Spring Term 2024 Reading Classics Research Seminars

We are pleased to announce the launch of our Reading Classics Seminar Series for Spring Term 2024, which will boost our Wednesday afternoons with constructive and stimulating lectures and discussions on various aspects of Classics research!

Our seminar series will explore a variety of topics and periods of Classical studies. Seminars will be livestreamed on MS Teams – links to follow. Attendance is free and open to all! Below you can find a list of all titles.

 

7 February

Fiachra Mac Góráin, UCL, Gender euphoria: La Cerda on Virgil’s Camilla, Joining link https://bit.ly/49iVvYr 

21 February

Maeve McHugh, Birmingham, Finding the Ancient Farmer in Fables and Bones, Joining link https://bit.ly/3UrXIN6

14 March – 17:00

Irene Lemos, Oxford, Euboeans at home and abroad in the Late Bronze and Iron Ages (in person only), to be held in Palmer Building, room 108

 

All (unless otherwise labelled) starting at 16:00 in Edith Morley G25

For more information contact e.m.m.aston@reading.ac.uk

Autumn Term 2023 Reading Classics Research Seminars

We are pleased to announce the launch of our Reading Classics Seminar Series for Autumn Term 2023, which will boost our Wednesday afternoons with constructive and stimulating lectures and discussions on various aspects of Classics research!

In this series of lectures, starting on 4 October, we welcome a diverse group of speakers from both the UK and abroad in our Departmental seminars. Our Autumn seminar series will explore a variety of topics and periods of Classical studies. All seminars will be livestreamed on MS Teams; tune in every Wednesday at 4pm (unless otherwise stated)! Attendance is free and open to all! Below you can find a poster with all titles.

Full list of titles

4 October

Maya Muratov, Adelphi, With strings attached: Articulated figures in antiquity

11 October

Najee Olya, William & Mary, Re-visiting portrayals of Africans in ancient Greek art: Recurring problems and new questions

16 October – Gordon Lecture (17:00)

Véronique Dasen, Fribourg, Play or cheat?: Games in Greek and Roman antiquity

25 October

Anne Alwis, Kent, Model Ascetics?: Exemplarity in Theodoret of Cyrrhus’ Religious History, joining link bit.ly/3tmY5wL 

8 November

Lea Rees, Oxford, A landscape biography of Dahshur: Chronological, functional and social transformations, joining link bit.ly/48FjuS3

15 November

Summer Court, Reading, Playing at (demi-)god: Hercules’ club, mould-blown glass, and sensory experience

Andy Fox, Reading, The death grove at the heart of Seneca’s Thyestes, joining link: bit.ly/3tx1MjP

22 November – Locus Ludi Public Talk (18:00 EM 125)

Tim Penn, Oxford, More than just fun and games: Why study board games in Roman society?

Launch of a new Ure Museum exhibition

We are delighted to announce a new exhibition— Locus Ludi: Anyone can play!on display at the Ure Museum from 6 September until 30 November, 2023. Image of ancient game pieces from the Ure Museum
This new exhibition, inspired by the European Research Council funded project Locus Ludi: The Cultural Fabric of Play and Games in Classical Antiquity, led by Professor Véronique Dasen, is an opportunity to explore the rich collections relating to games and play in antiquity that are available not only at the Ure Museum but at other UK museums. The exhibition is co-curated by Jayne Holly (Ure Assistant Curator) and Summer Courts (one of our PhD candidates) and benefits particularly from Summer’s expertise in ancient games. We are most grateful to Colchester and Ipswich Museums, Reading Museum, The British Museum and the University of Reading’s Special Collections for the loan of important artefacts from their collections. Han

Another highlight is the game pieces and other contents of the Stanway Doctor’s Grave, a first-century AD tomb discovered by archaeologists in Stanway, Essex, in 1996. (NB you may have heard that ‘Doctor’ referred also as  ‘The Druid of Colchester’, for indeed it is unclear whether he was Celtic, Roman, or other, Druid or even doctor. Nontheless he was buried with a unique gameboard that still baffles experts. You can learn more about it with this video made by the Panoply Vase Animation Project (created with support from the University of Reading’s Friends and Arts Committee) and of course by visiting the exhibition in the Ure Museum!

