Introducing….Christine Plastow, Lecturer in Classical Studies

Christine Plastow

I’m really happy to be joining Classical Studies at the Open University, in my first post since finishing my PhD. I’d like to thank publicly all of my colleagues for already having made me feel so welcome! Having discovered Classics by accident when I was persuaded to sign up for a Classical Civilisation A level instead of one in History, I began my Classics career in earnest as an undergraduate at Royal Holloway, University of London in English Literature and Classical Studies. While there, I began work on the Athenian forensic speeches in a dissertation on legal language and rhetoric in [Demosthenes] 59 Against Neaira; the forensic speeches would come to be my primary research focus. I then moved to the University of Bristol, where I gained a Masters in Classics and Ancient History and continued my interest in forensic rhetoric with a dissertation on invective in the courts. Finally, I ended up at University College London to study for my PhD under the supervision of Professor Chris Carey. This project, entitled ‘Athenian Homicide Law in Context’, explored the distinctive nature of homicide in Athenian law and culture, and the ways in which the legal system set homicide apart from other crimes. My primary focus was exploring how this distinctiveness played out in rhetoric, by examining several prominent features of forensic speeches on homicide: Athenian ideology, religious pollution, relevance, and the twin issues of motivation and intent. The project illustrated that although the Athenians would regularly speak about homicide in a way that implied it was always subject to especially solemn and rigorous treatment, in practice speeches in trials for homicide or where homicide was a secondary issue were just as commonly exploited for personal and political gain as any other. A secondary goal of the project was to explore the courtroom context of delivery and the effects this may have had on rhetoric; I noted several significant differences between homicide rhetoric delivered in the homicide courts and that delivered in the popular courts. I am currently in the process of turning my thesis into a book, provisionally titled Homicide in the Attic Orators: Rhetoric, Ideology, and Context.

The next research project that I’m looking to undertake grows out of the secondary conclusions from my thesis. I’m interested in how space and place played various roles in Athenian oratory – of all genres, not just forensic. In this project, I’ll be following two major strands of enquiry. Firstly, I’ll look at how the physical space of delivery could affect the rhetoric used in a speech, by way of both visual impact and ideology. In the case of the homicide courts, the visual and ideological markers of religious solemnity – the location of all of the homicide courts at religious sites, the proximity of shrines to the Areopagus, the performance of distinctive sacrifices and the swearing of particularly weighty oaths – must have made the religious danger of homicide causing pollution particularly clear to those present at the trial, and therefore may have decreased the need for or effectiveness of pollution rhetoric. This might partly explain the apparent dearth of references to pollution in the forensic speeches for homicide. I’ll examine how this pattern extends across the courts, the assembly, and locations for public funerals, by looking at the physical features of the delivery spaces, as well as the psychological associations that they would have for those present. My second strand of enquiry looks at how spaces and places are constructed, invoked, and used rhetorically in the speeches, particularly in addressing issues of identity and ideology. The very existence of places – in my framework, locations with a particular meaning to a particular individual or group – implies identity, both for the place and for the people for whom it is meaningful. Spaces – locations defined more physically – often have effects on individuals’ behaviours and identities. Both spaces and places can invoke strong ideological associations, an effect that was no different in Athens. Thus, these themes could be deployed in rhetoric to particular effect in front of Athenian audiences. I am currently preparing a chapter on an initial case study for this project, entitled ‘Space, Place, and Identity in Antiphon 5’.

Besides my primary research interests, I’m particularly keen on 20th and 21st century receptions of Greek drama. While at UCL, I helped to organise a series of events called Conversations with Iphigenia, which presented discussions between the playwrights of the Gate Theatre Notting Hill’s Iphigenia Quartet, other theatre practitioners, and academics from Classics, Theatre Studies, and Translation Studies. A transcript of the roundtable discussions from these events will appear in the OU’s Practitioners’ Voices in Classical Reception Studies journal in 2018. I also work regularly with the London-based By Jove Theatre Company, where I am their research and education co-ordinator and blog editor. By Jove focus on new writing, particularly women’s writing, that presents old stories for a new audience, and has staged new versions of Greek tragedies, Shakespeare plays, and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice over the last 5 years. For more on the company, or to read the blog, see www.byjovetheatre.org. I’m also really interested in applications of feminist theory and translation studies to Classics.

When I’m not doing research, teaching is my passion. Though I enjoy teaching all aspects of Classics – particularly themes on Classical Athenian history, society, and culture, as well as Greek law – I’m an especially keen teacher of Ancient Greek. My favourite classes are students of Greek who are coming to the language as undergraduates or later, as I myself never had an opportunity to study ancient languages at school, and only started study as an undergraduate. Such courses tend to be fast-paced and high intensity, and thus require a lot of dedication and persistence – from the teacher as well as the student! Nevertheless, some of my most rewarding teaching experiences have been in Greek classes, where students have finally grasped a difficult grammatical concept after a long struggle. I think there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had in learning Greek, not only because of its extensive and poetic vocabulary and far more precise grammar than in English, but also because translating a complicated passage often feels like trying to break a code – with the same sense of achievement (and access to hidden information!) when you’re done.

I’m really looking forward to my next two years at the Open University, and I hope to meet many new faces along the way! If you’d like to find out more about me, follow me through the next couple of years, or just say hi, you can find me on Twitter @chrissieplastow or on my personal website and blog at christineplastow.com.

 

 

Our MA in Classical Studies: a student’s perspective

In this post, John Teller, a recent graduate of our MA in Classical Studies, reflects on his experience. If you’re interested in finding out more about this qualification, visit our department website

When I came across the details for the MA in Classical Studies at the Open University, in 2015, I knew it was exactly what I was looking for. I had no background in Classics, and no experience of studying history (I’d previously studied as a scientist and a policy studies wonk), and to begin with, I was advised against registering. However, after discussion with tutors, I convinced them that I might make the grade – and in 2017 I completed the MA with a distinction!

My initial excitement at being accepted was quickly tempered by the realisation that I had no idea what Classical Studies really was. My lifeline turned out to be the very heavily recommended book by D. M. Schaps, Handbook for Classical Research. This did for me what a good Lonely Planet guide does for the traveller. It showed me the scope of where I was going to travel in my studies and, whilst the enormity and the depth of the study material was mindblowing, it only whetted my appetite for what was to come. Continue reading

Classics in the Open University – The Early Days

In this post, we share with you the text of an article that was published in the Classics journal ‘Greece and Rome’ in 1974, just five years after The Open University received its Royal Charter. It was penned by John Ferguson, the first Dean of the OU Arts Faculty; prior to this appointment, Ferguson had been teaching Classics at the University of Ibadan.

