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!

Mastering the Masters: Congratulations to Curtis Hill

Author: Bunny Waring
Date: 16th March 2021.

Congratulations are due to the Classic Department’s current Masters student Curtis Hill whose recent book review assignment was of such a high standard, that the international academic journal Sehepunkte approached them for permission to publish their review in this month’s journal.

Both Curtis and supervisor Prof. Eleanor Dickey were delighted for Hill’s first publication – no mean feat during a Masters Degree – and you can read the review of Machado, C. 2019. Urban Space and Aristocratic Power in Late Antique Rome: AD 270-535, Oxford University Press here.

Sehepunkte is an interdisciplinary journal and ranges freely across historical eras. Emerging in 2001 from a co-operation funded by the German Research Foundation between the Historical Seminar of the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich and the Bavarian State Library, the journal is self-described as not only an ever-changing repertoire of reviews but also discussions of both monographs and edited collections in fields such as the history of medicine, law and art. 

Well done Curtis Hill! May it be the first of many successes!

Inclusive Classics and Pedagogy: Teachers, Academics and Students in Conversation Towards a More Inclusive Classics.

Author: Bunny Waring
Date: 12th March 2021.

11am 6th April 2021 – 3:30pm 8th April 2021 (GMT)

Join Prof. Harloe, Prof. Goff and Joe Watson as they discuss how to make Classics more inclusive as part of The Classical Association’s Annual Conference. Alongside a host of students and specialists from across the UK this workshop will kick off the two-day, free, online conference event with a workshop entitled- Inclusive Classics and Pedagogy: Teachers, Academics and Students in Conversation Towards a More Inclusive Classics.

To register for the conference, please fill in our online form here.

PROGRAMME
Tuesday 6 April

11am – 12.30pm: Inclusive Classics and pedagogy: teachers, academics and students in conversation A follow up to the Towards a More Inclusive Classics Workshop held 25-26 June 2020.

Panel co-chairs: Professor Barbara Goff, University of Reading and Dr Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis, University of St Andrews

OUTLINE

Spotlight 3-minute talks: ‘visions of inclusive classics’

· Lauren Canham, Trainee Teacher at Jane Austen College, Norwich: ‘Ancient Paradigms of Disability on the Curriculum’

· Hardeep Dhindsa, PhD candidate, Department of Classics, King’s College London: ‘Chromophobia: Recolouring the Classics’

· Dr Victoria Leonard, Research Fellow at the Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities, Coventry University: ‘Caring in Classics Network’

· Joe Watson, PhD candidate, Department of Classics and Ancient History, University of Durham: ‘Queer Classics and Classics for Queers; or, Beyond Gay Men Reading Plato’

· Dr Bobby Xinyue, British Academy Early Career Fellow, Department of Classics and Ancient History & Centre for the Study of the Renaissance, University of Warwick: ‘Race, Inclusivity, and the Future of Classics’

Opening remarks:

· Dr Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis, University of St Andrews

· Professor Barbara Goff, University of Reading

Panel discussion on inclusive classics in teaching and learning

· Tristan Craig, Undergraduate Representative for History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh

· Florence, a Classical Civilisation student, Runshaw College, Lancashire

· Dr Justine McConnell, Senior Lecturer in Comparative Literature, King’s College London

· Claude McNaughton, Teacher, Pimlico Academy, London

· Rosie Tootell, Teacher, Runshaw College, Lancashire

· Aaron, a Latin student, Pimlico Academy, London

Break out rooms: ‘turn to your neighbour’, 10-minute exchange of responses to the panel

Closing remarks:

· Dr Amy Coker, Cheltenham Ladies’ College and University of Bristol

· Professor Katherine Harloe, University of Reading

· Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson, University of Oxford

· Professor Neville Morley, University of Bristol

· Professor Isabel Ruffell, University of Glasgow

· Professor Tim Whitmarsh, University of Cambridge

2.00pm – 3.30pm: Accessing Classical Civilisation and Ancient History in Britain, past and present perspectives (under the auspices of ACE)
Professor Edith Hall, Dr Henry Stead, Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson and Peter Wright

