical approaches. The event will be accompanied by a virtual tour of the Ure Museum, a presentation of a student-curated online exhibition entitled ‘Fear Beyond Words’, and a Keynote Speech by Professor Fiona McHardy (University of Roehampton) on fear of revenge in Euripidean tragedies. You can find a list of titles as well as more details on the Keynote Speech and other aspects of AMPAL on the official website, where a list of abstracts and a programme are available.

To register for this free, online event please click here.

Please contact us at lks19a@reading.ac.uk for any questions and/or special requirements.

Best wishes,

Dania Kamini

Follow AMPAL on Twitter and Facebook

Visit AMPAL website: https://ampal2020.wordpress.com/

Sparta Storymaps – Using ArcGIS for Classical Studies.

[Image of an oblique profile of an ancient marble bust of a soldier in a plumed helmet,
thought to be Spartan General Leonidas, Sparta Museum].

Author: Dr. James Lloyd-Jones. Edits: Bunny Waring.
Date: 28th May 2021.

Sparta. What image is conjured in your mind? The ancient Spartans are often seen as the venerated, the heroes of Thermopylae. But they are also the villains, the enslavers of the helots, and the supporters of eugenics. In fact, the contemporary view of the ancient Spartans as heroic macho warriors is so widespread, thanks to 300, that when we explore the Spartans in more detail, the image that appears can seem surprisingly complex and uncomfortable.

[Image showing a scenic view of the Spartan theatre as stone remains with the Taygetos mountain range in the background].

Not only do we have to deal with the complications of modern interpretations of Sparta (some of them appropriated by political extremists), but we need to tackle the complications of ancient interpretations too. With the lack of any meaningful historical narratives written by a Spartan, the evidence from Sparta itself can be bitty and difficult to interpret. For example, the Classical agora remains unexcavated, and many inscriptions are still untranslated.

The major accounts about the Spartans that do survive are written by non-Spartans such as Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Aristotle, Pausanias, and Plutarch. They come with their own interpretative issues too. Thucydides fought, and lost, against the Spartans. Xenophon was buddies with a Spartan king. Plutarch wrote nearly half a millennium after the period of Spartan hegemony and dealt in writing engaging biographies. And this is all before we get to the historiographical phenomenon known as the ‘Spartan Mirage’. We are not the only generation for whom the image of the Spartans could be decidedly one-dimensional, over-exaggerated, or dowsed in political and philosophical motives. These are all some of the juicy topics that we sink our teeth into in the third-year module “Ancient Sparta” (CL3SP for those who want to look it up).

[Image of Caitlin’s map showing the Mediterranean with marked estimated trade routes from Port Gytheion].

Studying the Spartans can be an interesting exercise in a world with increasingly complicated sources of opinions, facts, and fictions dressed as facts. So, for one of our assessments, I decided that students might benefit from a digital project that would allow them to explore a facet of Sparta that might appeal to, and be surprising for, a general audience. It also presented an opportunity to think about how we present evidence, and the importance of geography in understanding Sparta, in the form of networks, findspots, and battle sites.

 

[Image showing a scatter map produced by student Alfie to show patterns of spartan military defeats at land and sea between 659 – 371 BCE].

The software that we used is ArcGIS StoryMaps, and you can view some of the work that the students created in the links provided. I was really impressed across the board with the work that was turned in, especially under the trying circumstances of COVID. The examples given here represent the broad spread of topics that everyone covered. The topics range from analyses of Spartan military capabilities to helot revolts, Spartan festivals, votives, trade, colonies, and more. Each of the stories presents a compelling case for taking a more nuanced approach when we ask the question “Who were the Spartans?” and I hope that you will find something of interest in each, I know I did!

