Online teaching help kit for Classics colleagues

In the current health crisis, Classics colleagues all over the world are being asked to rapidly switch to online teaching. There is already a great deal of help out there, and we don’t want to replicate that, but the following is a list of resources that the Open University and FutureLearn has that might be useful to you. NB: some of the Classical material is pretty old – we’re hoping it still has paedagogical value nonetheless; this list was put together in a hurry so please excuse any formatting errors.

General guidance and help with distance learning:

OU advice page on taking your teaching online

Free course: Take Your Teaching Online

Advice on how to be an online student

Online Classical resources you can use in your teaching:

LANGUAGE LEARNING:

Introducing Greek and Latin: short course with various materials

Introducing Ancient Greekshort unit on the alphabet, pronunciation, using letters to form words and using words to form simple sentences.

Greek Vocabulary Tester: OU/Eton collaboration based on Reading Greek 

Reading Classical Greekinteractive quizzes based on Reading Greek

Introducing Classical Latin: short unit on basic vocabulary, basic principles of Latin word order and sentence structure

Interactive Latinquiz on Latin noun, verb and adjective endings

Getting started on Classical Latin: free online course with beginners’ materials

The development of the Latin language: discussion of how Latin developed into modern Romance languages

Continuing Classical Latin: short online course

GREECE:

Plato on Tradition and Belief: free online course with usable structured content

Iliad and Odyssey: animated videos

Aeschylus’ Persians: short animated summary

Aristophanes’ Lysistrata: short animated summary

Oedipus: The message in the myth: online text

Encountering a Greek Vase: video

Introduction to Antigone: video

Greek Theatre: podcast

Greek Comedy: podcasts and videos

Acropolis and Parthenon: podcast

Herodotus: various materials

Greek Myth and Dr Who: article

Icarus Myth: free online course with various materials

Introduction to the Iliad: short online course with various materials

 

ROME:

Myth at the heart of the Roman Empire: podcast

Introduction to Virgil’s Aeneid: free online course with various materials

Buildings of ancient Rome: podcast

Mosaics at Brading Villa: videos

Hadrian: The Roamin’ Emperor: online game

Learning from human remains: an Etruscan skeleton: podcast

Power and People in Ancient Rome (a study of the arena, baths etc.): podcast

Roman funerary monuments: podcast

Hadrian’s Rome: free course with lots of materials

Ovid and Holkham Hall: podcast

Graffiti in Pompeii: video

Thugga: Romano-African City: free course with various materials

 

BOTH/OTHER:

Introducing the Classical World: free course with lots of material on sourcework

Exploring the classical world through the texts of Homer, Catullus, Horace, and Juvenal: podcast

Health and Wellbeing in the Ancient World: short course

The Graeco-Roman city of Paestum: podcast

Myth in the Greek and Roman Worlds: the Temple of Diana at Nemi: podcast

The Library of Alexandria: short online course with usable material

The Body in Antiquity: short online course with usable material

Reception: Pygmalion meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer: podcast

 

CLASSICS CONFIDENTIAL: 150 free videos of interviews with leading scholars on a variety of Classics topics

(including Greek drama, ancient food, medicine and dress, reception of ancient myth and literature, Roman Egypt, Greek democracy, ancient philosophy, Winckelmann, Greek vases, Sparta, Pompeii, gardens and lots more!)

 

Audio discussions on Ancient Religion on the Baron Thyssen Centre webpage

 

Reception of Classical Texts Project: 


material on the reception of Greek drama and poetry, mainly in English, from c. 1970 to 2005; searchable database of performances of Greek plays, with comments on staging, translations, adaptations; critical essays focusing on the use of modern sources and a selection of project publications.

 

_

“Ovid’s Salmacis”: a new article by Dr Paula James

Congratulations to Dr Paula James on the publication of her article on “Ovid’s Salmacis: a Literary and Sexual Hybrid”!

Regular readers of this blog may remember our earlier post about Ovid’s Salmacis, which included an audio extract and downloadable PDF of Paula’s article draft (which she generously shared while it was still ‘work in progress’). The final version of the article has now appeared in The Journal of Greco-Roman Studies Vol. 58-3. You can read the abstract at the bottom of this page, and visit our earlier blog post, to listen again to the Salmacis audio. 

Abstract: This article engages with the ambiguities surrounding the identity of the naiad Salmacis in Book Four of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the final story in a set of three told by the daughters of Minyas. Alcithoe is the narrator. The Salmacis myth is possibly one of the most slippery stories in Ovid’s Metamorphoses; to adapt the title of Georgia Nugent’s ground breaking article of 1989, Ovid is producing a text which is not one just as Hermaphroditus embodies ‘the sex which is not one.’ The naiad, Salmacis, is by her very nature an adaptable amphibian and an ideal medium to blur boundaries in gender physicality, as well as in behaviour. Like the son of Venus and Mercury she so passionately covets, Salmacis is visualised as a creature with hermaphroditic characteristics in advance of the bizarre coupling that produces a being of indeterminate sex.

The ambiguous nature of the water nymph who causes the final transformation of the boy is hardly highlighted although she too is a hybrid both behaviourally and elementally. Salmacis’ identity as girlish nymph and watery being, as a natural victim and a resourceful rapist, as a combination of feminine passivity and aggressive masculinity is realised through vivid direct description and highly associative imagery.

