Summer Term 2022 Reading Classics Research Seminar Series

We are pleased to announce the launch of our Reading Classics Seminar Series for Summer Term 2022, which will boost our Wednesday afternoons with constructive and stimulating lectures and discussions on various aspects of Classics research!

In this series of lectures, starting on 27 April, we welcome a diverse group of speakers from both the UK and abroad in our Departmental seminars, which will explore a variety of topics and periods of Classical studies. All seminars will be livestreamed on MS Teams; tune in every Wednesday at 4pm! Attendance is free and open to all! To attend please follow this link: bit.ly/3K8h5lg! Below you can find a poster with all titles and a QR code leading to the attendance link!

For more information, please contact hod-classics@reading.ac.uk.

Full list of titles

27 April

Marion Meyer, Institut für Klassische Archäologie, Universität Wien, ‘Worshiping Athena in Athens: the Panathenaia, the peplos for the goddess, and Some Open Questions’.

4th May

Bernardo Ballesteros Petrella, Corpus Christi College Oxford, ‘Comparing early Greek, Babylonian and Sanskrit epic: the overburdened earth motif’.

11th May 2-5pm, a symposium on ‘Rome: city and country’, in honour of Professor Annalisa Marzano. NB this is an all-afternoon event.

18th May

Carol Dougherty, Wellesley College, ‘ “I’m a strange new kind of in-between thing aren’t I?”: Antigone and the Question of the Foreigner’.

25th May

no seminar

1st June

Michelle Zerba, Louisiana State University, ‘Eleusis at the Intersection of Antiquity and Modernity: The Mysteria, Altered Consciousness, and the Neuroscience of Transformational Experience’.

LGBT History Month: queer presences, kisses and storms

Dr Oliver Baldwin is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Classics, currently researching internationally for his project Queer Tragedy”. He has kindly provided us with an account of his research trip in various European countries below.

LGBT history month began and ended with me doing precisely LGBT history by roaming European archives for my project Queer Tragedy, a performance history of LGBTQI+ stagings and versions of Greco-Roman tragedy, from 1969, the year of the Stonewall riots in New York, to its fiftieth anniversary in 2019. The objective is to analyse an array of gay Bacchaes, lesbian Oedipuses and trans Medeas that have taken place in several countries at several historical junctures.  I use the verb doing because LGBT history involves precisely labour, action and involvement in mapping a constellation that has been darkened, ignored, shunned or dismissed. In archives (gradually specialised but always imperfect) one must construct queer history, reconstruct queer lives and deconstruct normative prejudice. Queer (hi)stories often appear in the periphery of the focus, as blurred images, as distorted echoes, as reflections of phobias, or, contrarily, as direct addresses, looking one straight in the eye claiming: I am here and I am queer. Consequently, the doing in queer history is also a process of being visited by voices and presences, of being haunted, driving you further into the (re/de)construction. The doing of LGBTQI+ history is the work of historians hand in hand with queer (hi)stories.

My European archival doing began in Paris. Queer Tragedy’s archive is a complicated one to construct: often institutions do not have a queer tag in their catalogues for a given performance; many of these performances have taken place in theatres of the off (off) circuit and are therefore unlikely to appear in mainstream (or even in specialised) media; queer issues in these plays are often coded, veiled or even rejected by their own creators. All these issues I faced in France, but at the centre of my labour was the ever-present dictation and conditioning of heteronormativity. This not only influenced the reticence of some theatre makers to have their work described as (fully or partially) LGBTQI+ when I contacted them—a queer play may label a theatre maker as “just queer” and therefore potentially limit their future prospects. It also influenced the very queer portrayals on stage. By chance—an inescapable component of archival work, however rigorous one strives to be—the plays I came across while in France portrayed trans people as essential characters. One may, on the surface, see this as a positive sign. But on closer inspection (and this is my impression), it is rather the opposite. Firstly, none of these trans characters were performed by trans people, but by either cis women or cis men. Secondly, these trans characters are constructed on the normative (and transphobic) understanding of trans people as portents, as beings transiting through maleness and femaleness, as extreme androgyny personified, but never as fully man or woman. One only has to dig into our social (and personal) memories to understand this has been (and continues to be) the norm.