Wednesday 7 April

2:00pm – 2.45pm: Presidential Address by Mari Williams, winner of the Daniel Owen Memorial Prize at the National Eisteddfod of Wales in 2018, for her novel Ysbryd yr Oes (‘Spirit of the Age’)

2.45pm – 3.30pm: Presentation of the CA Prize for 2021 and the inaugural CA Teaching Awards by Natalie Haynes

7.00pm – 8.30pm: Greek theatre online: An evening of classics-inspired theatre, featuring new material from three UK-based groups, Out of Chaos and By Jove theatre companies, and film company Barefaced Greek, followed by a Q&A chaired by Professor James Robson

Thursday 8 April

11am – 12 noon: Developing Classics in the local community: CA Branches in 2021
Katrina Kelly (CA Branches Officer and Chair of Lytham St Annes CA) and colleagues from around the regions

2.00pm – 3.30pm: Classics in the marketplace: being a Classicist in public
Dr Liz Gloyn, Dr Jane Draycott, Dr Mai Musié and Professor Neville Morley

FAQs
When is the Conference taking place?
6-8 April 2021

Will there be any face-to-face events? –
No, everything will take place online.

Is there a fee? – No, all events are free. You can attend as many or as few as you wish.
Do I need to be a member of the Classical Association to attend? – No, you may attend regardless of your membership status.

Can I submit a paper/panel to be presented? – Unfortunately not, this year’s conference focuses on key issues facing classicists, including inclusivity, employability and the performance of classical texts in the online world, and we will have a limited number of invited speakers/panels.

How do I attend? – All delegates will be contacted closer to the event via email with links and instructions about how to join the sessions.

How do I get in touch with you for more information? – Please email CA2021@classicalassociation.org

You can view full details of the provisional programme here.
Abstracts are available here.

WHAT’S IT LIKE? Episode 2: Dr James Lloyd-Jones – A Specialist in Ancient Music and Song.

 

[Lyre players Eturia, 560-550 BCE_Lewandowski2021]

Interviewee: Dr. James Lloyd-Jones, Interviewer: Bunny Waring.
Date: 5th March 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 James Lloyd-Jones

A Specialist in Ancient Music and Song. 

Name: Dr James Lloyd-Jones.
Area of Specialism: A mix of Archaeology, Ancient history, and Museums.
Topics of Interest: Ancient music and musical instruments; the archaeology and history of Sparta.
Job Title: Sessional Lecturer.
Job Responsibilities: I teach lectures, seminars for a range of modules, as well as some ancient Greek language classes.

Introduction

I got my BA and MA from the University of Exeter and came to Reading in 2015 to do my PhD, supervised by Ian Rutherford. At the moment, I’m at a point where I’m finishing off research directly connected to my PhD and starting down new research avenues. This means looking at getting my first book published and applying for postdoctoral positions.

  [Dr. Lloyd Jones with research in hand, 2019.]

 

What is your daily life really like?

On Monday mornings I print off a weekly timetable and start blocking out time. As an hourly-paid member of staff, my days a pretty flexible and they benefit from being as clearly structured as possible. This means some days will be focused on planning and preparing lectures and classes, and replying to student messages, and others will be focused on research, or writing job and research applications (postdoctoral applications normally range from 10-20 pages, so they need to be planned out well in advance of any deadlines). A typical day’s research might include reading scholarship, analysis of ancient evidence, or writing, editing, and revising articles for submission. There’s also normally a fair about of tea or coffee.

[Attic vase with Symposium scene from 490 BCE, Louvre 2021.]

For me, research can be really varied. One day I might be looking at an archaic Greek song, and figuring out how it should be translated, or how to interpret its performative context. I might also spend time collating lists of pottery with specific iconographies and seeing if there are any trends over time, location, or artist that appear. Other days might bring study visits to museums. The museum I’m most often in is of course the university’s own Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology. There’s a host of material relevant to my research interests in its collections. A few months before the first lockdown I spent some time in the Museum of London photographing and measuring Romano-British musical instruments in their collection, which was very exciting. That was really the beginning of a now somewhat halted project on music in Roman Britain. I’m also making my way through an MIT OpenCourseWare module on Music Perception and Cognition since I’m keen to learn more about the science of music.