Building upon previous scholarly interpretations of the episode of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus, I shall argue that although Ovid confines Salmacis to shape shifting in the figurative sense (by his use of multiple metaphors) his similes are carefully chosen to align her with other fluid females in Ovid’s literary landscape who invariably suffer sexual assault and the risk of transformation or disintegration. However, Salmacis’ bodily dissolution follows her pro-active and predatory sexuality.

This article draws together previous approaches to Ovid’s Salmacis narrative, but introduces new perspectives upon the characterisation of the lustful naiad. I argue that Salmacis is both behaviourally and physically a fudged gender, a proto-hermaphrodite ultimately punished for her mimicry of masculine traits. This is deliberate as the figurative techniques are primarily designed to transport the reader to other victims in Ovid’s mythical landscape and to familiar erotic encounters in Greek and Roman literature. Drawing upon cinematic terminology, the moving images of the present day, we could say that the over-wrought similes she and the beautiful boy attract ‘scramble the pixels’ in visual terms.

Ovid’s version of events subverts the Halicarnassus inscription which was positive about the nature of the Salmacis pool and the relationship between its denizen and the son of Hermes and Aphrodite. My approach does assume that Ovid’s contemporary readership was not only educated but also revisited the text in order for these overall connections to gain their full force. The fleeting images, confusing in their immediate context, function like a cinematic montage as they evoke the fate of females who suffer bodily annihilation in the epic poem before and after the Salmacis episode.

[Key words]: Actaeon, Diana, Ovid, ecphrasis, femininity, fluidity, gender, masculinity, Hermaphrodite/us, Mercury, Philomela, naiad, metaphor, Peleus, Procne, Salmacis, simile, Tereus, Thetis, Venus

 

Kassman Essay Prize

An annual prize is awarded for the best essay in a competition, open to all current Open University undergraduate students. It is likely to be of particular interest to students on A229, A276, A275, A330 and A340. The essay, of not more than 3000 words, should be on any topic related to Greek and Roman Antiquity.

Submission dates for the next prize are as follows:

·         the closing date for notice of intention to enter the competition is 30 June 2020, and

·         the deadline for submission of essays is 30 September 2020.

For further details, rules and regulations for the competition, see below.

—-

Information and Regulations for Entrants

1. The prize will be an annual award based on the income from a donation given by the late Alec Kassman in memory of his son. Alec was an Arts Faculty Staff Tutor in London Region of the Open University and a contributor to Classical Studies courses. The purpose of the prize, which will be awarded for the best essay in an annual competition, is to develop and foster study of Classical Antiquity in the Open University. The award will take the form of a book-token (or other academic related goods) to the approximate value of £100. 

2. The competition is open to all current OU Undergraduates and Associate students (i.e. current at the date of notice to enter the competition – see below 4) Candidates may compete in more than one year if they wish, but no candidate may submit an essay more than once on the same topic.

3. Details covering presentation of essay:

i) The essay may be on any topic related to Greek and Roman Antiquity; this regulation may be interpreted liberally – including e.g. comparative study, provided that a substantial part of the essay deals with a Greek or Roman aspect of the topic. The right is reserved to refuse proposals deemed unsuitable.

ii) The essay should be an original piece of work, written for the purpose of the competition, and should not replicate material submitted by candidates for previous assessment (TMAs and EMAs) at the OU or elsewhere.

iii) A word-limit of 3000 words, including notes, should be observed (if appropriate to the essay subject, a limited amount of additional illustrated and/or diagrammatic material may be included). A bibliography should be appended, together with a statement that the essay is the candidate’s own unaided work.

iv) Essays may be typed or hand-written, but must be double-spaced and written on only one side of the paper. In order to preserve anonymity for judges, the candidate’s name and address should not be written on the essay itself but enclosed on a separate cover-sheet to be included with the essay.

v) Essays will be returned after the competition provided that an SAE is included with the essay.

4. Notice to enter the competition should be sent, together with the proposed essay title, by 30th June 2020 to the Assistant (Academic Support), Department of Classical Studies, FASS, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA; or via email FASS-ClassicalStudies-Enquiries@open.ac.uk

The deadline for receipt of essays will be 30th September 2020. This timing is intended to give competitors an opportunity to work on their essays after the 2020 academic session. The decision of the judges, which will be final, will be announced to all competitors as soon as possible after the closing date.

5. The administration and adjudication of the competition will be by a Committee appointed by the Department of Classical Studies. The committee reserves the right not to award the prize in any given year if there is no essay of an acceptable standard.

6. Guidelines for competitors. The following criteria will be observed by the judges:

i) Quality of the Essay as a piece of English prose

ii) Appreciation of the issues involved in the selected topic

iii) Quality of thought displayed in setting out and addressing such issues

iv) Sensitivity to the historical ambience of the topic, and its significance within that setting

v) Capacity for independent critical analysis

vi) Imaginative choice of topic.

A Classical Studies Talk at HMP Stafford

In this blog post, one of our Classical Studies PhD students, Kim Pratt, shares her recent experience of visiting a prison to give a talk to OU and other students.