Let me briefly explain with an example. In the staging by Pierre Notte of Stephane Guerin’s Kalashnikov (2013), a disenchanted retelling of Oedipus, we find a character called Le Trans (always referred to as she/her). This character appears as both guide and challenger of the Oedipus-character, mostly on the margins of the action, as if an informed onlooker, an ironic commentator on bourgeois reality. Le Trans stands as a fusion of two ancient personages of mixed identities: the Sphinx, at once woman and lion, and Tiresias, the blind seer who has experienced being both man and woman. In the play, Le Trans is thus a character of special knowledge, mystery and insight precisely for her (allegedly) gender-marginal identity as man-woman, but never fully woman, as the use of transphobic slurs in the play testify–one of which, travesti (a term often used transphobically framing trans people as cross-dressers), is ever-present in describing many other trans characters I have come across. Le Trans, and other trans characters, appear in these plays as sexual/gender portents, as other with para-human insight, as the queerest carrier of knowledge; but never fully woman. The almost impossibility for many in French and Western society of calling a trans-woman a woman and treat her as one is blatant in the cases I have researched so far. Beware of good intentions bearing gifts.

Queer themes in versions of Greco-Roman tragedy do not only reveal the prejudices, phobias and conceptual impossibilities of heteronormativity; they also reveal the resistance, strength and endurance of their queer creators. This is most clearly the case in the performance I researched while in Brussels, the next step after Paris: Jan Ritsema’s Philoktetes-Variations (1994), used different versions of the Philoktetes story to tell (among other issues) of the battle its main actor, Ron Vawter (Philoktetes), was waging against AIDS. The story of the Greek commander abandoned by the Troy-bound Greeks because of his gangrenous snake-bite wound only to then be reclaimed for self-serving interests resounded at a time when AIDS had been ravaging the lives of many gay men for over a decade—men who had also been relinquished, forgotten and repudiated by families and communities. The cries of pain Sophocles wrote to be howled by Philoktetes were now being performed by an internationally-recognised gay actor with HIV, whose nakedness on stage revealed his own Kaposi sarcoma, the wounds caused by snake-like AIDS on the bodies of many. This was central to the whole production and is echoed in the struggles the production team had to face when ensuring the well-being of Ron Vawter: on tour, hotels with a bath and a connected room for a nurse were arranged and contracts specified the potential suspension or the cancellation of the production due to Vawter’s health. AIDS was made even more present by a screening of the film Philadelphia, in which Vawter starred, telling the story of HIV-positive Andrew Becket (played by Tom Hanks), and his legal battle against his employers for discrimination. The screening took place at the same theatre where Philoktetes was being performed, and its revenue was destined for several Belgian AIDS charities. It is difficult to describe how disheartening it is to go through the documents explaining the deterioration of Ron Vawter that contrast with his own adamant intention of making the production happen. Although I knew it was coming, I could not contain myself from shedding more than a tear when reading the note by Kaaitheatre informing the team that Ron Vawter died on his return to New York to prepare the American tour of Philoktetes-Variations. Archival haunting is real and extremely heart-wrenching at times.

 

Philotetes-Variations. Kaaitheater. Maarten Vanden Abeele (photographer)

But the queer-tragic stage is also a place for hope as well as of endurance. In Orestes in Mosul (2019), theatre director Milo Rau’s global-collective Oresteia in Gent (where I went to next), the bloody and horrendous family story of the Atreids is told through scenes from the plays (including the Iphigenia story and different versions of Orestes’ matricide), mixing live performances at NTGent and recordings of the production in Mosul (Iraq), alongside reflections, memories and testimonies of the production process and the personal and acting experiences of the Moslawi and European casts. At one point Risto Kübar (playing Orestes) from Estonia and Duraid Abbas Ghaieb (playing Pylades) of Iraqi heritage, tell the audience how they both escaped their homes to find queer refuge in theatre. After this, they both kiss passionately, signifying their union, endurance and hope in the future. They (actors and characters) will kiss twice more, once in the tower from where DAESH executed gay men in Mosul, just after Orestes and Pylades have been put to trial by the chorus. As they kiss, they defiantly and lovingly embrace, resisting the insistent attempts to separate them by the chorus (whose actors had been unsure of the scene during rehearsals). The kiss, in joining the actors’ stories, the loving bond of Orestes and Pylades and the deadly connotations of its location, stood as an act of defiance in building a queer future in which every Orestes and every Pylades can kiss and embrace without their integrity being threatened, echoing Pylades’ line in Euripides’ Orestes: ‘I will take care of you’.