 

[Musical fragment on papyri from the play Orestes by Euripides.]

What is the best part of your job?

In my current position, there is a great deal of flexibility. I research what I want to research, and I get to teach modules that feed into my research interests too. It is pretty great. It also helps to have a brilliant group of colleagues in the department too.

Why do you think your specialism is important?

The last two years I’ve been getting more interested in ancient music, so I’ll focus on that. There’s a lot that we don’t know about music. For Darwin, human musicality was one of the biggest mysteries of evolution. The earliest discovered musical instruments date to around 43,000 years before present. There’s this huge history of humans creating music, yet, until the last few decades, the importance of music throughout history has been largely overlooked. For Classics, it wasn’t until around the 80s that academics began to seriously turn to music as a subject of interest. Yet the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer were originally sung as songs, so too the surviving tragedies and comedies of Classical Athens. Studying ancient Greek and Roman music enriches our understanding of the past and allows us to interpret key moments of ancient Greek and Roman life more fully and correctly.

[2nd Century CE fresco of Roman woman playing the kithara, Boscoreale.]

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

As an hourly member of staff, there’s already a few other things that I do freelance when time allows. One of those is learning design (I spent a fair bit of time in the summer helping converting modules to be delivered remotely). The other is writing about the past for non-academic audiences. A job that involved a mix of those things, and some kind of research, would be quite rewarding, I think.

Did you always want to be what you are today?

My defining memory of being interested in the past is a Year 3 school trip to an exhibition on ancient Egypt at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. I think I even put that in my UCAS application, and while it sounds somewhat made up, I entered an associated art competition and came runner-up, winning a (largely unused) skateboard. To enter my felt-tip penned self-portrait of me peering into a display that housed a section from a book of the dead, I dragged my mum back into the museum (this was the 90s, so no digital entries) and we got a jacket potato and can of pop in the museum café. I’m still fascinated with how we look at the past, and how the past can influence and inspire us today.

[The Cylix of Apollo with the chelys (tortoise-shell) lyre, on a 5th century BCE drinking kylix cup, Fingalo 2021]

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

I’d like to be either near the end of a postdoctoral position, or starting something a bit more permanent. In terms of research and teaching, I’d like to be starting a project that looked at the archaeology of music on a global scale, and perhaps doing more teaching about the archaeology of music. But the academic job market is pretty brutal. As long as I was doing something that allowed me have a garden where I could grow some herbs, chillies, and sunflowers, I’d be quite content.

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

1) Do the research that you find most interesting (you’ll be up at night reading pages of densely written academic prose, the only way to get through that is if you’re genuinely interested in the topic)

2) Someone recently told me that you should always look at your research and ask “So what? Why does this matter?”. As brutal as that question can sometimes appear, you need to be able to answer it.

3) Collaboration, discussion, and networking are where you can find some of the most interesting and inspiring ideas.

What to know more?

If you’re interested in staying up-to-date with what I’m up to, I keep a semiregular blog at https://jameslloydclassics.wordpress.com/ .

 

WHAT’S IT LIKE? Episode 1: Professor Eleanor Dickey – A Specialist in Ancient Languages and Education.

Interviewee: Prof. Eleanor Dickey, Interviewer: Bunny Waring.
Date: 19th February 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: Professor Eleanor Dickey

A Specialist in Ancient Languages and Education. 

Name: Professor Eleanor Dickey, FBA
Area of Specialism: Classics
Topics of Interest: Education in antiquity; language teaching; linguistics; papyrology; ancient languages
Job Title: Professor of Classics
Job Responsibilities: Teaching (all levels from first-year undergraduates to PhD supervision), research, research impact (Reading Ancient Schoolroom), Study Abroad coordinator, academic tutor, a union rep for Classics and a union caseworker.

Introduction

I’ve wanted to be a scholar since I was a little girl; it seemed like it must be so much fun to discover new things about the past. And you know what? It is so much fun! It is also hard work, but I love being a Classicist, and that’s why I do it. Of course, I also want to transform my students’ abilities by brilliant teaching, to bring the ancient world to life for people who might never have understood it, to make discoveries that advance scholarship, and to write books that people will want to read and use long after I’m gone. Little things like that. And I work very hard at these goals — but the heart of it all is simply a love of the ancient world.