We have planned several exciting activities and outreach events to coincide with this exhibition. All are welcome but please note that bookings are required for the first two events:

 

In the shadow of Hippolytos: Classical studies in honour of Professor Barbara E. Goff

Woman sacrificing on cup in Toledo Museum of ArtTo celebrate the work of our esteemed friend, colleague and Co-head of Department, Prof. Barbara Goff, we have planned a one-day conference in her honour, on the cusp of her retirement, Friday 22nd September 2023. We have assembled an international cadre of her colleagues, collaborators, (former) students and other associates to discuss the diverse range of inclusive and innovative Classical studies on which she herself has contributed so greatly to scholarship in our and related academic fields. The conference’s four themes, which engage with aspects of her teaching and scholarship are the following:

  • Drama, Theory, History
  • A Sporting Life
  • Broad(er) Classics
  • Re-roo/uting Classics

We are delighted to announce that we will be joined also by Dr Stella Keramida from University of Reading’s Department of Film, Theatre, and Television, who with her students is preparing a performance of (some of) Trojan Women. 

Everyone is invited to join us — whether in person or online — to celebrate Prof. Goff on this august occasion, but please sign up here. Please do not hesitate to contact doukissa.kamini@reading.ac.uk for further details or if you have any questions.

Amy Smith, Dania Kamini and Oliver Baldwin

The full programme is linked here.

Developments in Ancient Language Pedagogy

The following blog has been written by Jackie Baines, who organised a workshop on ‘Developments in Ancient Language Pedagogy’ held in the Department on Friday 19th May 2023. We would like to thank Jackie and all those involved for running such a successful event!

Steven Hunt – Edward Ross – Maiken Mosleth King – James Robson – Jackie Baines

On the 19th May I ran an international blended workshop on the topic of advances in ancient language pedagogy. The workshop came about as part of my research leave which, as a teaching intensive lecturer, has given me the opportunity to look at ways in which I might refresh my pedagogical ideas and practices. I am indebted to Edward Ross who assisted me with many aspects of the organisation of this event. The rationale for the workshop and the choice of talks and speakers came about as a result of experiences and observations over a number of years teaching Latin here at the University of Reading, which include the following:

Choice of Textbooks

For many years we used Jones and Sidwell Reading Latin as the main textbook with all its quirks and difficulties for complete beginners.  After looking at the suitability of many possible alternatives we subsequently moved to using Taylor’s Latin to GCSE which is very much more approachable in its presentation of grammar and its layout for 21st century students but has many drawbacks for moving on with speed and full understanding, to higher levels of Latin. 

Teaching Spoken Latin

This academic year (2022 – 2023) I am grateful to my colleague Professor Eleanor Dickey who organised weekly sessions of spoken Latin for colleagues, run by teachers from Oxford Latinitas. It was a revelation in a number of ways, principally, that there are definite advantages to learning to use a language, now considered ‘dead’ by many, as languages are normally used – that is to speak.  Latin was indeed taught orally until relatively recently, so why aren’t we doing more of it?  A subsidiary lesson for me was being returned to the position of student, at times most alarming and stressful when using a language I know well, but in a totally unfamiliar way.  I have set up a student focus group using Ørberg’s Lingua Latina per se Illustrata. I am impressed by the speed of vocabulary acquisition and grammatical understanding gained by reading and speaking using only (mostly!) Latin.

Online learning in the post-pandemic world

The pandemic has made us realise the possibilities of online tools for additional learning support.  The rise of AI, in particular Chat GPT is opening up a myriad of opportunities and unnerving problems, both for teachers and for the students themselves who need to have enough understanding to use such tools appropriately. Edward A.S. Ross has recently published an article discussing this further here. Edward and I are delighted to be able to announce that since the workshop we have been awarded Teaching and Learning Enhancement Projects funding by the University of Reading to investigate and trial ChatGPT as a conversational language study tool by codifying and standardising methods for using conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) models in ancient language classes.