Lydia’s “The Karneia: Festival or training camp?
Robert’s “The Best Soldiers in the World.”
Eleanor’s “An Insight into Spartan Religious Cults and Sanctuaries.”
Alfie’s “Just How Invincible Was Sparta?
Katie’s “Motives Behind the Votives.”
Daniel’s “The impact of the Helot Revolts on Sparta.”
Katy’s “Revels and Raves: Religious festivals and celebrations in Ancient Sparta.
Jack’s “Sparta the colonizer: Was Taras really her only colony?
Caitlin’s “A Crack in the Spartan Trade: The Journey of Laconian Pottery.

The “Ancient Sparta” module focused on a series of lectures and seminars, as well as some practical sessions on how to use ArcGIS StoryMaps. There was a lively movie night where we got together to watch 300 (meme competition included), as well as an introduction to some of the archaeological material from Sparta in the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology at Reading. Finally, we were very grateful to have additional video introductions from colleagues, providing the students with some alternative viewpoints and expertise. Many thanks once again to Paul Chirstesen, Stephen Hodkinson, Tyler-Jo Smith, and Paul Cartledge for their generosity of time and knowledge.

All being well, the module is due to run next year too, when, hopefully, we might be able to do some object-handling in the Ure Museum too. There’s something quite special about being up close to an object that a Spartan dedicated in a sanctuary over 2500 years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Image of three, small metal objects thought to be cult votives made by Spartans].

Inclusive Classics

Authors: Dr. Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis & Prof. Barbara Goff. Edits: Bunny Waring.
Date: 7th May 2021.

 

 

In April 2021, the Classical Association opened its annual conference – held online this year due to the pandemic – with a panel on Inclusive Classics. Inspired in part by the ‘Towards a more inclusive Classics’ workshop held in June 2020, the panel was convened and run by the Inclusive Classics Initiative, headed by Professor Barbara Goff (University of Reading) and Dr Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis (University of St Andrews). The aim of this Initiative is to open discussions within the discipline about marginalised groups, both in terms of their experiences during antiquity and their interactions with the subject today. The Initiative also works to bridge the gap between Classics in higher education and Classics at secondary schools, thus bringing together more perspectives within the discipline.

The panel, entitled ‘Inclusive Classics and pedagogy: teachers, academics and students in conversation’, opened with a series of spotlight talks. These covered a wide range of topics, including disability in the Classics curriculum, examining the influence of race on Classical art, applying queer theory to Classics, equality of access to classical languages and highlighting the launch of Classics Caring Network. A binding theme shared by the various speakers was the idea that inequalities in the wider world are reflected within the discipline. These spotlight talks, by early-career classicists, will be available on the Classical Association website.

Following on from the spotlight talks, the panel moved onto considering the teaching and learning experience of Classics in relation to inclusivity, both at undergraduate level and in the context of secondary education. Participants were wowed by the eloquence of two school students (from Runshaw College in Lancashire and Pimlico Academy in London), who spoke about the perception of Classics as the subject of the privileged elite, with limited real-world application. Equally interesting was the insight from teachers from the same schools, who explained how they are reforming traditional approaches to Classics, such as by deemphasising the importance of masters and slaves and examining issues of gender in the ancient world.

Break-out rooms gave participants the opportunity to ‘meet’ and exchange responses about what they had heard. The final ‘closing remarks’ of the panel saw many other intriguing presentations – on topics like the initiative to find new unseen Latin passages representing a wider variety of perspectives and backgrounds, how institutions can make Classics more inclusive in terms of race and social class, the new EDI officers at the Classical Association, the weaponization of debates surrounding Classics in an increasingly polarised public forum, the ways in which academia could do more to support those with disabilities (particularly visual impairments), the contemporary social and political context within which the Inclusive Classics Initiative is operating and the need for a free and pluralistic discourse for academic inquiry to flourish.