Orestes in Mosul is the play that closes the Queer Tragedy project chronologically, as the receiver of the echoes, hauntings, endurance, celebration, love, hopes and promises of its predecessors, symbolically opened in this performance history by another kiss, that between Dionysus and Pentheus in Richard Schechner’s Dionysus in 69 in New York in 1968. The end of the project appears at the beginning of my LGBTQI+ archival doing, and its beginning towards the end in a few months’ time. But there is never a linear way of doing history, particularly LGBT history, however linear it may later appear in books. I write to you from my hotel room in Berlin, where I arrived after a 9-hour odyssey through the Netherlands and Germany catching three trains and one replacement bus. A good but long victory over storm Eunice. Now in Berlin I find myself jumping chronologically, dramatically and queerly to another kiss, that between Dionysus and Pentheus in Grüber’s Die Bakchen (1974). This ‘highly homoerotic ceremonial’, as a critic described it, will lead me on to other destinations and queer tragedies as I hope it will lead you on to celebrate, vindicate and share LGBT histories beyond this month too. Queer tragic kiss to you all.

Dr Oliver Baldwin (BA/UoR). Queer Tragedy project

European Festival of Latin and Greek Returns in Reading Classics

The European Festival of Latin and Greek returns in Reading Classics after two years of pandemic, and we gathered the most exciting info about it in a Q&A covering all you need to know!  Enthusiasts of Classical Literature are more than welcome to participate! Find out below what the European Festival of Latin and Greek is and how you can sign up! 

What is it?

An international (not just European!) event when people celebrate the ancient world by getting together in a public place to read aloud a text from Ancient Greece or Rome.

Are they mad?                 

No, they are just really enthusiastic!

How does the Department come into this?          

The Department is going to participate in the Festival again, as we did pre-Covid; we are going to meet in the Edith Morley Quad, at 1pm on Wednesday March 23rd , to read Sophocles Oedipus the King!

Oedipus the King? That’s the one about mums and dads, yes?    

And about human striving and its limits – about our understanding of our own identity – about plague and recovery, blindness and insight, life and death!  People have been fascinated by this play for centuries, and always find something important in it.

Have you done this before?         

Yes, the Department participated in the 2019 Festival in 2019 when colleagues gathered in Edith Morley Quad to read book 6 of the Iliad in various languages. You can have a taste at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=na3odYx9CXU! In the pictures, you can see us reading Homer Iliad 6 in 2019, along with the Chinese translation that one of us used.

OK, I’m convinced.  But do I have to speak Greek?            

No, the whole point is that people can read in whatever language they like.  Across the world, the Festival is celebrated in Ancient Greek, Modern Greek, Mandarin, Afrikaans, English, French – you get the picture.  And, we don’t have to read the whole thing, just the juicy bits. 

Where do I sign?             

Try https://forms.office.com/r/Bq84DfPb3z to sign up: https://festival-latingrec.eu/english-2/ for more information.  And feel free to email Barbara Goff at hod-classics@reading.ac.uk to tell her how keen you are.  

Food archaeology at Reading Classics

At the Ure Museum we’ve been celebrating Heritage Open Days for a long time: our events usually included opening the museum on a Saturday and hosting activities for adults and families, but during the pandemic we had to go virtual. Thus, in 2020, we launched a much-successful series of short videos created by our staff and our colleagues at the Department of Classics on ‘9 lives of the Ure’s mummified cat’s head’. You can watch the videos here. You can read more about it in one of our previous blogs.  

