WHAT’S IT LIKE? Episode 4: Prof. Barbara Goff – A Specialist in Ancient Greek Literature, Language, Tragedy and their Later Reception.

Interviewee: Prof. Barbara Goff. Interviewer: Bunny Waring.
Date: 21st May 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: Prof. Barbara Goff

A Specialist in Ancient Greek Literature, Language, Tragedy and their later reception.

 

[Portrait of Prf. Barbara Goff in colour]

Name: Prof. Barbara Goff.
Area of Specialism:
Classics, Literature & Reception Studies.
Topics of Interest: Euripides! How subsequent societies rework Greek tragedy, especially in postcolonial contexts.
Job Title: Co-Head of the Department of Classics and Departmental Director of Teaching and Learning.
Job Responsibilities: Right now I am joint Head of Department with Prof. Amy Smith with responsibility, in the final analysis, for everything that goes on in the Dept; but I mainly oversee the workings of teaching and other inward-facing activities, while Amy oversees research and outreach/publicity, the outward-facing activities. I’m also Departmental Director of Teaching and Learning, which currently means that I am planning what modules the Dept will offer next academic year.

Introduction

[Black and white photograph of an ancient marble sculpture of the ancient Greek playwright, Euripides, holding a mask used by actors in his left hand and a scroll in his right].

I went to a single-sex grammar school where Latin was compulsory if you were any good at French. This was, obviously, hundreds of years ago, when the state-sector still taught Latin, and even Ancient Greek. I was good at Latin but hated it, and wanted to revolutionise how it was taught. Therefore, I continued with Latin, and suddenly found myself doing Ancient Greek too. Needless to say, I fell in love with Greek, and that was that. Sadly, no revolutions at all took place.

What is your daily life really like?

[Ancient inscribed stone showing Latin (upper section) and Greek (lower section) epigraphy – CIL3.7539]

Currently, my daily life is a bit demoralising, like everyone else’s. People who teach and who like to learn, enjoy each other’s company, and often strike sparks from one another; this is harder to do at an online distance. This term I am teaching Ancient Drama, and Latin [Level] 1, and I enjoy them both, (especially the number of emojis that pop up in our chat boxes), but I would love to be back in the classroom. Other than teaching, I keep busy filling in the many forms that the University sends my way and trying to help keep both staff and students happy and productive.
At home I have a husband who is also a University lecturer, so we have the odd tussle over teaching space and whether I am making tea too loudly, and I have a teenage son who helps me out with musical choices, and with learning new names for mind-altering substances. I have another son at University in Swansea, allegedly doing Maths, but a lot of guitar too.

[Portrait in colour of Prof. Alexander Adum Kwapong in Ghanan Academic robes and hat]

When I get a moment I research and I am currently writing about Alexander Kwapong, a Ghanaian classicist who became the first African principal of the University of Ghana, in the 1960s. He later moved into University administration working in Japan and Canada. He seems to have been a charming person, and I am fascinated to read in his various writings how he saw Classics as important to the newly-independent states of post-colonial Africa. He remarks that if Classics does not have all the answers, it certainly poses the important questions; and he stresses the importance of all the humanities, from West, East, and everywhere else, in a world increasingly divided by inequalities of wealth and access to technology. I can get access to much of what he wrote via the internet, and when the British Library is open, I can read much else there.

I see my work as very much part of the decolonising movement in the humanities, both opening Classics up to demographics that might have been excluded, and revisiting Classics with tools that derive from previously excluded demographics.

What is the best part of your job?

The best parts of my job are twofold: the students and my colleagues. It is so encouraging to see new cohorts of young people who are fascinated by the ancient world, and who want to learn more about it, and even put their own stamp on it if they go on to teaching, museums, publishing or further study. My colleagues are an amazing bunch of hard-working and humorous people. It’s great to see them on the small screen (of my laptop) but I like them much better in the corridor of the Edith Morley building, carrying their coffee cups, sandwiches, bits of ancient pottery, or bits of Ancient Schoolroom, and complaining about the university administration.

 

Why do you think your specialism is important?

[The front cover of a book written by Prof. Goff, entitled Classics & Colonialism]

It delights me that our students can go forward into so many fields. It also delights me that so many of them want to teach – they clearly are not put off by their experiences at Reading, but encouraged by them! Many are keen on the heritage sector and they often develop experience in our very own on-site Ure Museum, but in no way do our students feel confined to the ancient world. Most recently we have an alumnus who is a digital marketer, and we have plenty of alumni in IT. Many continue to exercise their communication skills in publishing or other kinds of writing such as journalism or PR. One of my favourite alumni stories is of a student who wanted to get into advertising. When asked the inevitable ‘Why Classics?’, she was able to answer with such passion and enthusiasm that they could see she was the one for them. Others exercise their organisational skills in University administration, school administration, local government or, in one stand-out case, working for the Premier League in Football. Some continue their languages, in positions at the Foreign Office, for instance. Some of our alumni start their own businesses too – I can think of an events organiser and a scuba-diving school – and in so doing, are exercising the skills of the independence and initiative that University study fosters. Of course, some want to do their MA, then their PhD, and eventually become lecturers themselves. I shan’t discourage them…