The article introduces the OU to an audience of fellow classicists who were teaching at ‘conventional’ institutions: hence Ferguson starts by explaining the OU’s mission, before moving on to discuss, with great frankness, some of the practical and academic considerations that shaped the new Faculty and the earliest Classical Studies curriculum.

We are very grateful to Cambridge University Press and the editors of ‘Greece and Rome’ for allowing us to reproduce the full  text of this article on our blog – a fascinating insight into the early history of our subject area!

Pioneers of the OU: showing (from left to right) Mike Pentz, first Dean of Science; Geoffrey Holister, first Dean of Technology; Maxim Bruckheimer, first Dean of Mathematics; John Ferguson, first Dean of Arts; Walter Perry, first Vice-Chancellor; and Anastasias Christodoulou, first University Secretary.

Pioneers of the OU: showing (from left to right) Mike Pentz, first Dean of Science; Geoffrey Holister, first Dean of Technology; Maxim Bruckheimer, first Dean of Mathematics; John Ferguson, first Dean of Arts; Walter Perry, first Vice-Chancellor; and Anastasias Christodoulou, first University Secretary.

Article title: Classics in the Open University
Author: J. Ferguson
Source: Greece & Rome, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Apr., 1974), pp. 1-10
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Classical Association

“The Open University received its charter in July 1969, offered its first courses in January 1971, and produced its first graduates (with some ‘credit exemptions’) by the end of 1972. Those who originally planned it saw that many people who for various reasons missed their opportunity of university education at the usual stage of their lives could profit from it, provided that what was offered was home-based study in spare time. They saw too that radio and television offered an excellent opportunity for helping such study to be direct and personal. Students then are admitted with no entry qualification except the age of 21. We have built a few parameters into our selection procedure; we can control the proportion admitted to any one foundation course or from any one region of the country for example; but basically it is ‘First come, first served’. Typical students are the boy who has been to a poor school, has never been turned on, has left at the age of 15 and gone into industry, and in his twenties has suddenly become excited by what he is doing and at the same time has revealed a keen mind; the girl who with decent A levels has got married at 18, sees her family growing up, is aware that she has time for some study while they are at school, and will be able to take a full-time job in three or four years; the long-term prisoner needing a constructive occupation in prison and qualification for when he comes out; the working-class lad who has entered the police force and, by ability and application, has worked his way up from the beat; the retired industrial worker or bank manager who wants a positive purpose in his retirement; the teacher who has no degree, perhaps because the family could not afford more than a two-year course, and seeks more knowledge in his subject, as well as the increment applicable to a degree; the person well settled in one profession who would like to qualify for a second career before giving up the first; the taxi-driver who is interested in people and ideas, and wants to know what it is all about. We have them all, and many others.

The Planning Committee, a body which included most of the country’s leading educationalists and no politicians, decided for three reasons that the basic courses should be of a new kind, and should be an attempt at an integrated or inter-disciplinary approach. For, first, they thought that the seamless web of learning had become too tattered, and that we were not even seeing the shreds in context. Secondly, they thought that if we were attracting the sort of students we should attract, there would be many who would have a general sense that they wanted to work in the humanities, but might not know exactly which aspect of the humanities interested them. Even more they might (for instance) think that they wanted to study history or literature, and might never dream of trying philosophy or art history unless they had had the opportunity of an earlier sample. Thirdly, operational constraints conspired to make our basic courses large in numbers. The main constraints here were the limited amount of air time available, which meant that it would not be possible to have basic courses in all the familiar university disciplines, and money, for the Open University had to establish itself on a ‘cost-effective’ basis. The pessimistic prophecies of an 80 per cent drop out have not been fulfilled; in fact in the first year we had an 80 per cent pass rate in Arts. But when we started no one knew what the results would be, and we had to be cost-effective even on the most pessimistic prognostication.

When I was appointed Dean of Arts in 1968 I was asked to name four areas in which professors should be appointed. I named history, literature, the whole area of thought (philosophy and religion), and the fine arts. It is important to see that these are not departments, and we have resisted any tendency towards a departmental organization. We did not seek at this stage to develop languages, dead or alive. There were a variety of reasons for this. First, the problems of teaching languages at a distance were quite different from any of the other problems we were facing, and we had enough problems as it was. Secondly, those who wanted courses in languages were reasonably well catered for, by the BBC, by Linguaphone, and, in the main centres of population, by evening classes. Thirdly, languages did not fit easily into the emergent pattern of basic courses, which were strongly integrated, and the amount of any one language one could have mastered as a fraction of the foundation course would not have been worth while. Fourthly, while there was general agreement that language courses should be geared in to communication, i.e. reading and writing, there was controversy whether such courses were properly part of a University degree. Languages remain one competitor for University expansion, but it is unlikely that the classical languages will have any high priority. In the meantime work on classical and foreign texts is done in translation.

Originally there were four faculties, Arts, Social Science, Science, and Mathematics. Since then we have added Technology, and Education (which does not offer a Foundation Course). Graduation is on six credits, a credit representing the successful completion of a course which runs for the whole of an academic year. Students are not permitted to take more than two credits in one year. Since the first year we have added some half-credit courses, but do not intend to have any of lower denomination. This system has the flexibility of the American system without its fragmentation, the structure of the English system without its rigidity. Students are required (unless they are accorded a ‘credit-exemption’ in acknowledgement of study already achieved at a University level) to take two Foundation Courses. They must therefore do some work in more than one faculty. But we have not bridged Sir Charles Snow’s two cultures. The majority of our original 20,000 students, and of the 48,000 we have since admitted, have tended to combine the science-based subjects or the arts-based subjects, though the figure of perhaps 200 a year who combine science and arts, small in proportion, is not absolutely negligible. The Planning Committee assumed that faculties would extend the integrated approach to the ‘second level’, and that the majority of students would graduate without going beyond second level. Specialist courses would begin at third level, and students would convert ‘general’ degrees to ‘honours’ degrees by the addition of two such specialist courses. The Arts Faculty has in fact continued integrated courses into the second level, but it is already clear that some students will take specialist courses at third level as part of their original six credits, and it is a strength of the system that they can do so. At the same time the specialist courses continue the element of integration: the literature course on The Nineteenth Century Novel looks at the historical and social background and parallel developments in the other arts, the history course on War and Society looks at the impact of war upon literature, music, the arts, and religion.