A favourite papyri

What is your daily life really like?

You’re sure you want to know? Absolutely sure? You wouldn’t rather keep your illusions about the luxurious life of the full professor? Okay, so here goes…

I work pretty much all the time, from long before dawn until late at night. I’m married to another Classical linguist (Philomen Probert of Wolfson College Oxford), whom I’ve known since we were students together; we live in a little house crammed full of books, with a cat inherited from another Classical linguist. Both our lives are completely focussed on Classics — it’s a passion that we share. And that’s good because life with Philomen can be demanding. For example, lately, she’s been teaching Hieroglyphic Luwian in Swiss German over Zoom from our dining room table before dawn, every single day, even on Christmas.

On teaching days I normally spend about 12 hours on campus and eat all meals in my office. I have a lot of teaching hours (up to 6 per day), but I prefer it that way because it means that my classes are all small and interactive, rather than big, passive groups. I enjoy the kind of teaching where you find out what the students are thinking because that allows you to help them learn effectively; I’ve never been convinced that lectures do much of anything towards learning. My own student days were mostly wonderful, exciting periods of challenge, stretching, and constant discovery; although the discoveries about the subject matter were good, the best were the discoveries about the extent to which one can develop new abilities. University transformed me from someone hampered by endless limitations into someone who could do pretty much whatever she set her mind to — and now that I’m a teacher I want to give my students something similar. They don’t all want that, of course (many are just as attached to their limitations as I once was to mine, because limitations are an important part of one’s identity), but some do.

On days in between teaching days I spend most of my time reading student work; of course, that’s entirely my own fault for assigning so much of it, which I do because I’m convinced that that’s the best way to give students the experience I’m aiming for. I enjoy reading the work when it goes well, and tear my hair when it goes badly.

Out of term, and in terms when I’m not teaching (such as this one), I concentrate on research. I’m currently finishing a book on Latin loanwords in ancient Greek; I’ve been working on it for over a decade, and the book is enormous, so I’m very keen to send it to the publisher soon. But I don’t want to ruin my reputation as a scholar by making mistakes, so I have to double-check it very carefully, which is taking forever. My main workspace is the bed; I sit on it with the cat and the laptop sharing my lap and books and papers all around. It would be a bit easier if the cat wanted to sleep somewhere else, but then I’d miss her.

One reason this book has taken so long to finish is that I’ve also been working on other research projects. One of those is editing 35 papyri (scraps of ancient paper dug up by archaeologists) as part of a project at the University of Naples (https://platinum-erc.it/) that is producing a re-edition of all known Latin papyri (there are thousands). I really enjoy editing ancient texts, because you’ve got a good chance to discover something completely new. For example, I recently discovered that one of my papyri was a copy of a text that is supposed to have been composed in the sixth century AD, except that this papyrus had been written at least 300 years before then. So suddenly our whole understanding of that text has to change (Read more). The other reason I enjoy editing texts is that it’s a great excuse to travel: you need to inspect the original papyri or manuscripts, and those inspections result in delightful visits to libraries, museums, and even beautiful monasteries where women aren’t allowed in at all, unless they need to see a manuscript.

Most years I also run an event called the Reading Ancient Schoolroom (www.readingancientschoolroom.com), in which we re-create a Roman school for a few days and invite local children to come to experience it. This is a research-impact project based on my work on ancient education , so we focus particularly on what children actually did in ancient schools, from interrupting the teacher and saying hello as they came into reciting poetry from memory. But in order to make it feel authentic, we also have Roman costumes, wax tablets, reed pens, papyrus rolls, etc. We also have a slave, because slavery was an important aspect of ancient life that can’t be ignored, but as the director of the event, I feel uncomfortable about asking anyone else to play a slave. So I always take that role myself.

Prof. Dickey ready to teach at the ancient schoolroom.

What is the best part of your job?

1) The subject matter: Classics is endlessly fun.

2) I get to do a lot of travel and practice foreign languages because I’m frequently invited to give lectures in interesting places (although sometimes I bite off more than I can chew and end up wishing I hadn’t accepted quite so many invitations). I also travel to look at manuscripts and papyri when editing texts, sometimes for weeks at a time.