On 13 November 2019 I took part in the latest round of the OU Research Events in Prisons. The scheme has been running since April 2018 in two prisons in The West Midlands – HMP Oakwood (near Wolverhampton) and HMP Stafford – and is open to both staff and PhD students at The Open University.

There was one other speaker with me on the day: Jess, a third and final year full-time PhD student in inclusive research and citizen science with the Institute of Educational Technology at the OU. As the talks were scheduled to start at 1.30 we arranged to meet Dr Shaun McMann, the manager of the Students in Secure Environments Team (SiSE), at 1pm to give time to get through security which, of course, is very tight. We weren’t allowed to take in any electrical appliances, memory sticks or mobile phones, all of which had to be left either in small lockers or in the office at the entrance. Even our PowerPoint presentations had to be emailed to Shaun in advance for him to send directly to the prison in time for our arrival. Our chaperone for the day was the sessional education contact, Liz Holland, who escorted us through many locked doors and gates across various outdoor quads to the education block and the room where we were to give our presentations. Here we met the attendees, including one named DJ, who was studying for a Classical Studies degree. He is at Stage 2 in a six-year part-time degree and had just started learning Ancient Greek, having already taken a module in Latin.

I was the first speaker and even though I had practised quite a few times, I admit, I did feel rather nervous when I began. The presentations are about 30-45 minutes long followed by a Q&A session but up until that time I had only given one three-minute lightning talk in January 2019, and although that was at an international conference with a large audience, the length of this presentation seemed rather daunting. However, everyone was very attentive and seemed to be enjoying the talk and I gradually became more relaxed. I felt particularly at ease when it came to the Q&A session at the end when I got to really engage with my audience. This really surprised me as it is a part I usually dread in case I can’t answer or indeed even understand what is being asked.

The title of my talk was ‘Why Classics?’ but because I have realised in the past that, surprisingly, quite a lot of people don’t really know what the subject is, I began with a brief explanation of ‘What is Classics?’. I then gave a few ‘fun facts’ about how we encounter the classical world in some way every day. When I started writing my, talk I got in touch with Emma Bridges for advice as she is now the Public Engagement Fellow at the Institute of Classical Studies. She very kindly sent me a copy of a talk she had done recently to help with any ideas. She also suggested I include a bit about my own experience of how I came to be studying Classical Studies. This very helpful piece of advice was reiterated by my supervisors, Jo Paul and Peg Katritzky, at my next supervisor meeting. I explained how my first experience of studying Classics was in my (brilliant) primary school at the age of seven but that I didn’t get to pursue it further until I started my degree with the OU – many, many, years later. I ended this section with a brief description of my thesis which examines the ‘otherness’ of monsters. In this research I will be questioning what it is, other than appearance, that makes them monsters; I compare their actions with the heroes and gods, concentrating on an in-depth study of the Cyclops, Polyphemus, and Frankenstein’s ‘creature’.

It was clear, both on the day and from feedback that Shaun has received since, that both talks went down very well and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the day – I know I certainly did! The audience’s questions were intelligent and numerous and clearly showed they had been listening intently. I even had quite a few people come up and talk to me about it during the coffee break including one person who told me that he had always loved the story of Polyphemus and often used to tell it a long time ago when he was teaching but that I had now made him question his idea of Odysseus as the conquering hero! I thought this was a great response as not only is that the essence of my thesis but also because a main theme of my talk was how Classical Studies makes you think.

Jess’s research uses creative research methods to engage adults with learning difficulties in citizen science with the aim of identifying their capacity to engage, and the levels of support needed to engage this community, in a field they were previously excluded from. It turned out that a few of the attendees described themselves as having learning difficulties so her presentation had particular resonance with them.

There is a thriving OU community at both prisons, but the events are also open to non-OU students and are popular with both, usually attracting about fifteen to twenty attendees. At the session I went to, there were fifteen, six of whom were not yet studying although some were planning on starting in February 2020 and one who had already got a degree in Classics ‘a long time ago’. Anyone who is studying is registered for a six-year part-time degree and, in the group who attended at Stafford, there were three at Stage 1 (first/second year), four at Stage 2 (third/fourth year) and one at Stage 3 (fifth/sixth year). The students were studying a range of subjects: Business Studies, Social Science, International Studies, Creative Writing, Arts and Humanities, Science, and of course Classical Studies. So, in both academic terms and personality they were a very diverse and committed group.

All too soon, we were saying goodbye, and Liz was taking us back through all the locked doors and gates to the front office and locker room where we collected our belongings. The whole thing was an amazing and rewarding experience which I plan to repeat, hopefully more than once, during the next five years of my PhD – and I thoroughly recommend others to do the same!

Kassman Essay Prize 2019 – winner announced!

The John Stephen Kassman Memorial Essay prize is an annual award based on the income from a donation given by the late Alec Kassman in memory of his son. Alec was an Arts Faculty Staff Tutor in the London Region and a contributor to Classical Studies modules. The prize is open to all current Open University undergraduates, who are invited to submit a 3,000 word essay on any aspect of Greek and Roman antiquity. 

We’re delighted to announce that the winner of the John Stephen Kassman Memorial Essay prize is Sandy Buckel, who wrote an essay entitled “Investigating Constantine the Great: Can Material Evidence Help?”