The first courses ran for 36 teaching weeks. This was reduced first to 34, and later to 32. In addition, for all science courses, for all foundation courses, and for most other courses there is a week’s intensive summer school. There is also a revision period and an examination. Students are expected to put in about twelve hours a week on a course, though some put in appreciably more. Students are assumed to be home-based. There are study-centres in the main centres of population, where they can meet with other students and with tutors (academic) and counsellors (general advisers). The basic course-material is centrally prepared and sent to them at regular intervals. It consists of beautifully printed, well-illustrated booklets. We have tried to design them so that they are strongly personal and conversational, and form a kind of dialogue between reader and writer. We invite a student to make responses, and then read on as if we were commenting on his response. Students are required to purchase some books, and these are negotiated with publishers, so that they are kept in print, and are as cheap as possible. Some of these are specially published for the course (which has a guaranteed life of four years). At foundation level there is a weekly television and weekly radio programme; at later levels these may be less frequent. They form an important bridge for some students between the familiar means of comunication and the less familiar involvement with the written word. They enable students to see what we look like and to hear our voices. They enable us to introduce eminent specialists from all over the world. They are essential to visual and auditory experience, as in drama and music. And they have a variety of other uses. Written work is corrected by part-time tutors. Students are assessed on their written work, with one three-hour exam at the end of each course to add confirmation.

The Foundation Course in Arts is entitled ‘Humanities: An Introduction’. It is frankly a compromise, one worked out through many months of patient negotiation, between a variety of sometimes conflicting opinions and interests. Sometimes it achieves an integrated approach; sometimes it is interdisciplinary; sometimes it is merely multidisciplinary. After an introduction (originally 4 weeks, now 2) each of the disciplines, history, literature, art history, music, exposes its wares. Then follows a series of case-studies (one of which, on Descartes, is effectively an introduction to philosophy), each lasting two weeks, and an extended eight-week-long case-study on ‘Industrialization and Culture’. An introduction to logic runs concurrently with the first half of the course.

Part of the introduction is an attempt to raise some questions about the relation between technology, society, and the arts. In raising these questions I take off from two famous passages in Greek tragedy, the long speech in which Prometheus outlines man’s indebtedness to him for the gift of fire, and the chorus in Antigone which sings of man’s achievements and his limitations. So that at the outset students become aware of classical literature. When we discussed the case-studies, we felt that they should enable students to apply the techniques of critical analysis which they were beginning to learn; they should where possible be inter-disciplinary; and they should open up aspects of our inheritance of which students should be aware. I was therefore insistent that one case-study should link with our classical heritage and one with our Christian heritage. For the first we chose Socrates. C. F. Angus used to describe him as one of the three most fascinating personalities who ever lived, and the only one who was not worshipped as divine (the others being Jesus and Gautama the Buddha). It was this aspect we decided to concentrate on. We did not treat Socrates primarily philosophically, partly because I do not believe that the Theory of Forms pertains to Socrates (what a lot of Vlastos’s recent collection of essays on Socrates is really about Plato!), partly because this would in any case form part of a third-level philosophy course, partly because they had not yet had their philosophical grounding. But of course there are inescapable links with philosophy. What there is also is a fascinating problem in source-criticism.

To this end I compiled a source-book on Socrates. I had often needed one for teaching in the past, and was glad to compile one. As it has met with criticism from the reviewers, a comment or two may not come amiss. It is an attempt to present all the evidence (Plato and Xenophon being represented by key-passages only) about Socrates. Many of the criticisms I accept. It had to be done in an extreme hurry, and we had, with one exception, to use out-of-copyright translations because there was no time to negotiate copyright. I missed one important passage in pseudo-Lysias (though no reviewer has in fact mentioned this), and am now persuaded that I mistranslated one Aristotle passage. But this was a source-book for students, and I do not agree that it should have had the sort of index which does students’ work for them. Of course in the later passages about Socrates there is a lot of dead wood, Stoic or Cynic moralizing, trivial anecdotes, and the like. But these late writers still had access to Aeschines of Sphettus, and perhaps other contemporary writers. No one has really asked what information they may yield, and it was not the book’s purpose to anticipate such conclusions. We were able, because of the magnitude of the O.U. operation, to put out nearly 400 double-column pages, including the first-ever translation into English of Libanius’s Defence of Socrates, for 42p.

The course-units (entitled Which was Socrates?) then are an invitation to evaluate the source-material, with a sketch of the historical background. The first radio programme is a talk with illustrative excerpts showing the problem of the principal sources. The second is a philosophical discussion between Renford Bambrough and Godfrey Vesey of the significance of the Socratic ‘universals’ for modern philosophy. The first TV programme is a presentation of the key-passages of The Clouds in conditions as near to the original as we can get in the studio. This is after all our only primary source for that period of Socrates’s life, and it is important to see it as drama, comic drama, and low comic drama. The masks incidentally, brilliantly designed, formed a problem in the heat of the studio. A second programme discusses the point of the first. Altogether we wanted students to feel the impact of Socrates the man. One of the more moving letters I have received came from a tutor in the Isle of Wight to say what a therapeutic effect the Socrates units had had on long-time prisoners in Parkhurst gaol!

After Socrates come two units entitled What is a Gospel? It is a study of the compilation, writing, nature, and tradition of The Gospel according to Mark, again with a sketch of the historical background. It seemed a good idea to expose students to two of Angus’s three seminal personalities in swift succession. It has made possible an interesting assignment, ‘Compare the reasons for executing Socrates with those for executing Jesus’. The exposition is naturally open, historical and philosophical, not dogmatic.

At the second level we apply the integrated approach to period studies. Our two main courses are Renaissance and Reformation and The Age of Revolutions. Included in the first are a couple of units on the classical and mediaeval inheritance, and in them I discuss Renaissance humanism against its classical background. The associated radio programmes are a portrait of Petrarch as a humanist, and an exposition of Platonism as an essential backcloth to Renaissance art and thought. There is one television programme, made in colour, an exploration of the neo-Platonism underlying some of Botticelli’s paintings. Obviously also the account of Florentine art and architecture includes their indebtedness to classical principles and classical originals. The Age of Revolutions naturally has less classical involvement, but Jefferson’s architecture is deeply rooted in the ancient world, as are many of the ideas of the French and American revolutions, and the High Art of the period (not least that of David) has important classical references. In addition to these we have begun to develop courses in the history of science; I suspect that I am the only Dean of Arts in the country with four chemists on his staff. One of the first two half-credits, Science and Belief from Copernicus to Darwin, includes a certain amount of material on the Aristotelian and Ptolemaic world-pictures, and on Renaissance neo-Platonism; I have contributed a radio programme on the Cambridge Platonists. A projected course on The History of Mathematics will contain a considerable body of material on Greek mathematics.