3) The job is highly varied, so you don’t get sick of doing any one thing (except perhaps e-mail).

4) You’re always learning and overcoming new challenges, so you continue to grow and improve.

5) Academia is a very tolerant place, which is great if you have characteristics that some people don’t like. I’m an immigrant, married to another woman, with prosopagnosia (face blindness: I can’t normally identify people by looking at them). In some settings, I might have a very difficult time, but universities are very tolerant in these respects.

Why do you think your specialism is important?

Understanding other societies and cultures is important because it helps us understand our own world better and appreciate something of the range of cultural possibilities within which our own ways of doing things fall. In order to decide whether you want to continue doing things as usual or try something different, you need to know what other options exist. Of course, you can get those benefits from studying any other cultures, but understanding ones from the past is particularly useful, because that allows you to know what happened on previous occasions when various other options were tested out.

More specifically, take my research specialism of education in antiquity. Ancient education was fundamentally different from its modern equivalent, because instead of grouping children by age and expecting them all to master particular skills at particular points in their lives, it was highly individualised with each child learning at his or her own pace. That has some obvious advantages over our own system in terms of reduced stress, anxiety and boredom for students whose brains work faster or slower than average, but also obvious disadvantages in terms of efficiency: the modern system allows more students to share one teacher. Are there elements of the ancient education system that we could adopt into our own without losing too much efficiency? In fact, if you look, you see that there are. For example, does everyone always have to have the same deadlines? Inspired by the ancients, for several years now I have been letting my first-year students choose their own essay deadlines, and that is a classic win-win solution: not only do they each get the deadline that suits them best, but I get my marking spread out over a month, which makes the essays much easier to hand back quickly.

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

With some reorientation I could do pretty much all ‘graduate jobs’ that don’t require degrees in specific fields: charity work, financial services, consulting, advertising, publishing, etc. Most such jobs require skills that any good Classicist has: how to think analytically, write well, argue persuasively, work hard, learn fast, take responsibility, be creative, not let your colleagues down, etc. By this time I’m also very good at studying, so if I wanted to do something that requires further study, like being a lawyer or engineer, the retraining wouldn’t be too difficult. I could even branch out into careers that require non-academic learning, such as farming or plumbing: once you really understand how to learn fast and efficiently, you can apply those learning skills in different ways.

Did you always want to be what you are today?

Not really. I had a tough childhood and wasn’t very ambitious about what I could achieve. I wanted to be a scholar, but without fully understanding what a scholar is; it wasn’t until I got to university that I started to realise what my options really could be. If someone had said to me when I was young that eventually I would be a professor of Classics, publish ten books, travel all over giving lectures and workshops in different languages, and live in a house Oxford with a wife and a cat, I’d have been thrilled (especially about the cat), but I probably wouldn’t have entirely believed it.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

I hope my current book will be finished and published, and that I’ll be in the middle of another project that’s just as good. Apart from that I’d like to be just where I am now, because this is a lovely department.

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

Work really, really hard: that’s the only way to get here.

Never give up on a goal just because you haven’t got the right abilities: most abilities can be acquired if one is determined enough.

Pay close attention to reality and see things as they really are: self-deception, even if temporarily soothing, is limiting in the long run.

What to know more? Click the book for more details or visit the ancient school room website here.

 

 

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…

Fully Funded PhD studentship – The Archaeology of Hidden Identity: The Case of a Female Burial from Lowbury Hill. 

We would like to bring to your attention a fully-funded PhD studentship:

The Archaeology of Hidden Identity: The Case of a Female Burial from Lowbury Hill 

Application deadline: Monday 25th January 2021 

 

 

This multidisciplinary project seeks to re-interpret the remains of a woman discovered in the wall of the Romano-British temple found at Lowbury Hill in 1913-14. The original interpretation of her role as a ‘foundation’ deposit, then as a body inserted in a ‘robber’ trench, has been brought into question by a 1990s radio-carbon analysis that contextualised her within the early medieval period (c 550-650 CE). The nearly complete female skeleton was displayed by the early 1920s at University College Reading’s Museum of Archaeology and History, alongside the male Anglo-Saxon warrior found in the adjacent barrow. We seek an understanding of her deposition and relation to both the Romano-British temple and Anglo-Saxon barrow at Lowbury Hill. Her case is important not only for History and Archaeology but also in Gender Studies, regarding both her role in the Roman and/or Anglo-Saxon periods and her later history as a ‘forgotten women’ overlooked in favour of her more ‘decorated’ male ‘neighbour’. 