We asked Sandy to tell us a bit about her OU study journey so far, and her plans for the future:

“I am 71 and live with my husband in Croatia, on the north Adriatic coast just opposite Venice. We farm our own field of olives and make our own olive oil. I have no intention of stopping learning (or working) in retirement and so the OU has been a real blessing to me. I started with the intention of doing a general humanities degree – the standard year 1 modules followed by A207: From Enlightenment to Romanticism, and A226: Exploring art and visual culture. Then I did A340: The Roman Empire, and it changed my life (well, a slight exaggeration perhaps, but it certainly had an impact). I loved it so much that I then went back a year, ditched A207 (although I am still glad I did it) and did A229: Exploring the classical world, so that I could aim at a Classical Studies degree. I am now doing A330: Myth in the Greek and Roman Worlds, and hope to graduate next summer. If all goes well I intend to take a Latin course next year and then try for an MA.

I have been lucky enough to do a lot of travelling all over the world, including the Middle East in the 1980s, where I was able to visit places such as Byblos, Palmyra, Jerash, Madaba, Petra, and many others, and enjoy them in a way which is no longer possible. This may be why A340 had such an impact on me. (Oh, and I live just off the Via Flavia, and the Pula amphitheatre is just down the road!)

My essay came about through the study of Constantine which occupies the last part of A340. Whist reading Timothy D. Barnes’ book Constantine: Dynasty, Religion and Power in the Later Roman Empire I was struck by his comment that non-literary evidence was inarticulate, and would always be inferior to literary evidence when exploring Constantine’s personal beliefs (2011, p.17). Even with my limited experience I have seen that this is all too often the scholar’s view, and I do think it rather unfair. So I set out to investigate one material source: the Arch of Constantine in Rome, and see whether it gave a better (and more unbiased) picture of Constantine than our main primary literary sources. I didn’t succeed completely, but I certainly learnt a lot. And it was great to be able to pick my own topic!”

Many congratulations to Sandy from all of us in the Department of Classical Studies!

 

Doctor Toga on Radio 1 – by Ursula Rothe

What to do when you get an email out of the blue from a BBC radio producer asking if you’re willing to be interviewed about the toga on a Radio 1 programme focusing on toga parties? You say yes, of course! I mean, you know it’s going to be silly, and you know you’re not going to be able to get much useful detail across. But on the other hand, everyone thinks they know what a toga looked like, when they rarely do: this was a golden opportunity for me as a Roman dress historian to challenge the misunderstanding surrounding Roman dress, and especially togas, and that to a large audience. After all, challenging misinformation and misconceptions about Roman dress is also the aim of my new website, Doctor Toga (www.drtoga.org ), a one-stop clinic for people from theatrical societies, re-enactment groups and the media to get expert advice on Roman dress for costumes.

The interview took place over the phone on Tuesday afternoon, and it involved Scott Mills and Chris Stark firing questions at me whilst also engaging in banter with each other. The line wasn’t brilliant, and it was not always easy, given the lack of visual cues, to know when to stop or start talking, but I think the result is pretty good nonetheless. It was clear they were trying to shock me with laddish innuendo at various stages, but Classical Studies scholars are not easy to offend – least of all Australian ones! I’m particularly pleased they left in my plug for my new website, although they did cut me talking about my upcoming book on the toga. Also, I was disappointed not to be able to tell them when they asked me when knickers were invented. (I must look that up.) But you can’t have it all!

It was interesting how much fun they made, at the beginning, of the idea that there might be someone who is an expert on the toga. Although perhaps somewhat confronting, it is always a healthy experience to be reminded of just how obscure the niche you inhabit is for some people. Let’s hope this kind of interview goes some way to convincing people that the classical world is still very much with us, and that it is a useful thing that there are people out there who spend their lives trying to understand it better. At the very least, let’s hope it will lead to a few more toga-like togas on the party circuit this freshers’ season!

You can find a link to the interview here (minutes 7.27-14.23): https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p07p676x

OU Classics at 50: a view from the hill country – by Judith George

Judith George was appointed as a Classics tutor in 1973, teaching Classics courses steadily thereafter till the present, with A229: Exploring the Classical World. She became an Assistant Staff Tutor in Arts in 1975, Senior Counsellor in 1978, and Deputy Scottish Director in 1984. As well as teaching on OU Classics courses, acting as critical reader for a number, and writing Learning Guide 4 (Creating your own TMA) for A295: Homer, Poetry and Society, she took her Doctorate at Edinburgh University (part-time of course, as a typical OU single parent mum), with practical support from the OU’s Regional Academic Services, and from David Sewart in particular, a Director of that unit who was himself a classicist. The PhD was on the subject of Venantius Fortunatus, a sixth-century Italian poet who established himself in the developing courts of Merovingian Gaul, and proceeded to embed Latin literature and culture in that culturally aspirational society – Romanitas was the watchword of both secular and religious authorities (George, 1992).