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

[A bright orange and yellow sun sets over an ancient Greecian theatre which is filled with specatatores watching a modern performance]

If I had not become a professional Classicist at a university, I rather expect I would have become a teacher, or possibly a civil servant. However, my childhood dream was to be a marine biologist, in order to spend my days watching the corals. I also wondered at one point about being a long-distance lorry driver, but I think that was so that I could sit down a lot and eat fast food. Actually now I remember that when I was much littler, I wanted to be an actress (we said actress in those days) – but a lot of teaching is performance, so I think I am still getting some of that out of my system.

Did you always want to be what you are today?

I did not really have many hiccups along the way, except that as a graduate student I, (and all my fellow students), assumed that we would be unemployable. I spent some time thinking of back-up jobs (see above). The major hiccup I had, was that for many years I taught in the USA, at the University of Texas at Austin, and I assumed I would remain in the States. I had done much of my graduate work in California, so I was very used to the American system of higher education and I enjoyed being part of it. I loved that I had lived in the two most colourful states of all. Coming back to the UK, initially for personal reasons, was a big shock, and the UK university system took quite a lot of getting used to. I landed on my feet here at Reading.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

My research life has changed a lot in the past couple of decades because I write much less on Greek tragedy and much more on classical reception topics. I am very interested in how subaltern populations use material from classical antiquity, so I have a long-term project about classics and the British Labour Party. I am also committed, currently, to the various debates about inclusive Classics.

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

  1. If you want to pursue a career that connects up to Classics, don’t be discouraged by people’s stereotypical notion of your discipline; take heart from the people in all walks of life who share your enthusiasm.
  2. At university, take all the opportunities that the Department offers, and throw yourself into your education, and your other activities.
  3. Think of yourself as a work in progress and make that work the best it can be. And remember to seek extra support when you need it, since there are plenty of people around who can help.

What to know more?

If you’re interested in Ancient Greece, or any of the topics above have a look at Prof. Goff’s publications here and here (bottom of the page).

What Can a Dog Called Margarita Teach us About Ancient Rome? – Education in the Making.

Interviewees: Prof. Peter Kruschwitz, Dr. María Limón & Prof Xavier Espluga. Interviewer: Bunny Waring

Date: 30th April 2021.

Today the Classics Department of Reading is delighted to announce the release of a special video called What Can a Dog Called Margarita Teach us About Ancient Rome? In this video Prof. Peter Kruschwitz (University of Vienna), Prof. Xavier Espluga (University of Barcelona) and Dr. María Limón (University of Seville) discuss the lettered world of ancient Rome and how ancient peoples interacted with the world around them. The video was filmed, directed and edited by James Rattee (https://vimeo.com/jamesrattee/videos) and includes digital footage from Prof. Matthew Nicholls’ Virtual Rome model.

Today we invited Peter, María and Xavier to discuss with us the motivations and methods of making this video and what is next for this interesting project on ancient inscriptions.

INTERVIEW

Bunny Waring (BW): Good Morning All. Thank you for joining us this morning to talk about your collaborative piece What Can a Dog Called Margarita Teach us About Ancient Rome? The Classics Department are very excited to share this work and we wondered if you could explain a little bit about your motivations for this project?

Thank you so much for this – it’s great for us to be back for a little while, albeit virtually. All three of us share the same passion: our enthusiasm for Roman inscriptions, especially inscriptions composed in verse. To us, those inscriptions are not just stones or pieces of metal that happen to have some poetry inscribed on them. They are carriers of art. They are visible, tangible manifestations of a universal artistic practice of Roman times, spanning the empire across time and space, with thousands of examples surviving to the present day.

This art was produced by individuals from all runs of life, and it was produced in the city of Rome just as much as it can be found at Hadrian’s Wall, the shores of the Black Sea, or in the Roman settlement of North Africa. We can relate to these individuals very easily because they’re not just some remote elite: they are people with everyday occupations, everyday hopes and worries, everyday problems. Like (most of) us – the other 99%, so to speak, far away from the palaces and lives of the elite. What is more, these individuals inhabited the very spaces, geographically and socially, that we still inhabit today, along with all their challenges.

It’s neighbourhood poetry, it’s communal art. And it gives us the most direct, emotionally moving, and instructive access to the world(s) of ancient Rome.