We have recently taken the decision to augment our second-level courses with two half-credits on classical civilization. The first of these, The Early Roman Empire and the Rise of Christianity, will be available in 1974. We have taken as notional dates A.D. 14-138, not without considerable heart-searching. But the reign of Augustus has two serious disadvantages for our purposes: the primary sources are too limited, scattered, and varied, and the literature is too bulky for a half- credit course; and the late Republic really does need more of Cicero’s speeches than are readily available in translation outside the too ex- pensive Loeb. The more we looked, the more the early Empire had to commend it, the emergence of the pax Romana, the rise of Christianity, Tacitus as a primary source, the climax of satire, moral philosophy represented by Seneca, the first serious invasion of Britain, plenty of material on social life, Pompeii and Herculaneum, portrait busts. So we shaped the course. We were fortunate in persuading J. P. V. D. Balsdon to join us as a consultant to write the basic history units; he quickly fell in with our unfamiliar approach to presentation without losing his own pungent style. These units are associated with television programmes on ‘The Roman Army’ by Michael Jarrett, and on ‘Image of Empire’ (a study in imperial propaganda) by myself, and radio programmes from Michael Grant and A. N. Sherwin-White. Then come two units on moral philosophy, using Seneca’s letters as a basis; the radio programmes are a dramatic presentation, entertainingly acted, of Lucian’s Philosophies for Sale, and a talk, with dramatic illustrations, on the Stoicism in Seneca’s tragedies. Next come two units on satire, Petronius and Juvenal unexpurgated. (When these are put together with our somewhat phallic version of The Clouds I shall have acquired a high reputation for immoralism!) The radio programmes are a dramatization of the Ludus de morte Claudii, and a talk on Martial, illustrated by ample quotation. Then two learned units on Roman art by Catherine King, one of our History of Art lecturers. This has associated with it television programmes on Roman domestic architecture and Roman portraits, and radio programmes on urbanism and Roman building. Then two units on social life, which Balsdon and I have shared. The television programme treats the Romans at work and the radio programmes the imperial elites, and the School of Rhetoric. Peter Salway has a single unit on Roman Britain with a television programme in which he looks at Fishbourne and Bath with Barry Cunliffe, and a radio programme on the Britons under Rome. Finally, a block of four units treats the rise of Christianity. Dr. Francis Clark together with the staff tutor, Revd. D. A. T. Thomas, is responsible for these. The first television programme shows Christianity among other religions; I have done this; the other is the first television film shot under St. Peter’s.

Set books for the course include Penguin or Mentor translations of Tacitus’s Annals, Seneca (Letters from a Stoic), Petronius and Juvenal, the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers, as well as the appropriate volume of Lewis and Reinhold for primary sources. A very proper limit of essential expenditure to £9 for a half-course constricts our secondary sources. Salmon and Filson between them cover the history, and Wheeler the art and architecture. At the time I write it looks as if there will be an initial registration of slightly under I,000 for this course.

We hope to complement this with a half-course on Greece 450-350 B.C., though this may not be available before 1978. The present plan, which may be modified, is that the course will contain, interspersed with each other, four units on history, four on literature, four on philosophy, and four on art. The dates are notional, and may be stretched slightly in either direction. The literature is likely to concentrate on drama. We hope to take The Oresteia, and perhaps the two Electra plays, and an Aristophanes, perhaps (as Douglass Parker calls it) The Congresswomen, which fits in pleasantly with the philosophy and the political history, and is beginning to point forward to New Comedy. For the philosophy we shall probably do a double-unit on The Republic and another on The Ethics (to end the course). The art units are not yet planned, but Peter Salway will probably treat the Acropolis, and we shall surely need units on vase-painting and sculpture. Professor Gerald Fowler, who held a university post in ancient history, before entering first practical and then theoretical politics, will be a member of the course team; three regional staff with classical interests, Peter Salway, David Sewart, and Ian Howarth, have expressed a readiness to be involved, as has Mrs. Jennie Potter, the former Newnham scholar, whose husband holds an O.U. post; we hope that one of our art historians will contribute, and perhaps also one of our philosophers. The two together should form an attractive introduction to classical civilization.

Meantime, there is an important classical contribution to the gradually emerging third-level specialist courses. Indeed, I have a strong conviction that one of the most important things for classical scholars to do is to make their contribution to a fresh synthesis in this way. Thus I have written a unit on Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War for the history course War and Society; a unit on Plato’s Theory of Forms for Problems of Philosophy; and am in process of contributing study material on Alcestis, The Bacchae, Oedipus the King, and Oedipus at Colonus to The Basis of Modern European Drama, and on Greek and Roman religion to Man’s Religious Quest.

This then is the picture. It is worth remembering that something like 5,000 students a year take the Foundation Course, about 2,000 take Renaissance and Reformation, 1,200 the history of science courses, and (at present) about 700 War and Society and 400 Problems of Philosophy; as indicated, the expected figures for The Early Roman Empire are not far off 1,000. It is a not negligible contribution to interest in and understanding of classical civilization.”

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Nb. the original article contains an appendix containing the times of transmission for 1974 of the programmes referred to above. All television programmes were on BBC2 and all radio programmes on Radio 3 VHF.

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Classical Day Trips

A couple of years ago, we ran a blog post which shared some of our favourite ‘classical’ holiday destinations; this year, we thought we’d gather a few suggestions from colleagues in Classical Studies for classically-themed ‘days out’ in the UK! The summer holidays are now upon us and, whether or not the weather is kind, there are lots of good ideas for days out at archaeological sites, museums, exhibitions, and more. Here are some of our ideas, but we’d love to hear yours too…

York (as suggested by Emma Bridges)

It’s not difficult to find a reason to visit the beautiful city of York, but for a classicist the city once known as Eboracum is a great place to spot some Roman remains. Try navigating your way around the city with the help of this Roman York walking tour and podcast; be sure to take a look at the city’s best preserved Roman fortifications and Roman coffins in the Museum Gardens as well as Philip Jackson’s 1998 statue of Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor. It’s also well worth dropping in to the Yorkshire Museum (where OU PhD student Adam Parker is Assistant Curator of Archaeology); the museum hosts, among many other treasures, a fine collection of Roman artefacts, including a mosaic floor. And if you visit York’s Art Gallery before October, you’ll find an exhibition of works by Albert Moore, many of which have a distinctly classical theme.