Workshop talks

In the workshop we were treated to six stimulating and thought-provoking talks, listed below with abstracts available here. Speakers reflected on past practices and perceptions of ancient languages and how they have been taught along with learning how the emergence of new technologies and their use can be used to enhance our teaching. Thanks to all speakers for their contributions.

Emergent pedagogies in classical languages teaching in UK schools: Steven Hunt (University of Cambridge)

Capturing the Classroom: A Snapshot of Approaches to Latin Teaching in UK Universities: Mair E. Lloyd (Open University and University of Cambridge); James Robson (Open University)

Using Simple Grammar Videos to Flip the Classroom: Antonia Ruppel (Institute of Indology and Tibetology, LMU Munich)

Digital software as a pedagogical aid in teaching ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs: Maiken Mosleth King (University of Bristol)

A New Frontier: AI and Ancient Language Pedagogy: Edward A. S. Ross (University of Reading)

Living Latin in the Classroom: benefits and challenges of communicative approaches: Mair E. Lloyd (Open University and University of Cambridge)

 

Written by Jackie Baines

Summer Term 2023 Reading Classics Research Seminars

We are pleased to announce the launch of our Reading Classics Seminar Series for Summer Term 2023, which will boost our Wednesday afternoons with constructive and stimulating lectures and discussions on various aspects of Classics research!

In this series of lectures, starting on 3 May, we welcome a diverse group of speakers from both the UK and abroad in our Departmental seminars. Our Spring seminar series will explore a variety of topics and periods of Classical studies. All seminars will be livestreamed on MS Teams; tune in every Wednesday at 4pm! Attendance is free and open to all! To attend please follow this link: bit.ly/3Lyq4R4! Below you can find a poster with all titles.

Full list of titles

3 May

Erica Bexley, Durham, Looking for Octavia: history and reception

10 May

Alba Boscà Cuquerella, Salamanca/Bristol, How to apologise if you are a woman: some remarks on the use of gnomai by Euripidean female characters

17 May

Joe Watson, Warwick, Ciris’ progress: genre, metapoetry and philosophic ascent in the Ciris 

24 May

Diana Rodríguez Pérez, Oxford, Ancient repairs on Athenian pottery: preliminary thoughts – and a cup

31 May

Julie Doroszewska, Warsaw, Thinking of thinking: conceptual metaphors of cognition in the Plutarchian corpus

 

Spring Term 2023 Reading Classics Research Seminars

We are pleased to announce the launch of our Reading Classics Seminar Series for Spring Term 2023, which will boost our Wednesday afternoons with constructive and stimulating lectures and discussions on various aspects of Classics research!

In this series of lectures, starting on 18 January, we welcome a diverse group of speakers from both the UK and abroad in our Departmental seminars. Our Spring seminar series will explore a variety of topics and periods of Classical studies. All seminars will be livestreamed on MS Teams; tune in every Wednesday at 4pm! Attendance is free and open to all! To attend please follow this link: bit.ly/3VaUN86! Below you can find a poster with all titles.

Full list of titles

18 January

Luigi Prada, Uppsala, The tale of the Egyptian crocodile-bird, or why Herodotus is not a liar

25 January

Rosalind Thomas, Oxford, 12TH ANNUAL PERCY URE LECTURE, ‘Polycrates assigns a mother’: Greek Tyranny in proverb, collective memory and the local ‘polis histories’

Booking required: bit.ly/3v4GgQB

1 February

Diana Rodriguez-Perez, Oxford, Ancient repairs on Athenian pottery: Preliminary thoughts – and a cup

8 February

Giulia Biffis, Reading, Lycophron and lyric poetry

22 February

Erica Bexley, Durham, Comedy in Seneca’s Thyestes (with an epiloque of Shakespeare)