Of course, we know how we ourselves, especially in an academic context, interact and engage with Roman inscribed material remains. But how did they do it? We were curious to find out! And then we got very lucky: the British Academy gave María the opportunity to get our joint research going, first through its visiting fellowship scheme, then through additional funding for this video. We are so grateful for their support, and we hope that this video will both repay them for their trust in our research and appeal and communicate to wide audiences just what incredible, valuable material we study in our desire better to understand the Roman world and its diverse cultures.

BW: How exciting to work on such an interesting topic! So I’m eager to know: why did you choose this particular inscription?

We wanted to make a number of strong, important points. About the way in which we perceive, in which we encounter the Roman world. About the way the ancient world is presented to us in museums, archives, exhibitions, and books. And we want to do so while racing a wide audience because what we have to say and offer is relevant to so many different audiences.

 

We want to enthuse new generations with our passion for Roman history, for poetry, for epigraphy. We want to give teachers the opportunity to expand the canon of teaching through the inclusion of poetry that students can easily relate to. We want to invite museums, collections, and policymakers to rethink their approach to the way in which these incredibly exciting, talking objects from the ancient world are displayed. What better way to achieve this than to choose a text that expresses, in such beautiful words, the grief of pet owners – whose faithful companion had died. We feel we all can relate to that, and we feel that this text alone opens up so many new ways of thinking about the Roman world and the people who “were” the Romans, than the ever-same repertoire of classical authors.

BW: There must be a lot of interesting stories out there?

There are several thousand inscribed poems surviving from across the Roman world. You find anything, from obscene graffiti on the walls of Pompeii, to epitaphs on funerary monuments, 110-lines long and erected in the desert of Roman North Africa. You find beautiful, outrageous, hilarious, thought-provoking pieces, but, of course, also the banal and uninspired. How else could it be: writing short(ish) poems was a shared pastime across the ancient world, and the pieces are just as varied as their authors – men, women, children. If you would like to see further examples, you may explore them in an easily accessible format here and here. The material truly is a hidden treasure waiting for its discovery.

BW: What was it like recording this piece? Would you recommend the process to others?

Haha, oh dear! Well… none of us are natural-born entertainers. We all were terrified and at first, we hated to see our faces and hear our recorded voices. But James Rattee, the producer and creative mind behind our video, did an incredible job to make us feel at ease, to make us look smart (within the limitations that we were painfully aware of), and make the video appealing to such a wide range of audiences. We hope that putting this video out there will make it available for generations to come – for pupils, teachers, academics, cultural managers, policy makers: it should entertain and be useful at the same time! It’s genuinely a piece of art.

 

BW: Well we all certainly agree with that, here in Classics at Reading University! Excellent work! Finally then, what is in store next for your project?

We want to do more. We want to reach out to schools, to those who design curricula, design teaching in schools and at university, to show them the potential and possibilities. And we want to transform the way in which inscriptions are presented and utilised in museums – there is so much potential wasted.

We are making first steps. But there’s much more work to be done. So, if you are interested, please do get in touch with us, and we will explore the potential for collaboration with you! And as we are still thinking about reaching larger audiences and improving educational materials we would be deeply grateful if viewers, students and teachers, from all over the world would send us their feedback, even in an informal way. And by all means do feel free to send us any kind of questions regarding how Roman communicate their feelings, emotions, fears, and concerns through their inscriptions.

 

Summer Seminar Series 2021

Author: Amy Smith & Bunny Waring. Edits: Bunny Waring.
Date: 26th April 2021.

Come one, come all! After a short break, the Classics Department is ready to entertain and educate you all with a new series of free, online seminars.
Join us weekly on Wednesdays at 4pm for our Summer Seminar Series which focuses on the theme ‘Making Classics Better’. In this accessible and inclusive online environment, we welcome a stellar group of speakers from as close as Roehampton and as far as Melbourne to address issues that hamper inclusivity in Classics and/or explore means of promoting diversity in the study of antiquity more broadly.

This theme relates to the work of many of our colleagues and follows on from a successful series of workshops on Inclusive Classics co-organised by our Joint-Head of Department, Prof. Barbara Goff (see out 2020 blog post: http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/classics-at-reading/page/3/.

Below is the full programme and you can join us—for free—by clicking on our events page: https://www.facebook.com/UoRClassics/events/

28 April: What makes classical myth an ideal topic for autistic children? – Susan Deacy (Roehampton)

5 May: Covid+Collapse – Louise Hitchcock (Melbourne)

12 May: Collaboration in UK Classics Education: Reflecting on Ambitions and Realities – Arlene Holmes-Henderson (KCL)

19 May: Disability Studies and the Classical Body: The Forgotten Other – Ellen Adams (KCL)

26 May: Subverting the Classics? White Feminism and Reception Studies – Holly Ranger (SAS)

2 June: TBA – Patrice Rankine (Richmond)

From Banquets to Sappho: Current Research & Recent Publications (2021.2).