Our approach received great feedback and thus, we decided to hold our 2021 HOD Events virtually once again. In addition, our museum was just reopening in September with a much-anticipated joint exhibit with the British Museum, and we preferred those two events not to clash. If you missed our British Museum Spotlight Loan or if you wish to visit it again, please follow the link for an online version of it: https://collections.reading.ac.uk/ure-museum/https-collections-reading-ac-uk-ure-museum-troy/

This year’s HOD theme was “edible England” and reminded us of the importance of food – well more than food itself, of the habit of eating and drinking together – in antiquity. Through a series of videos by our members of staff who have examined the relevant area of research from various points of view, we explored ancient diet, depictions of food in our collections, how people used to share food with gods (sacrifices and libations) and their communities (banquets), how important food was in funerary contexts, and even created cook-along videos to eat like an ancient Egyptian, Greek or Roman. All videos are available on our YouTube channel and website https://collections.reading.ac.uk/ure-museum/home/whats-on/hod-2021-eat-pray-love-in-antiquity-at-the-ure-museum/

Poster of the event, provided by Dr Claudina Romero Mayorga 

Although museums and galleries have noticed certain virtual fatigue in the last months of lockdown, people were becoming more and more anxious to visit the real places and interact face to face, and thus, we can happily claim that our virtual HOD was a success! We had 412 views on our YouTube channel and our webpage visits increased a 84%; most of our audience came from the UK, but also from USA, Singapore, Australia and Europe!

It’s amazing how food – a topic that engages most of our senses – can be addressed from afar: by evoking the smells of burnt meat in a sacrifice, the delicious fragrances of baked pastelis, panis focaccias and cakes, the strength and energy provided by Spartan dishes, the beautiful representations of Egyptian food and Greek fish plates, all accompanied by sweet Greek wine. Let’s toast for more opportunities to come together.

The event was organised and held by the team of the Ure Museum under the guidance of the Curator, Prof. Amy Smith, and the Education Officer, Dr Claudina Romero Mayorga.

In fact, this year’s HOD topic was a great match for our Department’s long and strong record of research on the field of food archaeology. We are delighted to have been the academic home for various projects, among which an outstanding position is occupied by the work of Dr Jessie Feito, whose doctoral thesis focussed on the relevant area of expertise. Dr Feito was recently awarded her PhD by the Department of Classics at the University of Reading under the supervision of Prof. Annalisa Marzano, and she has been accepted as a postdoctoral fellow in…

Dr Feito has kindly provided us with a short introduction and summary of current research trends in food archaeology. We are truly thankful to her for sharing her knowledge, and we wish her all the best in the new and exciting steps of her career.

Recent decades have seen a notable increase in interest in the archaeology of food. Food was, and is, more than just a means of achieving the necessary caloric intake for survival; it had social and political significance in antiquity and was highly important culturally and economically. Food is at once a necessity to all, while also being unique to particular peoples and populations, shaped by preferences and cultural practices. This makes the study of food an exceptionally interesting and versatile research topic.

PhD students at the field. Picture retrieved from https://www.reading.ac.uk/classics/phd/department-life-for-phd-students. Dr Jessie Feito is at the front. 

Scholars of the ancient world have explored food and dining habits in a variety of ways. Ancient literature describes food and dining events with texts such as Petronius’ Satyricon, for example, satirising lavish Roman dinner parties, and Apicius’ De re coquinaria providing a glimpse into recipes used in antiquity. Archaeological evidence also offers significant insight into dietary practices. This can be in the form of structural remains of kitchens and dining rooms, such as those famously preserved at Pompeii, or in artistic representations of food and dining in frescoes as well as in mosaics. Ceramics and vessels associated with food preparation and consumption can reveal how meals were cooked and eaten, while the remains of transport containers such as amphora, can shed light on the production and transport of important commodities such as wine, olive oil, and garum. Archaeologists also study the remains of the foodstuffs themselves: zooarchaeology, or the study of animal bones, can be used to explore the consumption of animal products and archaeobotany focuses on the plant remains.

My research utilises the latter, examining plant remains in order to explore food production and consumption in two parts of the Roman world: Italy and the Near East. In using regional case studies, I am able to explore the ways that the Roman Empire impacted diet and agricultural practices in regions of different historical, socio-cultural, political, economic, and even environmental contexts.