Her time in the Scottish Directorate came at the exciting period of expansion of open and distant learning on all sides. She was heavily involved in many innovations for the country as a whole, including the piloting of new technologies for the support of OU students, and for education, business and industry in general, and the development of community education, Open Learning projects, a new Scottish Prison Scheme, and the creation of the University of the Highlands and Islands. She also acted as an international educational consultant, to disseminate OU experience and expertise in Scandinavia and in Europe. In all these activities, continuing as a Classics tutor and academic, and taking OU courses herself, was an essential element in keeping a vivid awareness of the experience of being a learner, which contributed to her developmental work and action research. She has published widely on Late Antiquity and educational topics. She was awarded a personal Chair in Educational Research and Development in 2001, an Honorary Fellowship in the University of the Highlands and Islands, and in 2004 an OBE in recognition of her services to higher and lifelong learning.

Transformation is the motif running through my experience as a classicist within the OU – personal, social, cultural, institutional. On the personal front, having read Greats at Oxford, it was naturally out of the question for me to teach in the Classics Department of the ancient university to which my husband was appointed – husbands and wives could not work together.  The only work forthcoming was a teaching post in the Moral Philosophy Department – a post which, as Saki has it, was of ‘nomadic but punctual disposition’, consisting usually of my being phoned late on a Sunday evening in late September to be told that I was required to give classes on some aspect of Moral Philosophy from the following morning onwards. The pay was less than that of the departmental cleaners, and exam marking was onerous and unpaid. This did mean that my husband’s colleagues felt that they could now broach conversational topics with me on issues other than domestic trivia; but what was very frustrating was their total disinterest in what was actually happening in learning for their students. You could discuss their finances or their sex lives more readily than what was happening for their students. An apparently enthusiastic student, for example, kept on submitting work which I felt was seriously below her capacity. I eventually found out by chance that she had diabetes, was struggling to adjust her insulin levels, and had assumed that I was aware but just not willing to give help. The Head of Department, when I raised the matter, seemed quite shocked that I should be so intrusive and intimated that such interest in students, and especially in the circumstances of a student’s learning, was totally improper.

Appointment to the OU was a revelation. I had colleagues who were passionately interested in students’ learning; the focus of the Foundation courses was on creating a level baseline for students coming from unimaginably diverse backgrounds, so that they then had the capacity and the skills to move on to higher level courses. We spent our time devising support systems, ways of giving advice and guidance, strategies for compensating for life circumstances – it was wonderful. I remember vividly the first month of the first Classics course I taught, being contacted by a student on the Scottish Borders, who apologised profusely for his work being late, but explained that the lambing had started early this year. Such passion for Classics, interwoven with the classical shepherd’s calendar, had a vivid reality and weight rarely found in the conveyor-belt teenagers of privilege. So teaching Classics in the OU was a transformation to an institute where students not only mattered, they were the be-all-and-end-all of our professional work; and where studying Classics was a matter of passionate commitment.

I had always wanted to do a PhD, but had been unable to up to that point. Occasional translation work for the Professor of the History of Fine Art at Manchester had got me hooked on the question of what people hung on to and why as the so-called Dark Ages rolled over them. So I enrolled to do my doctoral work at Edinburgh, with the warm support of Regional Academic Services, on Venantius Fortunatus and his part in the transmission of Romanitas in sixth-century Gaul. Teaching for the OU had moved me substantially away from the narrowly compartmentalised traditions of Classics to the interdisciplinary approach of Ferguson (see Lorna Hardwick’s blog), and teaching A100 had also highlighted the vivid impact of poetry on people new to its world. All this fed into my approach to Fortunatus, in a field, the then-called Dark Ages, at a time when there was little interest and even less current scholarship, creating the space to expand and experiment with approaches. So Classics in the OU gave me the chance to move to doctoral level, and also the scholarly framework within which to innovate and be creative.

And being a Classicist member of the Scottish directorate enabled a distinctive OU contribution to the continued existence and vitality of scholarship in Late Classical Antiquity in Scotland.  In the mid-80s, these departments were on the brink of extinction. A couple of friends and I created EMERGE (the Early Medieval Europe Research Group), which brought together Insular and European scholars from across Scotland at least twice a term, for a convivial and supportive supper in the OU’s splendid Edinburgh centre, followed by an excellent paper, usually from an internationally recognised scholar. This raised morale, fostered interdisciplinary thinking, strengthened people to resist erosion and cuts, and encouraged younger students.

Being a ‘country member’ of the Classics Department and involved as a critical reader was also a great privilege. Apart from the fascination of crafting learning material across various media, it kept me in touch with a range of scholarly disciplines and gave me colleagues who have become lifelong friends. And it also gave me the chance to experiment with reflective learning. I designed Learning Guide Four of A295: Homer, Poetry and Society, to talk students through the process of choosing a topic which had one foot in Homer and the other in any topic of interest to them, formulating a question and answering it. This was a loosely formulated remit, deliberately so to give them the chance to be experimental and creative – so the Learning Guide talked them through the process of reflecting on their strengths and weaknesses as learners, on choosing appropriate formats of question, and then constructing a solid and sound argument. The results were fascinating.  We inevitably had a solid cluster on women’s role in the poems and the society, but also ones which were totally unpredictable.  A surgeon produced a vividly illustrated assessment of the wounds described in the Iliad, demonstrating that the accounts reflected a sound practical knowledge of the impact on human anatomy of a spear striking from this angle or an arrow penetrating from that. Quite gruesome, but quite clearly these descriptions were not purple passages. We had thoughts on birds in Homer from someone in Shetland, and many other idiosyncratic but valid topics. So working through Block 5 of A229 (Exploring the classical world: End-of-module assessment preparation) with my current students these past weeks has being revisiting that territory with pride that this has become embedded in our Classical teaching!