A statue of the Emperor Constantine in York

York’s one of those places where almost every new building development turns up some Roman finds, but even those who don’t know one end of a trowel from another can get a taste of life as an archaeologist by visiting DIG museum, which gives children a chance to become trainee ‘diggers’.

The city famously has 365 pubs, one for every day of the year, but if you’re after some refreshment in a classically-themed location the watering hole for you has to be the Roman Bath pub in St Sampson’s Square; its basement houses York’s Roman Baths Museum.

Hepworth Gallery (as suggested by Jessica Hughes)

My No. 1 summer day-trip recommendation is the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield, recent winner of the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2017 Award. The Hepworth Gallery is a really beautiful space, with its big windows looking out onto the canal and busy road beyond. In addition to its temporary exhibitions (currently showing is Howard Hodgkin: Painting India), the gallery also has a unique permanent collection which includes works by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and other modern British artists whose paintings and sculptures often resonate with classical antiquity in some way. When I visited last month, I particularly enjoyed looking at a display of ancient artefacts (including Cycladic figurines) that Barbara Hepworth owned, and at the new display of books selected from her personal library. These included an annotated dual-language text of Sophocles’ Electra, several other translations of Greek tragedies, and a number of books on Cycladic and Classical art.

The Hepworth Gallery

Wakefield is well-connected by train (approximately 2 hours from London), and you can get a taxi to the Hepworth from the train station. There’s also car parking over the road, and a very nice cafe and bookshop inside. The Hepworth Wakefield is part of the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle, together with Leeds Art Gallery, the Henry Moore Institute, and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The National Coal Mining Museum for England is nearby.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (as suggested by Jan Haywood)

Medea by Frederick Sandys

One of my favourite places to visit is Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (conveniently located in the centre of the city, in easy walking distance from the railway stations) which houses a world-class collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, a group of works from the later half of the nineteenth century that drove against contemporary artistic trends through their admiration for medieval Italian art. Many of these artworks display clear affinities with the ancient world and/or portray famous classical figures. Indeed, be sure to catch Frederick Sandys’ arresting portrait of the magician and princess Medea (1868), which imagines the enchantress preparing a foul potion of magical ingredients. Amongst the many other highlights is Sir Edward Burne-Jones’ fascinating Troy Triptych (1872-1898), an unfinished work that represents several scenes from the Trojan War story.

Maiden Castle (as suggested by Jo Paul)

One of my holiday destinations this summer is Dorset; as a child, I spent every summer there, and I’m now looking forward to showing my own children the place that introduced me to ‘the Romans’ before I had any idea who they really were. There may not be very much to see at Maiden Castle, besides the vast ramparts and the minimal remains of structures like a 4th century CE Romano-British temple – but the sheer scale of the place (the largest Iron Age hillfort in Britain) is impressive. Walking across the ramparts and up and down the slopes (manageable by all but the most reluctant children!) affords spectacular views across the Wessex countryside, and it’s not hard to imagine the commanding position once held by this fort. As a child, I was captivated by tales of how Vespasian attacked it during the invasion of 43 CE, and though this version of events is now disputed, Maiden Castle still offers an intriguing and evocative insight into the earliest phases of the Roman conquest.

The ramparts of Maiden Castle

The wild landscape of Maiden Castle can be placed in historical context with a visit to the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester (ancient Durnovaria), which houses many finds from the site, including some famous skeletons bearing the signs of injuries which may or may not have been inflicted by invading Romans. Also in Dorchester, you can visit a fully exposed Roman ‘town house‘.

Introducing: Carlos Sánchez Pérez

Carlos is spending the summer with us in the department of Classical Studies, as a Visiting Research Student. In this post, he introduces himself, and tells us about his research project.

In the first pages of Promethea (1999), a comic book by the British writer Alan Moore, we meet Promethea, a young girl who lives in 5th century A.D. Roman Egypt. At the beginning of the story, she has been chased by an angry Christian mob that has just killed her father for being a ‘Hermetic’ philosopher. In the middle of the desert, a strange deity suddenly appears, introducing himself as Hermes-Thoth, and addressing the girl with these words: ‘Now everything is well’. This was my first contact with Hermetism.

After completing my Bachelor in Classical Philology at the Universidad de Sevilla (2013), I moved to Madrid to do a Masters in Classics (2013-2014). There, I first encountered both Classical Reception theory and Hermetism. In my Master’s dissertation, titled ‘Prometheus in Feminine: Uses of Classical Elements in Alan Moore’s Promethea’, I studied the reception of the classical world in this comic, which masterfully combines mysticism, superheroes, science-fiction and fantasy, and I discovered that Hermetism was the main element of the classical world to be reimagined in its pages. Later, I started my PhD under the supervision of Prof. Luis Unceta at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. The title of my dissertation is ‘Hermes Trismegistus: from mysticism to fantasy. Survival of the Hermetic Texts from Antiquity to the present day’, and it focuses on the reception of the Hermetica in 19th to 21st century fantasy, occult and science fiction literature, in authors such as Edward Bulwer-Lytton or Alan Moore.

But what exactly are Hermetism and the Hermetic Texts? The Hermetica, as they are commonly known, are a group of texts from the 2nd-3rd century AD related in one way or another to the wisdom and teachings of Hermes Trismegistus, a legendary figure resulting from the union of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth, two popular deities which shared a similar set of attributes. The Hellenistic fusion of the Graeco-Roman and Egyptian worlds gave birth to a shared cultural milieu, which led to the apparition of this syncretic figure, part god, part prophet. The texts cover a wide range of subjects, and they have traditionally been categorized into two broad ─ and usually problematic ─ groups: ‘philosophical-religious’ and ‘technical’. Under the first label we find texts that exhibit a sort of knowledge in accordance with the Neoplatonic traditions of the first centuries of our era. The second label comprises texts dealing with alchemy, magic or astrology which, ultimately, are the foundation of our modern ‘occult sciences’. Although this categorisation is useful, it has been frequently challenged: religious and philosophical material is to be found within the technical Hermetica and vice versa.