The potential for archaeological evidence to shed light on food in the ancient world is vast, and, despite the significant advances that have been made, there is certainly room for our understanding to be improved with further research—this only serves to makes the archaeology of food more exciting! We now know that while dietary practices and preferences varied across the ancient world, just as they do today, the importance of food was universal.

Reading Classics Spring Term Seminar Series 2022

We are pleased to announce the launch of our Reading Classics Seminar Series for SpringTerm 2022, which will boost our Wednesday afternoons with constructive and stimulating lectures and discussions on various aspects of Classics research!

In this series of lectures, starting on 26 January, we welcome a diverse group of speakers from both the UK and abroad in our Departmental seminars, which will explore a variety of topics and periods of Classical studies. All seminars will be livestreamed on MS Teams; tune in every Wednesday at 4pm! Attendance is free and open to all! To attend please follow this link: bit.ly/33Ym1ty! Below you can find a poster with all titles and a QR code leading to the attendance link! 

For our first Reading Classics Spring Term Seminar, we are delighted to welcome Ergün Läfli, Professor of Classical Archaeology at the Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir, who will speak on ‘Ancient lamps from southern Turkey’. All welcome thisWednesday 26th January 2022 at 4pm! 

For more information, please contact hod-classics@reading.ac.uk. 

Full list of titles

26 January 

Ergün Läfli (Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir), Ancient lamps from southern Turkey

2 February 

Marco Fantuzzi (Roehampton), Realism becomes Electra (and Euripides) 

9 February

Ioannis Mitsios (Athens), Boreads and Oreithyia or not? Re-examining figures P, Q and R from the west pediment of the Parthenon

23 February 

Çiğdem Maner (Koç), Adaptation, Subsistence and Political Geography in Southeastern Konya from the 3rd to the 1st Millenium BC

2 March

Hana Navratilova (Reading/Oxford), New graffiti season at Dahshur, Egypt, 2021: mapping ancient appraisals of the pyramid complex of Senwosret III

9 March

Hella Eckhardt (Reading), Bridge over troubled water – new approaches to Roman river finds

16 March

Maria Mili (Glasgow), Divine things: Greek gods and objects

 

We look forward to welcoming you at Reading Classics Research Seminars once again! 

 

Bring in the Artists

Discerning visitors to the Classics@Reading and the Ure Museum will have seen more and more art gracing our department’s home since the pioneering Head of Departmentship of Prof. Emma Aston, who persuaded the University Arts Collection to lend us some of the late Eric Stanford’s stone sculptures — Protesilaus and a Head of Helen of Troy — and excellent facsimiles of Minnie Hardman’s beautiful drawings of ancient sculptures.  At the same time a private donor lent us Stanford’s Memnon who also graces our department hallway in the Edith Morley building on the Whiteknights campus. Stanford’s Helen sparked our interest in Troy which led to the current British Museum Spotlight Loan.*

In 2022 we will welcome another internationally recognised artist to the Ure Museum. Through Meeting Point, an Arts&Heritage scheme funded by Arts Council England that brings artists to small museums to bring their collections to new audiences, we have now commissioned Chisato Minamimura, a Deaf performance artist originally from Japan, to create an artwork that responds to the Ure Museum’s collection. Chisato, who has taught, created, and performed internationally, including at Paralympic Opening Ceremonies, approaches choreography from her unique perspective as a Deaf artist, creating what she calls ‘visual sound/music’. Just before lockdown in 2020 the Ure Museum was chosen as one of six museums and heritage sites to work in partnership with artists as part of the Meeting Point programme. Chisato’s explorations with dance and sound chime perfectly with our recent research on music, dance, and sensory archaeology. We are very excited that this opportunity has brought us together with Chisato and we eagerly anticipate her exploration of our collections, to celebrate the Ure Museum’s 100th anniversary, coincidentally in the bicentenary of the Greek War of Independence. 

You can read more about the commission on the university press release at https://www.reading.ac.uk/news-and-events/releases/PR861332.aspx. There you can find the statement made by the Curator of the Ure Museum, Professor Amy Smith, along with a note from Chisato.

We look forward to this collaboration and its exciting outcomes! 