Classics has always also reflected the wider culture of society, and there has been transformation here too. In the first year of teaching students on the Isle of Lewis, I had fundamentalist Wee Free Presbyterian students who were enthusiastic, but totally paralysed by being expected to look at and even discuss representations of nude figures, especially female ones. And there was the audio conference call, drawing eight or so students across Scotland together for a discussion of Euripides. All was going smoothly, until I heard a strong intake of breath on one of the lines, and a stressed voice launched into the charge that we were discussing FAKE TEXTS – everyone knew that the Greeks were fine, upstanding folk, but this play was filthy and debased, so it could not be a true Greek text. That tutorial took quite a bit of handling! But times have changed. Naomi Mitchison, the author, receiving an Honorary OU Doctorate at a ceremony in Glasgow, spoke of the OU having lit candles in every little community the length and breadth of the Highlands and Islands, which illuminated and transformed them. She was right – the OU, and Classics playing above its weight, has broken barriers and brought people together in understanding and acceptance. Or has it? Inga Mantle, another OU classicist, is producing Aristophanes’ Ecclesiazusae in June this year. She has been banned from her usual venue by a church minister outraged by a frisky new translation, no longer clad in the decent obscurity of a learned language or more bland English!

So, a very Happy 50th anniversary to this remarkable institution, in which we have all been so lucky and privileged to be caught up.

 

Bibliography

George, J.W. (1992), Venantius Fortunatus: a poet in Merovingian Gaul (Clarendon Press, Oxford).

Happy Birthday OU – by Paula James

This post by Dr Paula James is the fourth in a series celebrating the Open University’s 50th birthday. To access the previous posts, click on ‘History of the OU’ in the ‘Categories’  menu, or follow the links in the first paragraph below. 

Dr Janet Huskinson has followed Professors Lorna Hardwick and Chris Emlyn Jones, the dynamic duo who put our subject on the map in Distance Learning, with her eloquent and generous reminiscences about writing and teaching Classical Studies modules.  It was an honour and an education for me to work so closely with Janet on The Roman Family and Culture, Identity and Power, both groundbreaking modules.

There are other colleagues who were a joy to write and teach with but special mention must be made of another dear friend, Dr Anastasia Bakogianni, who chaired the Classical Studies MA and with whom I produced the ‘Reception of Greek and Roman Tragedies’ option at the end of my OU career.  Like any course and module team process this could be a roller coaster of redrafts and frayed tempers but thank heavens for brilliant course managers and media experts who kept us on track!

Being an OU Lecturer and in my case Staff Tutor based in the South East I would say that the learning curve in earlier and later years was just amazing. I became a creature of interdisciplinary studies partly because I was managing and supporting tutors (local Associate Lecturers) across the Arts Faculty departments and of course Janet and I were asked almost immediately in 1993 to take on the Colosseum unit for the new Humanities course A103, An Introduction to the Humanities, a study section which proved really popular with students and rewarding and challenging for me and Janet.

A103 Humanities

Gladiators took me well out of my comfort zone (although Ridley Scott’s epic movie of 1999 yet again proved that Classicists in the OU have an eye on the cultural future as well as the ancient past!) but then I was already reeling from my first residential school in Manchester (summer 1994) when I was teaching face to face on A102 (An arts foundation course) about mid-Victorian Britain. The weeks when students and tutors could experience the camaraderie and stimulation of campus life and learning were so important for retention and progress; their demise is still to be mourned even in a high tech age.

I became quite skilled at intermeshing all the new subject areas with my research activity so that I produced articles and chapters on the Roman arena, a monograph on the myth of Pygmalion on screen (Burne Jones and Ovid’s mythology was part of my A102 pre Raphaelite fun lecture at Manchester, while Shaw’s play featured in A103) and even a book on Trade Union emblem imagery 1850-1925, courtesy of the Culture Block in A102 (this book was produced together with Dr Annie Ravenhill-Johnson; I edited her essays on the art and ideology of the Trade Union emblem). A book on literary parrots also came to fruition during seminars on Wide Sargasso Sea for A103 and I had the pleasure of writing alongside polymath Associate Lecturer Dr Julia Courtney who ended up as an honorary member of the Classical Studies Department.

Paula James publications

None of this would have been possible without the expectations of the Arts Faculty and my more experienced colleagues that you knuckled down and got on with what our degree programmes needed and our students wanted. To me this should continue to be the driver that ensures many more years of the Open University as the benchmark of lifelong learning. The now joined up Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences should be widening our perceptions of society in all its rich diversity and keeping us critical and reflective, and that applies to all of us at every level of the teaching and learning journey.

I want to end with something I tend to do on personal birthdays (and 69 approaches in September of this year) which is assess what I have achieved and what is to be done. My blog post here is full of praise for what the OU means to me and why I am a better scholar after my 28 years (I started as an OU tutor in 1991 and am still at the margins of academic life as a research associate) but my last days were marred by the closure of my regional office (R13) during 2014 and the loss of many (mostly female) staff who ran our wonderful tutor and student support teams.