The Inclusive Classics Initiative has organised a second workshop for the 1st and 2nd of July 2021, hosted online by the Institute of Classical Studies and supported by the CUCD teaching committee. Issues discussed will include ‘Planting the seeds of Inclusive Classics in school contexts’, ‘Embedding inclusive practices in institutions’, ‘Decentring Athens, Rome and the canon’ and ‘Lecturers and students in collaboration’. Until then, the Initiative’s heads would like to thank all those who (virtually) attended the panel and, above all, the speakers: Lauren Canham, Amy Coker, Tristan Craig, Hardeep Dhindsa, Katherine Harloe, Arlene Holmes-Henderson, Victoria Leonard, Claude MacNaughton, Justine McConnell, Neville Morley, Isabel Ruffell, Rosie Tootell, Joe Watson, Tim Whitmarsh, Bobby Xinyue and the two school students.

WHAT’S IT LIKE? Episode 3: Dr Claudina Romero Mayorga – A Specialist in Sensorial Archaeology in Museums and Classics.

[Image of an image of Mithratic iconography and Latin inscription in a stone frieze. Lalupa]

Interviewee: Dr. Claudina Romero Mayorga. Interviewer: Bunny Waring.
Date: 16th April 2021

Welcome to the Classic Department’s series What’s it Like? During these episodes staff, volunteers and students who specialise in all fields of Classics, Archaeology and Museums, will share with you the realities of their jobs. What to be a Linguist? Museum Curator? Archaeologist? Lecturer? Well Travelled Researcher? A Barrier-Breaker? Have No Idea? Then read on!

This week: Dr Claudina Romero Mayorga

A Specialist in Sensorial Archaeology in Museums and Classics.

Name: Dr Claudina Romero Mayorga
Area of Specialism: Archaeology, Classics and Museums.
Topics of Interest: Ancient Mediterranean civilisations, material culture, education, sensorial archaeology, music, polychromy, 3d printing.
Job Title: Education officer at the Ure Museum and Sessional Lecturer at the Department of Classics.
Job Responsibilities: Develop and deliver educational sessions for primary and secondary schools, organise outreach activities, family events, lead the Young Archaeologists’ Club, research the collection, welcome visitors, manage volunteers and interns, teach Latin or Roman History to undergraduates.

Introduction

I grew up watching old films and documentaries about ancient civilisations: Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome….everything sounded so mysterious and exciting! I wanted to know all about them so I started reading as much as I could. The objects left behind by them felt as if they still had a special power, so my focus was not so much on their languages, but on the material culture produced by these peoples who lived so many years before me. By the time I got to the university, “Gladiator” had already left a mark on me, and well…Romans are my thing now. I love working at the Ure Museum and teaching people about our amazing collection.

 

[A glimpse at some of the fantastic displays in the Ure Museum, including pots to get excited about. Ure Museum.]

What is your daily life really like?

Replying to emails takes most of my time! Before the pandemic, I would get lots of school groups in the Ure Museum and the time would just fly. Talking to kids, teachers, parents, looking at them being amazed by an ancient pot…Best feeling ever!!! Having children tell you that they want to be archaeologists and work in a museum after their visit is priceless…But in 2020 with the arrival of COVID, things changed dramatically. Although online sessions still felt great and children got to engage with 3D models, it wasn’t the same. I’m really looking forward to reopening soon!

[A YAC event (with permission) where young children are taught how to clean and understand ancient artefacts. Mayorga.]

A lot of my time is also spent planning new public events (online or face to face) for families, for older teens: trying to develop new educational resources for everyone, talking to my colleagues and other museums, updating our website, posting on our social media, writing grants applications and planning Young Archaeologist Club (YAC) sessions. If I’m teaching Roman History to undergrads, I need to prepare my classes and then mark their assignments. When I teach I try to make sure that they see that I’m passionate about the subject and that although everything seems to have been researched and discovered already, there’s still plenty to do.

I do love object-based research so whenever I have a bit of time, I would focus on a specific object and learn as much as I can. I also enjoy travelling; I like meeting colleagues in beautiful destinations to discuss our work, visit museums and tasting local food (this activity is also known as attending international congresses and seminars). Getting funds to do this can be very competitive and difficult, but I never give up!

[Dr Mayorga and Assistant Curator of the Ure Museum Jayne Holly on a research trip. Mayorga.]