1 March

Joe Watson, Warwick, Ciris’ Progress: Genre, metapoetry and philosophic ascent in the Ciris

8 March

Arietta Papaconstantinou, Reading, Objects, gender and credit in late antique Egypt

15 March

Anne Alwis, Kent, Model ascetics? Exemplarity in Theodoret of Cyrrhus’ Religious History

 

Tea with our visiting Professor, Robert Wiśniewski

On November 18th, Leverhulme Visiting Professor Robert Wiśniewski led an innovative teaching session as part of the Classics MA Research Methods module. Prof. Wiśniewski invited Classics PhD and MA students to a “tea party” to share their research interests and offer peer support. This session broke the mould on seminar-style teaching and offered MA students an opportunity to practice professional networking in a friendly environment.

Prof. Wiśniewski began by introducing his research on Late Antique religion and society and sharing his experience of the Academy in France, Poland, and the UK before passing the torch to our postgraduates. Each student shared their research interest(s) and dissertation ideas before opening the floor to comments from the other students and Prof. Wiśniewski. The discussion was well rounded and many of the MA students were able polish their thesis ideas and came away from the session with a broader understanding of resources available to them.

Harry Aboud, one of our MA students who enjoyed the event said “One thing I did not expect when starting my MA was the volume of interaction between MA students and PhD students, with the afternoon of 18th November being a great example of this. Not only did we get a great chance to learn more about the research of the Classics PhD students, but I felt there was much icebreaking occurring as numerous MA students, myself included, found strong grounds from which we had stuff in common. The event was so enjoyable that I got further inspiration to do a PhD myself and I felt as if further connections between us and the other postgrads were built as a result.”

Our PhD students also enjoyed the session, which provided both a window onto career opportunities in Europe and the UK as well as a chance to share their knowledge with a new cohort. Ellie Goddard, whose PhD thesis explores the Trojan women in late Republican and early imperial Latin literature, said “Tea with Robert was the perfect opportunity to be introduced to the wide variety of research interests that this department has. It was incredibly interesting to hear about Robert’s research, as well as to make connections between our own research interests.” Edward A. Ross, who is working on daily religious life in Hellenistic Central Asia added “Robert was excellent at introducing us and drawing out the similar connections in our research topics. It was also great to learn how different but also the same academic life in Poland is compared to Reading. I definitely think tea meetings like this should become a regular occurrence.” Another one of our PhD students, Summer Courts, who is studying the archaeology of Lowbury Hill, Oxfordshire, commented “I thought the Tea was a great idea! It was nice to be able to support our MA students and help develop their research in an informal environment. I also enjoyed hearing about Robert’s research, which is fascinating, especially from an archaeological perspective. I am looking forward to hearing more from Robert about his work and academia in Poland in the near future.”

Connecting Classics to its Wider Context

Figure 1: Huijiao (Photo taken from https://baike.baidu.com/pic/%E6%85%A7%E7%9A%8E/2626692).

We were excited to hear that the Centre of Buddhist Studies at the University of Hong Kong has just published an English translation of Shi Huijiao’s The Biographies of Eminent Monks, edited by our PhD student, Edward A S Ross. Tianshu Yang (Jiechuang Institute of Buddhist Studies) was the translator. We asked Edward to share details of this exciting project with us. He reports as follows:

The Biographies of Eminent Monks is a compilation of the lives of over 500 Buddhist figures from 67 CE to 519 CE. This 14-chapter volume became the widely accepted basis for Chinese Buddhist, historical biography literature from the 6thcentury onwards. Extending from China’s first interactions with Buddhism to the Liang Dynasty (502-557 CE), the text of the Biographies of Eminent Monks discusses Buddhist figures well known during the time of Shi Huijiao (慧皎) (497-554 CE), the compiler and author (Figure 1).

Since it does not discuss the Mediterranean world, the relevance of this text to Classics might seem slight, yet there are interesting connections to the west buried in the life stories of these monastics. Since Edward studies ancient Central Asia, he was particularly interested in the monastic figures who came from and visited the so-called “Western Regions.” 47 of the 532 figures mentioned in the text hold ethnic or geographical origins to the west of East Asia, be that Central or South Asia (Figure 2).