Author: Bunny Waring
Date: 21st March 2021

Amidst adapting to e-learning, preparing lectures and caring for students, staff here at the Classics Department have been busy. A key element of academic life is never resting on your laurels. Each lecturer has their own research passions and are constantly writing blogs, papers, books and articles about what they have discovered and why it matters. Here are some of the latest releases from Prof. Rachel Mairs, Prof. Annalisa Marzano, Prof. Katherine Harlowe and Prof. Barbara Goff!

Mairs, Rachel (Ed.) 2021. The Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek World. Routledge.
This volume provides a thorough conspectus of the field of Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek studies, mixing theoretical and historical surveys with critical and thought-provoking case studies in archaeology, history, literature and art.

The chapters from this international group of experts showcase innovative methodologies, such as archaeological GIS, as well as providing accessible explanations of specialist techniques such as die studies of coins, and important theoretical perspectives, including postcolonial approaches to the Greeks in India. Chapters cover the region’s archaeology, written and numismatic sources, and a history of scholarship of the subject, as well as culture, identity and interactions with neighbouring empires, including India and China.

The Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek World is the go-to reference work on the field, and fulfils a serious need for an accessible, but also thorough and critically-informed, volume on the Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kingdoms. It provides an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the Hellenistic East.

For E and Hard copies click here:
The Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek World

 

 

Bowman, Alan K., Crowther, Charles V., Hornblower, Simon., Mairs, Rachel and Savvopoulos Kyriakos (Eds.) 2020. Corpus of Ptolemaic Inscriptions Part I: Greek, Bilingual, and Trilingual Inscriptions from Egypt. Volume 1. Alexandria and the Delta (Nos. 1–206). Oxford University Press. 

This is the first of three volumes of a Corpus publication of the Greek, bilingual and trilingual inscriptions of Ptolemaic Egypt covering the period between Alexander’s conquest in 332 BC and the fall of Alexandria to the Romans in 30 BC. The Corpus offers scholarly editions, with translations, full descriptions and supporting commentaries, of more than 650 inscribed documents, of which 206, from Alexandria and the region of the Nile Delta, fall within this first volume. The inscriptions in the Corpus range in scope and significance from major public monuments such as the trilingual Rosetta Stone to private dedicatory plaques and funerary notices. They reflect almost every aspect of public and private life in Hellenistic Egypt: civic, royal and priestly decrees, letters and petitions, royal and private dedications to kings and deities, as well as pilgrimage notices, hymns and epigrams. The inscriptions in the Corpus are drawn from the entire Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, from Alexandria and the Egyptian Delta, through the Fayum, along the Nile Valley, to Upper Egypt, and across the Eastern and Western Deserts. The Corpus supersedes older publications and other partial collections organised by a specific region or theme and offers for the first time a full picture of the Greek and multilingual epigraphic landscape of the Ptolemaic period. It will be an indispensable resource for new and continuing research into the history, society and culture of Ptolemaic Egypt and the wider Hellenistic world.

For hard copies and more information:
Corpus of Ptolemaic Inscriptions

 

 

Marzano, Annalisa. 2021. Caesar’s triumphal banquet of 46 BC: A Hypothesis on its Political Significance on the Basis of a Recent Epigraphic Discovery from Pompeii in: politica antica 10: 99-107.

An inscription recently discovered in Pompeii reports how many individuals were accommodated on sets of three dining couches in a public banquet. This information allows us to reconsider the number of people feasted during Caesar’s famous public banquet of 46 BC, suggesting that the number of individuals was very close to the number of people on the corn dole list. Caesar revised this list shortly after the celebrations of 46 BC, drastically reducing the number of recipients; therefore the public banquet of 46 BC may have had a strong political dimension connected to the revision of the corn dole list Caesar was planning.

To read more click here:
Caesar’s Famous Banquet

 

 

Finglass, P.J., Kelly, A. (Eds.) 2021. The Cambridge Companion to Sappho. Cambridge University Press. With chapters by Harloe, K, Goff, B.

No ancient poet has a wider following today than Sappho; her status as the most famous woman poet from Greco-Roman antiquity, and as one of the most prominent lesbian voices in history, has ensured a continuing fascination with her work down the centuries. The Cambridge Companion to Sappho provides an up-to-date survey of this remarkable, inspiring, and mysterious Greek writer, whose poetic corpus has been significantly expanded in recent years thanks to the discovery of new papyrus sources. Containing an introduction, prologue and thirty-three chapters, the book examines Sappho’s historical, social, and literary contexts, the nature of her poetic achievement, the transmission, loss, and rediscovery of her poetry, and the reception of that poetry in cultures far removed from ancient Greece, including Latin America, India, China, and Japan. All Greek is translated, making the volume accessible to everyone interested in one of the most significant creative artists of all time.

See a full list of chapters and papers here:
The Cambridge Companion to Sappho.

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!

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!