This was followed by the shutting down of most other offices and the further centralisation and digitalization of processes that need the personal, holistic and local touch.  I am shamelessly going to ask that the OU leadership and senior management take stock of past decisions in this our 50th year so that we can, hand on heart, say our vision for more socially and aesthetically aware citizens is what we are giving to the UK in the 21st century.  I used to swell with pride at seeing so many students receiving their degrees at our ceremonies in Brighton.  Those days of celebration are an abiding image of what the human spirit can achieve with personal dedication, collegiate learning and critical reflection. Happy Birthday Open University!

 

Listen to Paula James talk about her research on Ovid, Pygmalion, Salmacis and Hermaphroditus (audio recorded at the 2017 Classical Association conference in Kent).

Studentships: MA in Classical Studies

We are delighted to be able to offer three fully-funded scholarships for our MA in Classical Studies:

  • One scholarship will be awarded through an open competition, on the basis of the academic excellence of the applicant.
  • Two scholarships, generously funded by the A.G. Leventis Foundation, will be awarded to a UK schoolteacher who intends to introduce or develop the provision of Classical Civilisation in the curriculum of the school where they work.

The Open University’s MA in Classical Studies:

The MA in Classical Studies at the Open University focuses on the question ‘How do we know what we know about the ancient world?’ It is designed both to introduce you to key concepts and themes in Classical Studies and to allow you to explore some of these in more depth. Over the course of the two modules that make up the qualification, it gradually builds up your knowledge and the skills you need to explore ancient visual and written material, while also training you to become an independent researcher. This is the ideal qualification for anyone who wants to know more about the ancient world and the ways in which we can approach it as researchers. It also offers an excellent starting-point for those wishing to teach classical subjects in secondary school. It is a two-year qualification requiring approximately 16 hours of study time a week, which means that it can be completed alongside employment, and it is taught entirely online. No specific prior knowledge is assumed, and there is no requirement to have studied Latin or Ancient Greek, but an undergraduate degree in a cognate discipline is recommended as a basis. By consultation other arrangements can sometimes be made if you do not hold a degree in such a discipline. This usually involves preparatory reading. Further information about the MA is available on the OU website, and on our departmental website.

The scholarship covers full fees for the MA. In addition, the Leventis scholarships come with a small bursary designed to help recipients acquire and develop resources for teaching Classical Studies or related subjects in their school.

Developing Classical Studies in Schools:

Schoolteachers applying for one of the Leventis scholarships may be interested in the panel discussion at a recent Advocating Classics Education event at the Open University, in which  representatives of the ACE project, Classics for All, and a teacher with recent experience of developing Classical Studies provision in a state secondary school shared their experiences and offered guidance and advice. The full discussion is available online here.

How to apply:

To apply for the scholarship, please complete the MA-scholarship-application-form-2019 and send it to FASS-ClassicalStudies-Enquiries@open.ac.uk. With the form you should also send:

  • a separate curriculum vitae (CV) of no more than two pages;
  • a copy of your latest degree certificate;
  • a transcript of your degree that makes clear the level of your academic achievement;
  • the name of an academic referee who would be prepared to support your application if you are shortlisted (this should be someone who has taught you or worked with you);
  • a statement from your headteacher indicating that they are willing to support your plans to develop Classical Civilisation, if you are applying for the Leventis scholarship.

The application form includes a section for a personal statement.

  • Applicants for the Leventis scholarship should use this section to outline their teaching experience to date and to provide a clear indication of the way in which they propose to develop the provision of Classical Civilisation in their school. The successful applicant will be selected on the basis of this statement, and on academic excellence in their studies to date.
  • Applicants for the open competition scholarship should use the personal statement to give an account of their prior experience of studying the ancient world, and to explain why they want to study for the MA in Classical Studies at the OU.

The scholarships will not be awarded to students receiving full funding from other funding bodies. It is not necessary to register for the MA degree before making this application.

The Open University promotes diversity in education and we welcome applications from all sections of the community. If it would help to have the application in an alternative format please contact FASS-ClassicalStudies-Enquiries@open.ac.uk.

The deadline for applications is 4pm on Monday 10th June and we intend to inform all applicants of the outcome by early July.

Informal enquiries can be made to Joanna Paul (joanna.paul@open.ac.uk).

Happy birthday, OU! – by Janet Huskinson

This is the third in a series of blog posts looking back at the history of the Department of Classical Studies at the Open University, on the occasion of the OU’s 50th anniversary. Janet Huskinson arrived at the OU in 1993, joining Lorna Hardwick and Chris Emlyn-Jones in the Department of Classical Studies.

Happy birthday, OU!

Many congratulations on being 50, which – I think it’s true to say – in human experience is a time for a big gulp, and a fair amount of self-reflection!

In fact, I was nearly 50 when the OU gave me my first, full-time permanent job, after many years of juggling various part-time jobs teaching Roman art in Cambridge (where I continued to live with my daughters).

So I know that a 50th anniversary is a good time for moving forward into a new future, while being aware of what’s been achieved in, and shaped by, the past. Many students speak from their heart about how their OU studies have led them to a new life. Well, I am an academic, a teacher, who can proudly say the same! It was a wonderful opportunity in so many ways.