What is the best part of your job?

· Handling ancient objects is the best part without any doubt! I still feel like a 5-year-old when I hold an old pot.

· Working with the curator and assistant curator at the Ure is great fun, we’re always coming up with new projects and new challenges…I don’t know what a boring day at the office is.

· Learning from other colleagues

· Being mind-blown by kids’ questions

 

Why do you think your specialism is important?

Studying ancient civilisations, in general, makes you aware that some of the problems we face today as a society, already existed in the past (misogyny, elitism, poverty). Looking at the solutions they came up with – or the lack of them – might give us a better perspective of the circumstances we are living in. My interest in sensorial archaeology comes from my focus not on emperors and great characters, but on ordinary people: how they behaved, what they liked, whom they loved, what they ate, if they were happy – and if so, how they expressed that. I believe that trying to know another person (even if that person has been dead for more than 1000 years) generates empathy and there’s nothing more important right now than trying to understand the person who is in front of you.

[The Ure Museum’s Museum in a Box tells the life of Annie Ure, the co-founder of the Ure Museum, whose life studying antiquity highlighted women’s rights issues throughout the ancient and modern eras.]

 If you didn’t have your current job, what else could you apply your skills to?

I guess I would be good in general admin, but I would do better in a position that would allow me to support or mentor young people. Teaching is a calling, whether it’s Classics or Economics, but I believe I would be good at working with younger people.

Did you always want to be what you are today?

Yes! Haha, I get to work in a museum and at the Uni, although I took the long and winding road to get here. People usually go for Museum Studies if they want to work with collections or in a heritage site. I started studying History of Art in Madrid and then my PhD in Archaeology offered fieldwork training: I was part of a team that dug up a Roman villa in Spain…and to spread the news among the locals I guided some tours and “played” with the finds to show kids how fun and interesting the Romans were. There I got bitten by the “museum bug” (beware!) and ended up researching lots of museum collections and storage facilities for my final dissertation in every single European country.

[Dr Mayorga teaching a range of students and volunteers about the importance of Museum collections. Mayorga.]

But I had to work and study at the same time, so it took me longer than expected. Volunteering and taking up education modules did the rest. But because I have a PhD in Archaeology people usually don’t understand why I’m the Education officer, as if researching and teaching were two completely different activities, when in the end they’re two sides of the same coin. I can’t conceive one without the other.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

I hope the pandemic is over by then! I would love to see the government showering universities with funds, especially to support Humanities. Would love to have my role as an Education officer as full-time, and to continue teaching at the University of Reading. It would be great to have certain events and activities already cemented in our educational calendar (3D printed resources; Ancient music sessions).

 What 3 tips would you give to someone who wants to follow a similar path?

  1. Go for whatever you love: languages, physics, computers. That will always stay with you, money won’t. Studying something that you don’t like is torture.
  2. Don’t believe everything you read: even if it is printed in a book by a famous author, it’s opened to discussion.
  3. Travel as much as you can.

What to know more?

If you’re interested in staying up-to-date with what events the Ure Museum has to offer head over to the Museum’s webpage here.

Beyond LGBT+ History Month: Broken Futures Project

Author: Amy Hitchings and George Stokes. Edits & Introduction: Bunny Waring.
Date: 9th April 2021.

Introduction: As LGBT+ History Month comes to an end it is important to continue the educational progress made, during this focused push for better dialogues across communities. The Classics Department at Reading has long advocated and implemented important conversations about gender and sexual identity, through a variety of research projects, educational events and student-led initiatives (see here and here). Read on to hear what the team at Broken Futures has been developing recently and how Classics at Reading are working collaboratively with other institutions and organisations towards a brighter tomorrow.

The Broken Futures Project (2021)

LGBT+ History Month is a time to look back through history and to highlight queer identities. This often brings with it a sense of belonging that many queer people believe is not only desirable but essential for their own sense of identity and place within society. But what if the lives of people who defied heteronormative society have been hidden, either by those people themselves or by a state that didn’t record their existence?