In the Renaissance, a Hermetic revival starring scholars such as Marsilio Ficino, Giordano Bruno or Cornelius Agrippa, who worshipped Trismegistus as a forerunner of Plato and Pythagoras, shone a light on the Hermetica, which were then profoundly reinterpreted. Hermeticism was again trendy for almost two centuries. Later, classical scholarship proved that the texts weren’t so old as first thought, and with the arrival of the Enlightenment, they were condemned to what we call Occultism, in the wide sense of the term. It is in the 19th century that the Hermetica are again recovered, this time by members of esoteric and occult societies such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Theosophical Society, many of whom also happened to be literary authors, for example Arthur Machen or Dion Fortune. Thanks to the work of these authors, hermetically influenced ideas became part of the basis of the popular fantasy and science fiction genres throughout the 20th century. And that’s how we arrive at Alan Moore and other comic book authors.

How does Hermetism and Hermetic ideas permeate modern and contemporary literature, and especially those genres? How does it intertwine with the formats in which it appears, such as comic books? How does the reception of Hermetism after the Renaissance work? How has it modelled our own perception of some aspects of antiquity? These are some of the questions that my dissertation poses, drawing on Classical Reception theory as the best framework to approach the ups and downs of a trend of thought traditionally considered peripheral to the canon of Classical Studies, and therefore highly neglected by mainstream research.

I would like to express my gratitude to the Department of Classical Studies of the Open University and especially Dr. Joanna Paul for having accepted me so kindly for a research stay from July to September. I have just arrived and feel very welcomed already. I’m sure I am going to learn very much in the company of such an amazing faculty. I’m very happy to share these months with you all.

Carlos can be contacted on carlos.sanchezp@uam.es. 

 

Advocating Classics Education

Emma Bridges introduces a new project which aims to increase the provision of Classical Studies and Ancient History qualifications in UK schools.

I’m thrilled to be a patron of Advocating Classics Education (ACE), a new AHRC-funded project which aims to extend the provision of qualifications in Classical Civilisation and Ancient History for 14-18 year-olds across the UK. Led by Prof. Edith Hall and Dr. Arlene Holmes-Henderson of King’s College London, the project is also supported by colleagues in sixteen partner universities, one of which is the Open University.

I first encountered the classical world by way of an ‘A’ level in Classical Civilisation at the state sixth-form college I attended in County Durham. An enthusiastic and dedicated teacher sowed the seeds of my lifelong interest in the ancient Greeks and Romans, and I’ve been hooked on Classics ever since. Qualifications in Ancient History and Classical Civilisation, like the course I studied for ‘A’ level, make the classical world accessible through translated texts, which allow teenagers the opportunity to engage with the diverse range of sub-disciplines of which Classics is comprised – whether that’s literature, archaeology, history, politics or philosophy.

Saturday 1st July 2017 saw the official launch event of ACE. Hosted by the project team at King’s College London, it was attended by schoolteachers and representatives from partner universities (I and my colleague Henry Stead were there on behalf of OU Classical Studies) and national bodies like Classics for All (a charity which helps teachers to introduce or expand Classics provision in their schools) and the Institute of Classical Studies. We talked about ACE’s plans for seeding Classical Civilisation and Ancient History in more schools across the UK, and about the challenges and opportunities with which we’re presented, as well as about the events which partner universities will host in order to showcase all that’s great about studying classical subjects (the OU will host such an event in March 2018).

Teachers talk about life at the Classics ‘chalk-face’.

But for me the most inspiring part of the day was hearing from schoolteachers themselves about the work which they’re doing to introduce the next generation to the classical world. I recognise in these teachers the enthusiasm and dedication which my own ‘A’ level teacher brought to the subject. Many of these teachers refer modestly to themselves as ‘non-specialists’ – that is, they initially qualified in another subject, like English, History or Philosophy, and then went on to develop (often independently) their own understanding of ancient Greece and Rome so that they could offer Classical Civilisation or Ancient History at their school. You can read the story of one such teacher, Paul Found – a former OU Classical Studies MA student – in this blog post. These individuals are remarkable both for their commitment to developing their own subject knowledge and the extra time which they devote to increasing access to Classics – from running after-school clubs and arranging events celebrating the ancient world to staging classical drama. The enthusiasm which they generate in their own pupils as a result is truly extraordinary to see; I’m delighted to be part of a project which enables universities to do more to support their work.

Watch this space for more news on the OU’s involvement in the project. For further information about how you can get involved (as a teacher, supporter or volunteer), visit the ACE website. There’s also a survey about Classics education which you’re encouraged to complete – this will help to inform the project’s work over the coming months.

by Emma Bridges

Celebrating student success

Congratulations to former Open University Classical Studies student Ian Ramskill, who has had his work published in the first ever edition of NEO: The Classics Students’ Journal. Ian’s piece is entitled ‘Horace Odes 3.14: a pragmatic and welcome acceptance of the early Pax Augusta.’ His paper started life back in 2014 as a prizewinning essay for the John Stephen Kassman Memorial Essay Prize, a competition which is open to all OU Classical Studies undergraduates. You can read Ian’s work, along with the other contributions to NEO, here; and if you’d like to know more about his student experience at the OU, take a look at the blog post he wrote just before he started his final year of study.

The deadline for this year’s Kassman Prize is 29th September 2017. More details about how current OU undergraduates may enter are available on the Classical Studies website here.

Globalizing Ovid

Our recently-retired colleague Paula James has just returned from an exciting international conference in China. Globalizing Ovid: An International Conference in Commemoration of the Bimillennium of Ovid’s Death took place at Shanghai Normal university from May 31st to June 2nd 2017.

Paula writes “This event attracted 60 scholars from across the world and was a wonderful and historic experience superbly organised by Professor Jinyu Liu – she is at Shanghai Normal and De Pauw university and her team of students were tireless and cheerful, picking us up from the airport, translating for us, guiding us around the campus and always ready to help.

“You can see details and the programme on the Globalizing Ovid website, but just to say that this was a high point in international collaborative research as the conference was supported by Dickinson College USA, Shanghai Normal University and the National Social Science Fund of China. It is part of a US/China project to translate (with commentaries) all the works of Ovid, a Latin poet famous especially for his epic poem on myths of Greece and Rome, Metamorphoses, into Chinese.