Lorna Hardwick and Chris Emlyn-Jones have described in their blogs the early days of our Department of Classical Studies, and the many challenges and opportunities which it involved. Many years after it began, I joined them as a third colleague in 1993 – very soon to be followed by Paula James, another Romanist.  As was the case then for colleagues in many university Classics departments, I found myself the only person whose specialism was not in textual but in material sources (in my case, visual).  But here too, as the department expanded, I was soon joined by colleagues – Phil Perkins, Lisa Nevett, Val Hope, and Dominic Montserrat –  with their own particular interests in the material culture of antiquity. (And now, one of the few things that just might make me regret retirement are the exciting new research opportunities offered by The Baron Thyssen Centre for the Study of Ancient Material Religion.)

Working with a variety of scholarly disciplines makes Classics such a good subject to study. But I think that the particular inter-disciplinary approach of our courses is a great strength – and not just for our students. Through teaching on OU course teams I’ve learned some lasting lessons , e.g. about working with various types of source material, and how to frame discussions at different levels, in terms that are informative, challenging and accessible. I’ve been able to apply them in my own research (on the visual imagery on Roman sarcophagi), but their impact was stronger on my teaching  – perhaps because at the OU this also involved  a variety of modern teaching media, rather than conventional lecturing.

I’ll just mention two courses, in which I was heavily involved during production (and for several years after in presentation).

The first was ‘ A428 The Roman Family’,  which I wrote with Paula. It was the departmental offering in a suite of short, low cost, low population  third level courses which had a dissertation rather than an exam. as the final assessment.  This was a fairly hot topic in Roman social history in the 1990s, and had inspired a number of books ideal as texts for our third level students (some of whom would have no prior knowledge of Roman society). I’d worked on it myself in the course of researching the imagery Romans used on children’s sarcophagi.  So – for once! – I felt generally confident in my knowledge of the topic and ability to produce the teaching material required.

Sadly for me, the cost constraints in producing the material for these courses meant that I could not include many enticing illustrations of Roman art  ( but by then I had already learned that I had unfortunately chosen an academic specialism that could prove expensive to write about, in teaching and research!)  But the sources that were included, and introduced to students, were wide-ranging – as indeed were the subjects chosen by students for their dissertation.

This business of choosing subjects, and advising students on how to follow them through in writing up , helped make A428 a friendly and enjoyable course to teach. Students, tutors, and course team could get to know each other quite well in the process, which for me was great ( as I never quite reconciled to the OU’s lack of opportunity to watch students develop by teaching them face to face over a period of time).  I was sorry when A428 ended –  and I’ll now confess it was my favourite course to work on!

The second course , ‘AA309: Culture, identity and power in the Roman empire’,  was in all respects, very heavy duty – certainly in comparison with A428, and my role as course chair there. This was to be the department’s principal Roman offering, and a successor to the much-loved course ‘Rome in the Augustan Age’. No pressure, then!

But we began with an excellent subject (chosen by Lorna, I believe), which linked into topical concerns in questions of identity, and in the ‘cultural turn’ of classical scholarship; and on the course team we had a strong range of talents and specialisms which would mean that we could teach interestingly about it for our students.

And we did, I think. The course attracted good numbers, and its book, Experiencing Rome (another good title, this time thanks to Paula), co-published with Routledge, was a great success on the open market and used as a textbook elsewhere.

En route to that happy ending I learned a lot – much about the opportunities of interdisciplinarity, but even more perhaps of the ‘keep calm and carry on’ type!

As for every OU course produced, I guess, there was the early problem of  how best to structure the course so that it would deliver appropriate academic content  (i.e. appropriate to the range of the Roman empire itself, to the range of historical sources to be taught, and to the range of students, some of whom may not have done a  Classical Studies course before, and certainly not at third level) AND at the same time fit it with the expertise and personal timetables ( scheduled leave, end of contracts etc etc)  of the course team members best suited to teach the various components.  In the end many of us ended up writing about topics which wouldn’t have been our first choice, as I personally recalled rather bitterly when walking around forts on Hadrian’s Wall in a very wet July for a video on Roman Britain !

Interviewing Lindsay Allason-Jones at the the site of the Roman fort at Benwell, for the course AA309: Culture, identity and power in the Roman empire

At this time audio-visual material was still produced by the BBC unit at Walton Hall, rather than being contracted out to independent production companies. Picture research and the editing of our draft texts were done by specialists in the Faculty – so we got to know these colleagues well, for their support as well as for their regular issuing of deadlines. Looking back, I feel that we worked with a lot of paperwork, of which some items – usually some complex list of illustrations/captions – regularly went AWOL and had to be re-done in a hurry! But perhaps that’s just a fake memory. I do, however, have a lasting souvenir of some of our best (?) AA309 experiences – a ‘Candid Camera’ video sneakily made by Mags Noble our BBC producer of various course team presenters caught at unsuspecting moments. Not available for this blog, though!

Janet Huskinson  ( OU 1993-2008)

April 2019

Special cake made to commemorate the final exam meeting for the module A428 ('The Roman Family'), which ran from 1997 - 2004

Special cake made to commemorate the final exam meeting for the module A428 (‘The Roman Family’), which ran from 1997 – 2004