Volunteer researchers at the Broken Futures project have been working to reconstruct the lives of men who encountered the local criminal justice system as a result of their sex with other men. This is no easy task; state archives were not designed to be used in this way and are not organised in neat categories for present-day researchers. So-called ‘homosexual’ offences are lumped together with sex with animals, as well as with women. It can be difficult to work out exactly what happened in any given instance from the court records alone, so Broken Futures volunteers have been scouring newspaper archives (over 163 hours over the past year) for any snippet of information that can give us a clue.

We’ve also been working to humanise the individuals recorded in our sources, and volunteers have trawled census, military, and education records to get some understanding of the individuals behind the offence. We’ve found heart-wrenching tales of same-sex desire, family unity, and stories of people trying to simply live an ordinary life in the face of huge societal condemnation.

We’ve found evidence of sex between men throughout the county of Berkshire, from the poorest agricultural labourer to the landed gentry, but what does this really mean for the LGBT+ community today? The next stage of our project will be to grapple with the issue of whether we can view these men as homosexual or as a precursor to our modern notion of homosexual identity at a time before these concepts became mainstream. We also want to confront the issue of whether it is appropriate to claim these men as part of our community, given that they would probably never have publicly admitted to engaging in this behaviour in their own time and may have even been horrified at the idea.

The project will conclude with a podcast seminar series throughout April with community volunteers, the Berkshire County Archivist, and a number of Reading academics including: Amy Austin (History), Dr Oliver Baldwin (Classics), and Prof. Katherine Harloe and Aleardo Zanghellini (Classics and Law respectively). From 19 April, there will also be a virtual display at the Museum of English Rural Life and an online exhibition on the Broken Futures project page, as well as an updated version of Support U’s existing queer history tour around Reading. We also have a toolkit that will be available, should you be interested in reading more about the research process, the sources used to recover these stories, or how to go about finding lives in archives around the country.

This is all just the start of uncovering Berkshire’s queer history, as the criminal sources utilised only record instances of sex between men. Also, criminal documents did not directly discuss ethnicity and, of course, individuals whose same-sex sex went undetected were not prosecuted and cannot be found in criminal archives. More work needs to be done to uncover the lives of unrepresented communities in Berkshire, and this is something that Support U is endeavouring to work towards in the near future.

The Broken Futures Project was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2019 and seeks to explore the history of ordinary men in Berkshire who were charged with buggery/indecent assault/gross indecency between 1861 to 1967 by training community volunteers in archival and genealogical research. The project is managed and delivered by Support U, the LGBT+ support and wellbeing charity in the Thames Valley. Find out more by visiting www.brokenfutures.co.uk.

The Pilot project for this work was funded by the University of Reading’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme in 2018, supervised by Professor Katherine Harloe, University of Reading and Mark Stevens, the Berkshire County Archivist with student researchers Amy Hitchings and George Stokes.

George and Amy now make up the Broken Futures team. The Broken Futures project team has some fantastic project partners, to whom we are so grateful for support and guidance since the project’s conception: The University of Reading; The Museum of English Rural Life; Reading Museum; and the vital resources, archival access and training spaces provided by the Berkshire Record Office. This work will also feature in the Queer Rural Connections, a theatrical project led by Timothy Allsop and Dr Kira Allmann of the University of Oxford, exploring queer rural lives.

Call For Posters: Narrating Relationships in Holy Lives.

Author: Alice van den Bosch & Becca Grose. Edits: Bunny Waring.
Date: 2nd April 2021.

Call for Posters

Narrating Relationships in Holy Lives from the first millennium AD Department of Classics & Ancient History

Hosted by: University of Exeter via Zoom, 12th July 2021.

We are excited to announce an afternoon workshop on ‘Narrating Relationships in Holy Lives’. Communities wrote about holy figures for many reasons. Our speakers consider the characterisation of various holy figures or ‘the very special dead’ in texts from multiple religious (Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Manichaean) and linguistic (Latin, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew) communities. The workshop will explore the construction of holy and unholy characters, their relationships, and the role of narrative order in texts about holy figures. We are especially interested in how these features change as texts and figures are translated, transmitted, epitomised or received in different contexts across the late-ancient and early-medieval Mediterranean.