Follow Reading Classics on social media for the latest blogs and news:

Facebook: @UoRClassics

Twitter: @UniRdg_Classics

Instagram: @classicsuor

YouTube: UnivRdgClassics

*Troy: Beauty and Heroism will remain on display in the Ure Museum until 12 December so please rush in if you hadn’t had a chance already (even in tonight’s Being Human museum late ‘Live Forever: Welcome to the Underworld’.   duly will have noticed n international performance artist is set to work with the University of Reading’s Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology to design a piece of contemporary art inspired by the Museum’s unique collection.

Photo credit: photographer Mark Pickthall

Black History Month in Reading Classics

Author: Prof. Barbara Goff 

Date: 18 October 2021 

Reading Classics celebrate Black History Month with a visit from Shivaike Shah, co-creator and producer of the first global majority Medea produced by students at the University of Oxford, in 2018. This interactive event will be delivered online via MS Teams on 27th October at 2pm. Do join us in this talk to discuss the aims, challenges and successes of such an adaptation of one of the most famous Classical Greek tragedies. To register your interest to attend, please write to us at hod-classics@reading.ac.uk or visit our Facebook event page: https://fb.me/e/27eXLAIL2.

Please keep an eye on our social media and the event page as we shall circulate a joining link there closer to the date. You can also find more information about the event on our Facebook event page and social media. 

All welcome! 

In the run-up to this exciting event, here are some resources to get you thinking about some related issues.

  • Listen to our former colleague Professor Katherine Harloe on Detoxifying the Classics. Why are white nationalists and the far right so fond of Ancient Greece and Rome? Katherine looks at the ways in which the classical world is both used to lend respectability to the politics of hate, and distorted to give the false impression that it was an all-white space. Katherine was Professor of Classics at the University of Reading until the 1st October 2021, when she left to become Director of the Institute of Classical Studies in London. Go Katherine!
     
  • Listen to the many fascinating lockdown talks on the Everyday Orientalism site. This site, cofounded by our colleague Professor Rachel Mairs, seeks to offer a platform through which students, academics, and citizens can reflect on how history and power shape the way in which human societies define themselves through the “Other”.  Talks and other posts often focus on classical antiquity, ancient Egypt, and the ancient Near East, as well as looking at how those societies have been interpreted and reinterpreted by modern Western culture.
     
  • Check into the podcasts by Khameleon Classics, the team who will be talking about the all-BAME Medea later on this month. Podcast no.4 is by our colleague Professor Barbara Goff, talking about classics in the British colonies of West Africa.

In addition, on 25th October, Prof. Goff will be part of an interview with Femi Osofisan about his new production of Medaye, an adaptation of Medea.  The interview will also include Prof. Olakunbi Olasope of the Department of Classics at the University of Ibadan, who has visited Reading Classics a few times and given seminars on the reception of Greek and Roman theatre in West African drama. The interview will be available via the Archive for Performances of Greek and Roman Drama in November. Stay tuned for a link to listen to this exciting interview! 

Shivake Shah’s presentation, which will be delivered online on Wednesday 27th October at 2pm, comes as a culmination in the long devotion of Reading Classics in contributing to research approaches revolving around decolonisation, inclusivity, and diversity in Classics. To find out more about Medaye, its preparation, production, performance, and social engagement, you can read the following blog on Femi Osofisan’s Medaye in Ibadan by Olakunbi Olasope: https://classicalreception.org/african-blog-takeover-9/ .

A recent testament for our contribution to research and public engagement in plurality and diversity in Classics is the Inclusive Classics Initiative, led by Professor Barbara Goff (University of Reading) and Dr Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis (University of St Andrews). Over two days the workshop covered a range of subjects: barriers to inclusivity, current projects and approaches aimed at making Classics more inclusive, and priorities for future work. Bringing together multiple perspectives within the discipline, including Classics in higher education and secondary schools, the workshop provided space for discussion about marginalised groups, both during antiquity and as experienced in the subject today. Among other topics, the final panel of the workshop was a conversation among Professor Kunbi Olasope, Dr Idowu Alade, and Dr Monica Aneni from the University of Ibadan, whose discussion focussed on recent increase in Classics admissions in the university in Nigeria as well as on the significance of Classical education in pursuing a variety of careers. Read more about their latest online, international workshop ‘Towards a More Inclusive Classics II’ in our blog post about it at t.ly/8YLj.  