Delegates at the Globalizing Ovid conference“It marked the 2000 years since Ovid died in exile and there were all kinds of discussions on his sophisticated and mischievous takes on traditional stories, his tongue-in-cheek love poetry and his manual of seduction (Ars Amatoria) so at odds with the moral re-armament programme started by the first emperor Augustus. All this in the context of the digital age and how it helps us work across geographical boundaries on the ancient authors who continue to excite us in the 21st century.

“Ovid has played a central role in the lasting legacy of Roman culture and literature in the world today.

delegates at the Globalizing Ovid conference“I have to say that the generosity of the hosting university and the funders was overwhelming with banquets and excursions at the end of days packed full with panels and plenaries. Companions of delegates were welcomed to the events at a very modest price and I was lucky enough to have the conference fee waived and to receive a Dickinson grant of $400. It was an honour to take part in the conference – my paper went well!”

You can read the abstract of Paula’s paper on Statues, Synths and Simulacra below. All the photos on this page were taken by Paula during the conference – it looks to have been a wonderful celebration of Ovid and Ovidian scholarship!

 

Statues, Synths and Simulacra: Teaching Ovid through the medium of mass culture.

Abstract of a paper by Paula James

Taking two examples of Ovid’s myths of metamorphosis as refracted on screen (film and television) I shall explore the challenges classicists face in communicating ancient texts to modern audiences.  Although the use of film in teaching Classical Reception can be supported and promoted (but sometimes only tolerated in UK departments) the reception researcher frequently finds her/ himself justifying their choices of 20th and 21st century re-workings of mythical motifs by movie directors and television series creators as intellectually valid objects of study.

This paper traces my research and teaching journey in bringing Ovid’s myths of Pygmalion (Metamorphoses Book 10) and Salmacis and Hermaphroditus (Book 4) before public audiences and scholars across the Arts and Humanities.  The story of sculptor and statue has endless potential for teasing out the ethics and aesthetics of manufacturing or making over women into an ideal both in the ancient and present day contexts.

My first focus will be upon the robot girlfriend in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Five and the ways in which related narratives in Ovid’s epic poem can provide a commentary on Pygmalion and delusions of creating or recreating an ideal.  I shall argue that iconic films can prompt fresh critiques of Pygmalion and the gender and genre bending in the Salmacis story (using Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Wilder’s Sunset Blvd.)

I shall point to the pitfalls of visualising Ovid primarily in terms of cinematic experiences when his own readership would be accessing their moving images from stage and performance.  Ovid’s sophisticated and mischievous use of figurative language can only be touched upon in a brief paper but his similes, metaphors and general ecphrastic strategies can be both limiting and liberating for those of us researching into Ovidian narratives on screen.

Paula James at the Globalizing Ovid conference

New publications on the ancient body

The first half of 2017 has seen the publication of several new books by members of the Ancient Body cluster in the department of Classical Studies, so we thought we’d share with you some further details.

Eleanor Betts (ed) (2017) Senses of the Empire: Multisensory Approaches to Roman Culture (Routledge).

This new edited volume addresses the growing field of sensory approaches to Roman material culture. Extending beyond the presentations from the November 2013 conference held at The Open University Regional Centre in Camden (London), this volume discusses the value of integrating sensory perspectives into existing archaeological, historical and literary analyses of the ancient world. Amongst the chapters you will find important new explorations of theoretical and methodological approaches to ancient sensory studies, as well as specific case studies on urban sensescapes, Roman funerals, entertainment venues, the smells of the military fort of Vindolanda, the sounds of the tuba, touching and tasting in animal sacrifice, the visual and tactile aspects of signet rings and votive dedications, and the motion of pantomime performances. Several contributors are members of the Classical Studies department: Eleanor Betts, Emma-Jayne Graham and Valerie Hope. From the cover:

“The Roman empire afforded a kaleidoscope of sensations. Through a series of multisensory case studies centred on people, places, buildings and artefacts, and on specific aspects of human behaviour, this volume develops ground-breaking methods and approaches for sensory studies in Roman archaeology and ancient history. Authors explore questions such as: what it felt like, and symbolised, to be showered with saffron at the amphitheatre; why the shape of a dancer’s body made him immediately recognisable as a social outcast; how the dramatic gestures, loud noises and unforgettable smells of a funeral would have different meanings for members of the family and for bystanders; and why feeling the weight of a signet ring on his finger contributed to a man’s sense of identity. A multisensory approach is taken throughout, with each chapter exploring at least two of the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. The contributors’ individual approaches vary, reflecting the possibilities and the wide application of sensory studies to the ancient world. Underlying all chapters is a conviction that taking a multisensory approach enriches our understanding of the Roman empire, but also an awareness of the methodological problems encountered when reconstructing past experiences.”

For more see the Routledge website 

 Jessica Hughes, (2017). Votive Body Parts in Greek and Roman Religion (Cambridge University Press).

This major new monograph began life as part of a Leverhulme-funded project titled Changing Beliefs of the Human Body based at the University of Cambridge (2005-2009). By exploring a range of different forms of anatomical votive, across the ancient Mediterranean and parts of Europe, the book ‘aims to track how and why the anatomical votive cult developed and spread in classical antiquity, and to shed light on some of the varied meanings that these objects held for their ancient users and viewers’ (p. 3). By bringing votive body parts into a conversation with other visual and literary sources from the classical world, it emphasises their importance for a wide range of topics in classics, as well as demonstrating how votives intersect with modern theories and perceptions concerning the body. From the cover:

“This book examines a type of object that was widespread and very popular in classical antiquity – votive offerings in the shape of parts of the human body. It collects examples from four principal areas and time periods: Classical Greece, pre-Roman Italy, Roman Gaul and Roman Asia Minor. It uses a compare-and-contrast methodology to highlight differences between these sets of votives, exploring the implications for our understandings of how beliefs about the body changed across classical antiquity. The book also looks at how far these ancient beliefs overlap with, or differ from, modern ideas about the body and its physical and conceptual boundaries. Central themes of the book include illness and healing, bodily fragmentation, human-animal hybridity, transmission and reception of traditions, and the mechanics of personal transformation in religious rituals.”

For more see the Cambridge University Press website.

Jane Draycott and Emma-Jayne Graham (eds) (2017). Bodies of Evidence: Ancient Anatomical Votives Past, Present and Future (Routledge).