Keynotes

Christian Sahner (Oxford)How to construct a holy life in the early Islamic period

Christa Gray (Reading) TBC

Speakers

Nic Baker-Brian (Cardiff)Is there a Narrator Here? The Role of Narrative and Narration in Manichaean KephalaiaStavroula Constantinou (Cyprus)Narrating Friendship in Byzantine Hagiography”
Edmund Hayes (Leiden) TBC
Jillian Stinchcomb (Brandeis)Narrating the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon’s Court in Late Antique SourcesChontel Syfox (Wisconsin-Madison)Rewriting Leah: The Feminine Ideal in the Book of Jubilees

The workshop will be held in English and will comprise a short opening and closing keynote, brief panels, and discussion. This will culminate in a roundtable discussion. General registration will be opened in late May.

Applications are now open for pre-circulated posters. We invite contributions that consider:

  • Order in which characters and relationships are introduced or developed
  • Choice of narrator(s) and narrative perspectives
  • Types of relationship (e.g. confrontational, supportive, ambiguous) as narrative devices
  • Relationship formation, breakdown and misunderstanding as narrative progression
  • Relationships as constructors of inclusion, exclusion & difference (e.g. status, gender etc.)
  • Reconfiguration of relationships in transmission, translation, paraphrase and epitome
  • Receptions and reinterpretations of characters from other narratives
  • Relationships beyond the human (e.g. supernatural, environmental, non-human)
  • Characters in context: narratives and audience, performance, relics

Posters will be shared with registered attendees, who will be invited to pose questions to individual poster presenters via email. General themes and questions arising from the posters will also be raised at the roundtable discussion.

We will accept posters in English, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish and Modern Standard Arabic. To facilitate wide comprehension, presenters are asked to provide an English synopsis if the poster is not in English; if this is a barrier then please contact us. We are especially keen to encourage submissions from postgraduates, ECRs and independent scholars who may not have a departmental profile.

Please send one-page poster submissions in PowerPoint or PDF format to narratingholylives@gmail.com by 1st July 2021, along with affiliation, year of study and synopsis if applicable. Submissions will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Enquiries about poster topics and format are also welcomed (we recommend A1 format, 26pt font minimum) and we can provide a poster guidance sheet.

Alice van den Bosch (Exeter) & Becca Grose (Reading/Exeter)

Diversifying and Decolonising.

Author: Prof. Barbara Goff. Edits: Bunny Waring.
Date: 26th March 2021.

 

Like much of the world, the University of Reading has recently been having important conversations about race. The death of George Floyd and the effects of the pandemic have enabled a togetherness that scrutinises racial inequalities in this society (and others) with renewed intensity. Many institutions are responding positively, including the University of Reading both as a whole and on Departmental levels. Soon, the University’s Race Equality Review will be published, and last week the Centre for Quality Support and Development ran a webinar on ‘Addressing Discrimination – Diversifying and Decolonising Higher Education’. The Department of Classics was there in force.

Ian Rutherford, Rachel Mairs and Barbara Goff presented on how their teaching addresses issue of diversity and decolonisation. While the term ‘diversity’ can point towards including the varied perspectives of groups who may have been excluded in earlier times, such as women, BAME people, people with disabilities, or with varied sexual orientation, ‘decolonisation’ invites us to focus more closely on questions of race and the long history of European colonial dominance and oppression over peoples of Africa, Asia and the Americas. Such questions include thinking about the history of our disciplines and how knowledge may have been affected by discriminatory attitudes; they also include thinking about how to make disciplines welcoming to students and scholars of varied backgrounds. Our Department includes Prof. Katherine Harloe, one of the few Black professors in the UK, but like many humanities departments, we do not include many BAME students. This is a situation which we would like to redress. It is important that the Department is a place where everyone feels they can flourish.