To find out more on the long-standing commitment of Reading Classics in promoting inclusivity, diversity, and decolonisation in Classics, visit https://www.reading.ac.uk/classics/

We look forward to seeing you all in this exciting BHM event on 27th October 2021.  

Follow Reading Classics on social media for the latest news on Reading Classics and our events: 

Twitter: @UniRdg_Classics

Facebook: @UoRClassics 

Instagram: @classicsuor

YouTube: UnivRdgClassics 

 

Reading Classics Autumn Term Research Seminars 2021

We are pleased to announce the launch of our regular Reading Classics Seminar Series for Autumn Term 2021, which will boost our Wednesday afternoons with constructive and stimulating lectures and discussions on various aspects of Classics research!

This series of lectures, starting on 29th September, run alongside the Ure Museum seminars ‘Troy in 21st Century’ in alternate weeks. In this accessible and inclusive environment—with some talks online and others in person—we welcome a diverse group of speakers from both the UK and abroad in our Departmental seminars, which will explore a variety of topics and periods of Classical studies.  

For our first Reading Classics Seminar, we are delighted to welcome Professor Sheila Murnaghan from University of Pennsylvania, who will speak on ‘Her own troubles: women writers and the Iliad’. Tune in on Wednesday 29th 2021 at 4pm. The lecture will be delivered online in MS Teams. To register your interest in attending please email Professor Amy C Smith, at HoD-Classics@reading.ac.uk.

You can find a full list of titles below.  

29 September

Sheila Murnaghan (University of Pennsylvania) Her own troubles: Women writers and the Iliad 

13 October (in person)

Emma Aston (University of Reading) The Aggressive Thessaly Reconsidered 

17 November

Judith Mossman (Coventry University) Tragedy in Plutarch 

1 December

Çigdem Maner (Koç University) Adaptation, subsistence, and political geography in South-Easter Konya from 3rd to 1st millennium BC

We look forward to welcoming you at Reading Classics Research Seminars once again! 

 

Report on ‘Towards a More Inclusive Classics II’ International workshop, organised by Professor Barbara Goff and Dr Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis

Authors: Jenny Messenger, Arlene Holmes-Henderson, Barbara Goff and Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis

Date: September2021

At the start of July 2021, the Inclusive Classics Initiative, led by Professor Barbara Goff (University of Reading) and Dr Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis (University of St Andrews), held its second online, international workshop ‘Towards a More Inclusive Classics II’. This event was co-chaired by Professor Barbara Goff (University of Reading) and Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson (King’s College London/University of Oxford), and over two days the workshop covered a range of subjects: barriers to inclusivity, current projects and approaches aimed at making Classics more inclusive, and priorities for future work.

Bringing together multiple perspectives within the discipline, including Classics in higher education and secondary schools, the workshop provided space for discussion about marginalised groups, both during antiquity and as experienced in the subject today.

Themed around ‘Embedding Inclusive Practices’, the first panel, chaired by University of Nottingham doctoral candidate Ashley Chhibber, started with Professor Jennifer Ingleheart (University of Durham) speaking from a Head of Department’s perspective about creating a welcoming space for incoming students. Jennifer mentioned using individual expressions of identity (such as displaying the rainbow flag), the success of a staff race reading group, and the problems faced by departments trying to develop EDI initiatives on a small budget. Dr Naoko Yamagata discussed the Open University’s success of attracting a relatively large proportion of students with a declared disability, along with the challenge of having very low levels of ethnic diversity among the student population, and strategies used to make the curriculum more inclusive, from checklists that challenge assumptions to changing commonly used terms. Dr Marchella Ward (University of Oxford) offered thoughts on the need to take critiques from marginalised students seriously, and to carry out EDI work before publicising it, to avoid appearing to capitalise on the marketing appeal of diversity.

