Classically Inclined

June 10, 2022


Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 6:44 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

*tap tap* Is this thing on?

Well, yes, obviously it’s on, and hello to you kind people who have presumed that I would eventually resume writing here. It has, I think it is safe to say, been All A Bit Much.

As Neville Morley often remarks, blogging seems to be a medium which has fallen out of favour for reasons which aren’t entirely clear – it allows long-form thought in an informal style, which is often just what you need when you want to play with an argument, share good teaching practice (or ask for ideas about solving a teaching problem), or talk about wider professional issues. It’s also free, which makes it excellent for sharing research with the broader public (as my posts about Seneca do for those working on the Classical Civilization A-level Love & Relationships topic). But (and of course there’s a but) they take time, and over the last couple of pandemic-inflected years, time was what we did not have. So perhaps it isn’t surprising that, after the initial burst of upskilling my on-line teaching skills after my sabbatical ended in spring 2020, the energy to make time and space for blog writing was subsumed into survival mode by spring 2021 and then the slow attempt to recover and get back on top of things in the 2021-22 academic year. I will say that I felt as if I taught the most exhausted and drained students I’ve ever taught in the second half of the spring term this year, regardless of which year they were in, and I knew exactly how they felt.

That said, I do miss blogging and I want to come back to it, not least as a way to think through Stuff, particularly around teaching – I’ve noticed that I’ve been a bit less intentional about improving and tweaking my teaching praxis over the last few years, which obviously, hello, pandemic, but at the same time, writing and reflecting in this space has been an important part of creating the space to do that continuing work. So, here we go, attempting to do another round.

I thought I’d start with Research Things that have happened since I last wrote properly about my research, which (now I look back) was in 2019 when I talked about the publication of Tracking Classical Monsters in Popular Culture. There has been quite a lot of water under that particular bridge in the intervening, um, three years, so here are some potted updates.

Two things came out in 2020! Amazingly! One was a chapter titled ‘Mazes Intricate: The Minotaur As A Catalyst of Identity Formation in British Young Adult Fiction’ in Chasing Mythical Beasts: The Reception of Creatures from Graeco-Roman Mythology in Children’s & Young Adults’ Culture, which happens to be freely available via open access. I gave the conference paper version of this chapter in 2016 as the first very tentative steps in the Tracking Classical Monsters project, so there was something a bit ironic about it coming out after the book, but it’s part of a lovely volume that I’m very glad to is so easy to access. The other was another chapter, ‘Pater Figure: Leadership, Emperors and Fathers in Seneca and Stoicism’ in Paradox and Power in Caring Leadership: Critical and Philosophical Reflections, which is a bit of an interdisciplinary foray into management studies with Seneca; it was good fun to take my Senecan knowledge out into a rather different field and see how it all fit together, and I have to say I’m rather pleased with it.

Although nothing’s yet come out in 2022, there are a couple of things which are nearing publication. Going back to monsters, I will have a chapter in the Oxford Handbook of Monsters in Classical Myth on ‘The Reception of Classical Monsters in Modern Popular Culture’, which squirmed its way into actually being a chapter on classical monsters in fan fiction. What happens to classical monsters (and myth more broadly) in forms of cultural production outside the usual media industries is something I don’t think classical reception studies has quite got a handle on yet, and probably needs to; this chapter is my small attempt to push that conversation forward. I’m also putting the final touches on ‘A Colonialist Trick of the Eye: Valerius Maximus’ Memorable Deeds and Sayings as a Tool of Imperial Education’ for A Handbook of Classics and Postcolonial Theory; this chapter grew out of my first year Roman Literature teaching combined with a long-overdue deep dive into postcolonial scholarship, and again, I’m really quite pleased with the model of reading that it suggests. It takes some intellectual risks, and I think they pay off, but you’ll have to wait for the final product to be out before I say anything more!

When I went on sabbatical, my hypothetical project was to lay the groundwork for a second book on Seneca, this time focusing on his tragedies. That plan is… still there? Somewhere in the long-term future? But for now, I’m working on some shorter term projects. I’m co-editing a volume for Brill with my colleague John Sellars on Musonius Rufus, the (chronically under-appreciated) Stoic philosopher who managed both to be exempted from exile from Rome and then specially exiled from Rome under the Flavians. We’ve got a stellar range of contributors to write about each one of the individual passages (or ‘discourses’) attributed to him that survive; everyone’s bringing a completely different set of disciplinary perspectives and priorities to the texts, which is proof of just how rich Musonius is if you’ll only look at him properly. I’m also writing a chapter on Discourse 16; I took some initial ideas to the departmental research seminar at Manchester in April, and I’m hoping to get that finished over the summer alongside getting contributors feedback on their chapters. Once that’s tidied up, I want to turn my attention back to the article that came out of my sabbatical on speech and gender in Plautus’ Rudens, which has been in a weird pandemic-induced limbo, partly because it took a while for readers to have capacity to do reports, and partly because I haven’t had capacity to think properly about the revisions which are required with my other obligations. With any luck, overhauling that will be the job of 2022-23.

Alongside all of this, very excitingly, I’m also doing some work for Dorling Kindersley! They are putting together an illustrated history of the Roman empire, for which I’ve been asked to do 21 double-page spreads. I want to write a bit more about what it’s like working with the DK team, as much to demystify it as anything else – I’ve learned an awful lot in the process, so I think that’s going to be a future blog. I will say that I’ve shared before that one of the formative influences on me as a child was an Usbourne illustrated book, so being part of a project which might inspire the next generation of classicists feels like a very special way to close the loop.

I think that’s it for now, and I promise I’ll try to be back here again a bit sooner.


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