Classics as a discipline comes with a lot of racialised baggage. The cultures of Greece and Rome have historically been used sometimes to promote the idea of white western supremacy, and some groups nowadays who are still wedded to that idea use imagery of ancient Greece and Rome to serve their discriminatory agendas. In fact, the idea of ‘race’ is alien to the ancient world, which made many discriminations among people, but was not very interested in skin colour. Ian, Rachel and Barbara together showed how the ancient world offers paradigms for thinking about difference, and stressed that the modern discipline rejects simplistic claims about cultural superiority. Instead, classicists nowadays are intent on sharing the resources of the ancient world with all who might be interested.

Ian’s contribution reminded us that the Department of Classics has taught other cultures, as well as Greece and Rome, for many years. He teaches about ancient Anatolia, and about relations between Greece and Rome and ancient Egypt; in the past we have had modules on intersections with Jewish history and culture, and on ancient Carthage. The Ure Museum has an Egyptian collection alongside its Greek materials. Ian’s teaching and research shows how the ancient world was a place of endless movement and mingling of cultures, foreshadowing our own concerns with globalisation.

 

Rachel showed how her teaching addresses notions of decolonisation via her interest in how ancient Egypt has been perceived in western traditions. In her module on ‘Cleopatras’ she discusses Afrocentric scholarship, and how it contributes to reassessing assumptions about racial difference. The historical character of Cleopatra is claimed as both white and black, and the various arguments about her identity shed light on perceptions about history and race. Meanwhile her module on ‘Pioneers of Classical Archaeology’ examines how the discipline of archaeology has relied on the unacknowledged labour of people like the Egyptian labourers on digs, or the women who supported the ‘heroic’ male explorers.

 

Barbara drew attention to the Department’s work with groups who promote classics in state schools, such as’ Classics for All’ (https://classicsforall.org.uk/) and ‘Advocating Classics Education’ (http://aceclassics.org.uk/ ). She also talked about how teaching in the core modules on Ancient Drama and Ancient Epic includes discussion of African rewritings of classical literature, such as Derek Walcott’s Omeros or Wole Soyinka’s The Bacchae. Authors of African descent have frequently engaged with classical literature, in Africa, the United States, the Caribbean, and Europe, so that some such rewritings have become part of the classical ‘canon’ themselves. Classical drama is not only performed throughout the world, but also reused and adapted by different societies to their own ends; this reuse is one of the major ways in which the discipline of classics stays vibrant and relevant in the modern world.

 

Together, the contributions made it clear that ‘decolonising’ is not about rewriting history, or about removing Homer from syllabi. It is instead about teaching and research that is rooted in the diversity of the ancient world and of modern responses to it. The Department’s work on this topic continues next term with a seminar series on inclusivity. Next term too, Katherine Harloe and Rachel Mairs will run a roundtable where students will be invited to talk about issues facing BAME students, students with disabilities, and students who identify as LGBTQI+, in the Department and the University. We look forward to some fruitful, if challenging, conversations.

 

 

 

Fear in Ancient Culture: A Call For Papers and a Virtual Tour as Classics UoR Hosts the 15th Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Ancient Literature (AMPAL).

Author: Dania Kamini. Edits: Bunny Waring.
Date: 19th March 2021.

Fear in Ancient Culture

The Department of Classics at the University of Reading is delighted to host the 15th Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Ancient Literature (AMPAL) on Thursday 17th – Saturday 19th June 2021. The theme for this year is Fear in Ancient Culture.

Given the current travel restrictions and social distancing rules due to COVID-19, this year’s meeting will be held online on Microsoft Teams. In these strange times, the Organising Team of AMPAL 2021 is determined to preserve the engaging and interactive character of the event. To that purpose, we aim to transform this online environment into a welcoming setup in which postgraduate students in Ancient Literature from across the world can gather again (albeit virtually) and celebrate another year of research on Classics. This event is described as AMPAL 2021 in shorthand, but it also stands as AMPAL 2020-2021 since it aims to bring together already confirmed speakers due to present in AMPAL 2020 and new speakers joining the conference in 2021.