This studentship is funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council through the South, West & Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (SWW DTP). It is co-supervised by Prof. Amy C. Smith, University of Reading and Dr Sophie Beckett, Cranfield University in partnership with Angie Bolton, Oxfordshire Museums Service. 

For details on this fully funded Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) please visit:https://www.sww-ahdtp.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/CDA-7-Lowbury-Hill.Further-Details.pdf 

Find out more about the application and the studentship here: https://www.sww-ahdtp.ac.uk/prospective-students/apply/collaborative-doctoral-award-projects-2021/ 

Start your application here: https://www.sww-ahdtp.ac.uk/prospective-students/apply/ 

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Recent Research on Sparta

By Dr James Lloyd-Jones, 23rd November 2020.

The last two weeks have been something of a Sparta bonanza, and I’m not just talking about Ted Cruz’s tweet of a photoshopped Gonzalez flag with a roast turkey above the words ‘come and take it’. Those words, spuriously attributed to King Leonidas of Sparta at the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BCE, have a long and troubled history.

This is just one of the many ways that the legacy of the battle of Thermopylae manifests today. Last Saturday (21st November) was an occasion to discuss the reception of the battle of Thermopylae in this, the (nearly) 2500th anniversary of the battle. I’d decided earlier on in the year that it would be good to hold an event in the UK to explore the legacy of Thermopylae and mark the anniversary, so got in touch with the Hellenic Society to see if they would be interested in hosting it. The “Thermopylae 2500” conference was also a chance to try something a bit different online by pre-circulating the speakers’ papers with the conference itself consisting of breakout groups and panel Q&As to explore the speaker’s papers and broader themes. We have a range of amazing papers and videos on the website (where they will remain for the foreseeable) ranging from contemporary responses to the battle in antiquity, to how Leonidas and Thermopylae were alluded to during Panamanian independence. Many thanks to everyone who participated in the range of lively conversations that were had on the day.

Alongside the Thermopylae 2500 conference, I’ve been able to participate in a few other events. As part of the SpartaLive! series, run by the University of Nottingham’s Centre for Spartan and Peloponnesian Studies and the City of Sparti, I was invited to share some of my research into Spartan music (the topic of my doctoral thesis). In my talk, I introduced listeners to some of the key sources and ideas that can be drawn upon to study the importance that music played in Spartan society over time. This ranges from fragments of surviving musical instruments, artistic depictions of musicians (on figured pottery, bronze statuettes, and other media), and of course textual and epigraphic evidence. You will be able to find my talk and others on the SpataLive! website here.

A scene of music on a Lakonian vase, c. 530 BCE. British Museum, 1854,0810.4.

In October, I was invited to present my research on the Spartan lead votives as part of the seminar “Metal Offerings in Greek Sanctuaries: votive gifts, rituals, disposal”, organised by Rita Sassu (Sapienza University of Rome) and Chiara Tarditi (Università Cattolica, Brescia). The lead votives are one of the most unique facets of material religion in Sparta. Over 100,000 were found at the sanctuary of Artemis Orthia, and many thousands more at other sanctuaries. My talk focused on how archival and scientific analysis are contributing to our re-interpretation of the votives.

As we begin to wrap up this term, I look forward to sharing some of my research on Sparta with our undergraduates, as I convene a new module on Sparta for next term.

The Price of Purple – The Procurement of Dyes and Colourants in the Ancient World.

Archaeology Magazine has recently published an article on new archaeological evidence of a robust dye industry, that endured on the Mediterranean coast for millennia. University of Reading’s Prof. Annalisa Marzano of the Classics Department has provided expert analysis alongside an interdisciplinary board of specialists, on how archaeological finds can offer insights to the procurement, production and purchasing of dyes in the ancient world. Read The Price of Purple HERE.