Continuing the anatomical votive theme, the origins of this edited volume lie in a conference held at the British School at Rome in June 2012. Contributors to the book explore not only the roles that anatomical votive offerings played in ancient religious and healing contexts but also the roles their subsequent collection and study continue to play in shaping ideas about the human body today. Chapters include examinations of confession stelae, swaddled babies, hair, eyes, wombs, feet, and open torsos, as well as topics such as fragmentation and disability, museum collections and new chronological and theoretical assessments. Emma-Jayne Graham and Jessica Hughes, from the Classical Studies department, are both contributors. From the cover:

“Dedicating objects to the divine was a central component of both Greek and Roman religion. Some of the most conspicuous offerings were shaped like parts of the internal or external human body: so-called ‘anatomical votives’. These archaeological artefacts capture the modern imagination, recalling vividly the physical and fragile bodies of the past whilst posing interpretative challenges in the present. This volume scrutinises this distinctive dedicatory phenomenon, bringing together for the first time a range of methodologically diverse approaches which challenge traditional assumptions and simple categorisations. The chapters presented here ask new questions about what constitutes an anatomical votive, how they were used and manipulated in cultural, cultic and curative contexts and the complex role of anatomical votives in negotiations between humans and gods, the body and its disparate parts, divine and medical healing, ancient assemblages and modern collections and collectors. In seeking to re-contextualise and re-conceptualise anatomical votives this volume uniquely juxtaposes the medical with the religious, the social with the conceptual, the idea of the body in fragments with the body whole and the museum with the sanctuary, crossing the boundaries between studies of ancient religion, medicine, the body and the reception of antiquity.”

For more see the Routledge website.

Happy reading!

OU Classical Studies Postgraduate Work in Progress Day 2017 (#OUCSWiP)

OU PhD student Sian Beavers reflects on this year’s Classical Studies postgraduate Work in Progress event which was held in Milton Keynes on 10th May 2017. 

After hanging up my organiser’s hat from the OU Classical Studies postgraduate work in progress conference, I’m left with a sense of wonderment over the nature of the day for a few reasons, and I’m pleased to be able to share these with you.

The themes for the day’s panels – Greek Writers; Digital Tools for Classicists; Linked Data; and Receptions of the Ancient World – really allowed for presenters to build upon and towards other presentations in each panel. PhD students Elizabeth Webb and Sophie Raudnitz kicked off the day with their presentations on sensory perception in Thucydides and ‘the future’ in Plato respectively, and did a brilliant job of setting the tone for the event – as well as setting the presentation- bar high. The idea of this thematic building upon and towards presentations couldn’t have been more evident than with Valeria Vitale’s presentation on linking data with Pelagios, followed by Sarah Middle and Paula Granados-Garcia’s presentations on the use of Linked Data in the Humanities, with a live-demo by Valeria (a Research Fellow at the Institute of Classical Studies in London but who kindly accepted our invitation to share her work with us) of the remarkable Pelagios tool. For those, like some of our delegates (and oft times, me) that might find terms such as “data” a little intimidating on occasion, these three presentations did a fantastic job of opening our eyes to the benefits of these approaches to Classical Studies as a discipline, as well as personally inspiring us to potentially use such tools in the future in our own work. Similarly, with our final session on Receptions of the ancient world, with presentations from OU MA students Simon McLaughlin and Madeline Chawner, as well as my own presentation (a project on the side of my PhD research), we found that the themes relating to the epics, and indeed hero narratives, kept reoccurring with reference to different contexts and from differing viewpoints. It was almost as if the presenters, and one would hope the attendees, were seeing “linked data IRL” in the final session.

The standard of the presentations was so high that I wonder how we can make more of this at future WiP events. Unlike other universities, so many OU students are geographically spread, making attendance in person problematic for a myriad of reasons. OU Lecturer Jess Hughes’ brilliant session in the ‘Digital Tools for Classicists’ panel, on the different ways in which social media and digital technologies can be used to bring people with shared interests together, to promote collaboration, and also to share and disseminate findings, really got me thinking about how we can use the technology we have to further bring classicists together. On the one hand, a focal point of the WiP day is to provide an informal context for students to present and get feedback on their work, and not to give them the extra pressure of presenting to an unknown audience. On the other hand, however, I’d really like to see the next WiP day being live-streamed or recorded for later sharing (with the permission of the presenters, of course). This would offer access to the talks to OU students who can’t attend in person; it would also provide speakers with a wider audience to disseminate their research; and it would help to share with the wider world the range of research taking place within OU Classical Studies.

As this is my second WiP conference (and the third for some of our presenters!) I am in a position to say, without agenda, that the standard of presentations in both years I have attended has been astounding. To label the day as a ‘Work in Progress’ event almost has the connotation that there is something unfinished about the content – which of course is true to an extent, but this terminology may not reflect what was, in no uncertain terms, a polished professionalism displayed by every one of the presenters in both their content and delivery.  To quote one of our presenters, “For those who can attend these events, they present a fantastic opportunity to meet up with staff and students from the OU Classical Studies Department, as well as some very knowledgeable people from other universities…Every single talk was interesting, and importantly, they showed a future pathway for Classical research that is massively encouraging… it was thrilling to see our subject blazing a trail that other disciplines will undoubtedly follow.”

Reading the bios of the presenters also got me thinking about how people come – or return – to Classical Studies. Some start off in Classical Studies before returning later in life, sometimes having picked up other disciplines or professional experience along the way; others come from somewhere else (professional or academic), and find the subject through an indirect route. Some start and end with Classical Studies, though integrate differing perspectives and disciplines into their practice as classicists. Through reading the backgrounds of just the presenters at the event, I realised that we bring both our academic and life experiences into our research areas; precisely one of the reasons that events like these are so valuable. They make it clear that there is such diversity in the subject and this is something that should be celebrated: there is no “right” approach to studying Classical Studies and the discipline is made stronger for it.

Perhaps most of all, our presenters were overwhelmed by how engaged the audience were with the presentations and research topics. The feedback and questions from the delegates really highlighted for me that the WiP is not merely a vessel for content delivery, but a reciprocal process whereby both the presenters and the audience can discuss aspects of Classical Studies to the mutual benefit of both. The Open University is built upon the ideas of diversity, inclusivity and, of course, openness. These ideals were exemplified in both the presenters and the delegates at the WiP day, and also in the way that the event brought together students and staff from the OU and elsewhere to celebrate the discipline that we share. So let’s continue to celebrate the diversity and inclusivity of the discipline, and the innovation that the researchers within the field deliver. With this in mind, I leave you with these musings, but hope to see you – as a presenter or a delegate – at next year’s event!

If you would like more of a sense of the day, have a look at the Storify of the tweets!

by Sian Beavers