Keynote Speech (18th June 2021, 5pm): Fear of Revenge in Euripidean Tragedy by Professor Fiona McHardy.

It is with great pleasure that we announce this year’s AMPAL Keynote Speech will be delivered by Professor Fiona McHardy (University of Roehampton). Professor McHardy will speak about the fear of revenge in Euripidean tragedy. Through the exploration of contemporary ideas about young children and babies as avengers, underpinned by comparative anthropology and psychology, this lecture unravels the dynamics of fear associated with children within both the plays of Euripides and their literary and social contexts.

Virtual tour of the Ure Museum

This year’s AMPAL also includes a virtual tour of the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, our departmental museum founded by Percy and Annie Ure. In addition to the museum’s permanent displays, we are proud to host an online presentation of an inaugural student exhibit, Fear Beyond Words designed specifically for AMPAL 2020-2021. To register for this, please visit: https://collections.reading.ac.uk/ure-museum/explore/online-exhibitions/fear

Call for Papers

Fear is a driving force behind human action, capable of pushing people to either exceed their own expectations or to prevent them from acting at all. As a powerful motivator, the emotion of fear had a pervasive presence in ancient life and thought. This is reflected in multiple ways throughout literature, juxtaposed with motivation, social interaction and power dynamics. Furthermore, as early as Aristotle’s Poetics, fear had already been understood as a ruling force and powerful notion for the construction of literary genres, especially tragedy. While evaluating the ancient literature as an integral part of understanding such a concept, the diverse influences of different fields of study, such as literary criticism, political theory, psychoanalysis, and philosophy, can add valuable insights.

In this context, AMPAL 2020-2021 invites presentations on fear from literary or interdisciplinary approaches. Questions as to how fear can be defined, the whos, how and whys of causing fear, how fear is related to other aspects of ancient thought, how the sense of fear grows or fades, how this notion forms the interaction among humans or between mortals and gods, and the role of language in the creation of a fearful or fear-free context, are all considered to be substantial aspects of this year’s theme.

Suggested topics on fear may include, but are not limited to:
– Fear and literary criticism, meta-poetical or reception analysis
– Fear and other emotions; fear disguised as other emotions; fear and the sense of respect; fear and related notions and experiences; fear and the five senses or other body reactions
– Cognitive and behavioural approaches to fear, and emotions in general
– Fear and the manipulation of memory
– Fear and the construction of myth and heroic profiles or/and social or political identity
– Fear and power play; the control of political dynamics; the promotion of political agendas and ideas
– Psychoanalytical approaches to fear; gendered fear; fear as a significant aspect of rites; fear as anxiety
– Fear of the other (Orientalism, Amazons etc.); philosophical approaches to fear; fear and the fundamental existential questions
– Depictions and illustrations of fear in ancient art and material culture
– Aspects, perceptions and depictions of fear in late antique and early Christian literature and thought; reception of the ancient concept of fear in early modern literature

The Department of Classics at Reading invites postgraduates of every level to submit an abstract of 250-300 words for a 20-minute paper followed by 10-minute discussion by the 25th of April 2021. Abstracts should be sent as an anonymous PDF to readingampal2020@reading.ac.uk. Please include your name, university affiliation, programme, and year of study in the body of your email and not in the abstract. AMPAL 2020-2021 is open to all undergraduate and postgraduate students in any relevant discipline as well as to the general public. Details on the keynote speech will be announced in due time.

All Welcome!

Please note that although our website and email address will maintain 2020 in their titles, they will remain the main communication paths for AMPAL 2020-2021 as well.
Further information on AMPAL 2020-2021 and all relevant events can be found at its website: https://ampal2020.wordpress.com/. Please keep an eye on AMPAL 2020-2021 website for further announcements. Feel free to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and spread the word!