Panel Two featured a series of updates on current projects dealing with diversity and inclusivity, which had first been introduced in last year’s ‘Towards a more Inclusive Classics’ workshop. Dr Fiona Hobden and Serafina Nicolosi shared the results of a student survey carried out at the University of Liverpool, which suggested that while the teaching and learning environment was inclusive, improvements could be made to further diversify the curriculum by, for example, featuring more women outside the domestic sphere. Giving an update on the MAPPOLA project, Professor Peter Kruschwitz (University of Vienna) showed how two stories from the margins of the Roman empire were able to destabilise received narratives, and Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson (King’s College London and University of Oxford) illustrated the sheer range of diversely positioned stakeholders in the UK Classics community, some of the success stories of knowledge exchange projects among these groups to date, and, crucially, identified future strategic actions required to improve collaboration.

Day Two began with a panel on ‘Decentring the Canon’, with talks from teachers in schools and colleges around the UK and Germany, as well as an update on the Christian Cole Society for Classicists of Colour. Anna McOmish (Aldridge School, Walsall) discussed the value of introducing an Ancient Middle East module into the Key Stage 3 History curriculum, while Peter Wright (Blackpool Sixth Form College) spoke about the Blackpool Classics for All hub and the benefits of using Classics as a tool to boost vocabulary, literacy, and oracy. Ray Cheung, an undergraduate at the University of Oxford, talked about the need to build a community of classicists of colour, to re-envision Classics, and to change institutional mindsets. Vijaya-Sharita Baba (Petroc College, Devon) discussed a personal journey from thinking of Classics as an inherently diverse subject to becoming aware of the ways certain curricula can be exclusive, and called for more resources that would be accessible to students with no linguistic background. Sanjay Sharma (Heinz-Brandt-Schule, Berlin) drew attention to the importance of re-framing and contextualising Classics in modern geographies, and of encouraging students to engage with a wide variety of artistic representations of antiquity.

Following this panel, attendees were able to chat in smaller, themed groups (small technical issues aside). Discussion in the PhD and early career researchers group touched on challenges in terms of lack of funding and support structures, and precarious employment, as well as the effect these factors might have on participating in inclusivity work, such as the inability to commit to longer-term initiatives within a department. Suggestions for future plans included sharing resources to help start reading groups and the need to continue online access to events even after in-person events begin again.

The mid-career and professoriate group praised the opportunity to be able to talk to colleagues from other institutions and discussed the networking role Twitter has assumed. Other topics included the need to find time, headspace, and buy-in to implement staff training at a time of increasing overload; embedding diversity in career paths through hiring practices and promotional processes; and which professional bodies had the ability to act and create change.

Colleagues in the teachers in schools and colleges group raised the question of what universities could do to encourage students into Classics, suggesting that talks tailored to the syllabus and virtual visits can be powerful tools. Finally, discussion about future events included plans surrounding a project focused on raising the profile of neurodiversity within Classics.

Our final panel of the workshop was a conversation among Professor Kunbi Olasope, Dr Idowu Alade, and Dr Monica Aneni from the University of Ibadan, whose discussion about lecturers and students in partnership showed how Classics admissions in the university in Nigeria had increased over the last ten years, especially at postgraduate level. Collaboration in various ways, including teaching, publication, and active mentoring, had led to a sense of student belonging. Classics remained a subject of study that could lead to all kinds of careers, ensuring good support from alumni, and a comparative focus on classical reception meant it was clear that Classics remained highly relevant.

From the point of view of the organisers, the workshop was hugely inspiring and provided lots of ideas for action and further thought. The idea of focusing on themes which had emerged as priorities from last year’s workshop proved very fruitful. Social media users followed updates on Twitter from the @inclusiclassics account and using #InclusiveClassicsII. The programme and presentation materials are available on the Institute of Classical Studies website. Professor Barbara Goff and Dr Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis, would like to thank all attendees and all the speakers for their enthusiasm and collegiality, Dr Jenny Messenger for her fantastic administrative support, and particularly Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson for kindly stepping in to co-chair when Alexia was unwell.

To be added to the Inclusive Classics Initiative mailing list for information about future events, please email lks01beg@reading.ac.uk.

By Jenny Messenger, Arlene Holmes-Henderson, Barbara Goff and Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis

In the screenshot, can you see a Reading professor, and a couple of alumni?

Inclusive Classics

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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