 

Figure 2: Estimated places of origin for all 306 biographies with given locations. Points with white borders represent those with connections to the Western Regions (Image created by Edward A S Ross using mapping data from Google Maps (2020))

Shi Huijiao. The Biographies of Eminent Monks. Tianshu Yang, translator. Edward A. S. Ross, editor. Hong Kong: Centre of Buddhist Studies, University of Hong Kong, 2022.

Some come from as far west as Parthia, a region in Central Asia well known in the Mediterranean world. This reminds us how deeply connected different parts of the ancient world were to their wider global context. Whether through trade, war, or religious pilgrimage, people from the Mediterranean and Asian worlds did indeed interact. This is why it is important for those studying ancient history to broaden their source bases to garner a deeper understanding of the nuances of cultural interactions in the ancient world.

From the outset, the goal for this translation project has been to produce an open-access volume of Shi Huijiao’s The Biographies of Eminent Monks, so that these poignant stories and crucial aspects of Chinese Buddhist history are widely available to the English-speaking public, practitioners, and academics. The full ebook is available at https://www.academia.edu/90233933/Shi_HuiJiao_The_Biographies_of_Eminent_Monks_%E9%AB%98%E5%83%A7%E5%82%B3.

 

Lowbury Hill mystery

The work of two of our PhD students concerning the mystery surrounding the remains of two Early Medieval persons buried at Lowbury Hill, Oxfordshire, has come to public prominence this month as we prepare for a full osteological analysis of their remains.  The Lowbury duo were discovered by Donald Atkinson, a research fellow from Reading’s Classics Department, in his 1913-14 excavations at the site, which inspired the Ure Museum’s curator Annie Ure, then a student. The pair—a woman and a man—were then displayed together in a two-part glass case in University College Reading’s Museum of History and Archaeology, a precursor to the Ure Museum.  Since the 1920s their remains fell into obscurity. Subsequent analysis of the male, discovered within an Early Medieval barrow, suggests he was a seventh-century warrior who lived in Cornwall or western Ireland before being buried on Lowbury Hill. Since 2017 his remains, along with his elaborate grave goods—including a sword, shield, enamelled spearhead, knife, shears, a bronze hanging bowl and a bone comb—have been on display at the Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock. Remains of the woman, who had been buried in line with the wall of a Roman-era enclosure on the hilltop, are normally stored in Standlake. A partial analysis suggests she reached the age of ca. 40 and was buried between 550 to 650 AD. Because she was buried without grave items, little else is known about her.

The Oxfordshire County Council has announced the removal of the male from their museum, in preparation for Summer Courts’ osteological analysis of both individuals, to be undertaken at the Cranfield Forensics Institute, under the supervision of Dr Sophie Beckett, one of her PhD supervisors. Her research is co-supervised by Reading’s Professor Amy Smith and Angie Bolton (Oxfordshire Museum Service) and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council via the South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership Collaborative Doctoral Award. Then the team will send samples to Germany for analysis in collaboration with Professor Stephan Schiffels at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Look for another press release in the coming days as Summer begins her analysis.

At the same time the local community has now become interested in the project through a display at the Goring Public Library, accompanied by a series of public events. Seongmee Yoon, another one of our PhD students, co-supervised by Prof. Smith and Dr Rhi Smith (Museum Studies, UoR), has taken this opportunity to study public perceptions of the site, the mysterious duo, and Anglo-Saxons, as part of her museological research. The entire team enjoyed the hospitality of Goring’s Catholic Church this Wednesday night when a sold-out audience heard presentations by Summer and Angie, followed by a poetry reading by Amy. As Summer said, “The study has given us the chance to explore a fascinating site with a thrilling history while applying several archaeological approaches and working with an invested and excited local community.”

More information on the research can be found at the project website: research.reading.ac.uk/mymerian