Classically Inclined

July 1, 2021

A curve in the road: some personal news

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 10:18 pm
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Over the last year or so, those of you who follow me on Twitter with any degree of attention will have noticed cryptic references to doing Things Not For Work or having Big Non-work Things on the horizon. This has been partly because it was entirely possible that there would be no news to share in the end, and partly because – well, it’s the sort of thing which you only really want to make public if there is news to share.

That news is now confirmed, so I am both very pleased and a wee bit scared to tell you that I have been recommended for training for ordination in the Church of England.

I am anticipating that this will raise a lot of questions, so I thought that I would use an FAQ format to address the ones I’m assuming will come to mind, and quite possibly some that won’t. There will inevitably be some God-language in what follows.

(more…)

January 23, 2021

The way we live now

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 9:56 am
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It is exhausting, the way we live now,
and I am one of the lucky ones.
Whatever luck means, in the midst
of chaos.

I reply to e-mails, to invitations,
to things which might have sparked joy
in the before-times.
No, no, no, no, certainly not,
yes – but not yet.
I question my decisions, but
they have to be made.

I confuse my time zones
for a commitment made a thousand years ago
in November,
and sit, waiting to be admitted to a Zoom meeting
which has already moved on without me,
crushed by the unnoticed slippage of an hour.

I record videos, smiling blithely at the green light –
record, embed, caption, upload,
record, embed, caption, upload.
I teach to black squares with initials, to faces
against uncomfortably personal backgrounds,
rooms I have no right to be in
and which I try to ignore.

I stay up late (too late)
editing, marking, pouring out effort
which I would have rejoiced in
during the before-times, but now
comes from a well which has run decidedly dry.

I learn a curriculum which I thought
I had left well behind me.
Pounds and pence without the shillings,
shapes in varying dimensions,
the formation of the letter d.
The waterproof properties of materials must be investigated;
the kitchen floor is flooded.
I refuse to be apologetic
about my second full-time job.

Do not mistake me –
there are joys, smiles, laughter.
Having dinner together every night,
the weekly family film,
the silly imaginative games.
The students thriving under these circumstances,
growing towards the light despite everything.

But there is no let up, and no respite,
and even paradise becomes tiring
without variety, or the space
to be lonely, to be bored.

In the midst of this chaos,
whatever luck means –
I am one of the lucky ones,
and it is exhausting, the way we live now.

September 12, 2020

On Responding To Anger: Growing Pains

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 7:30 pm

With thanks and apologies to Sara Ahmed, without whom I would not even be attempting to write [like] this.

Something happened to me a few week ago. Someone thought I had got something wrong. What’s more, they thought I had got something wrong that I had tried very hard to get right.

This post is not about that incident. My personal encounter with the fallout of the Well-meaning White Woman’s Dilemma – do we act, write and speak about racism and colonialism in the knowledge that we are going to get it wrong, or do we remain silent and expect people of colour to pick up the burden yet again – is not particularly edifying, and is work best done more privately. This is a post about a process.

Earlier this summer, I read The Uses of Anger by Audre Lorde for the first time. Among all the observations that still remain insightful almost four decades after it was written, one in particular jumped out at me:

Most women have not developed tools for facing anger constructively. CR [consciousness raising] groups in the past, largely white, dealt with how to express anger, usually at the world of men. And these groups were made up of white women who shared the terms of their oppressions. There was usually little attempt to articulate the genuine differences between women, such as those of race, color, age, class, and sexual identity. There was no apparent need at that time to examine the contradictions of self, woman as oppressor. There was work on expressing anger, but very little on anger directed against each other. No tools were developed to deal with other women’s anger except to avoid it, deflect it, or flee from it under a blanket of guilt.

No tools were developed to deal with other women’s anger – or indeed for any kind of anger. Anger is not ladylike, not civilized, not appropriate.

But it is necessary. It is needed. We need a way of responding to it – but a way which takes anger as the gift that it is, that accepts the learning and the knowledge that anger gives us, and does not perform the kind of negation and willful ignorance that Lorde describes and that is so familiar, most of all in ourselves.

(more…)

July 10, 2020

On beginnings, endings, and beginning again

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 2:58 pm
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Hello, folks. It’s been a while.

Looking back on the blog, it really has been a considerable while; I’ve been pretty quiet since spring last year, apart from a few posts about Tracking Classical Monsters in Popular Culture, which was launched to a pleasing amount of acclaim last Halloween, and an announcement for a workshop which has now been indefinitely postponed in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What ostensibly draws me back is the news that some of you who follow me on social media will have seen earlier this week, namely that I have been promoted to Reader in the Classics department at Royal Holloway. I could easily do a self-congratulatory post and leave it there, but actually, I want to sit a while and do some unpicking of the tapestry.

The 2019-2020 academic year, you see, was going to be a great year. After some administrative to-ing and fro-ing, my research sabbatical had been confirmed; my son was going to start school; I was keeping my diary clear so I could make the most of tidying up old projects and getting started on the next book. It was going to be wonderful.

It didn’t turn out like that. I have since learned that quite a lot of people have stories of the Sabbatical That Went Rogue, where life decides that the moment you have a little more space to think is a perfect time to intervene and make sure you can’t. In my case, at this point we are looking at three close family bereavements (one at the start of September just before the sabbatical was due to begin), a lot of caring and support following those, my son starting school (fine under normal circumstances, challenging under these), two rounds of extended UCU strikes, and, of course, a global pandemic with the associated challenges of school-at-home. It has not been, shall we say, the most conducive environment for thinking. Or, let’s be honest, for blogging. (more…)

June 25, 2018

Elevated to seniority

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 10:47 am
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I know I’ve been quiet here on the blog for a while – that has a lot to do with trying to finish off the monster book and the seasonal onslaught of undergraduate marking which I’ve been dealing with. I’m hoping to get back into the rhythm of a weekly post once the manuscript revisions are finished and everything’s been sent off to the publisher, but for the time being most of my spare bandwidth is going into trying to get that all finished.

However, I’m popping back to let you know some very good news which those of you who follow me on Twitter may already have picked up. I’m delighted to share that I have just been promoted to Senior Lecturer at Royal Holloway!

The process of promotion at RHUL is quite straightforward but a bit opaque – you submit your application form at the end of January, and then it’s radio silence as it goes past various committees at various levels, and you patiently wait until you get told the outcome ‘by the end of June’. So on the one hand you have no idea what’s going on, but on the other at least you’ve been told not to expect to hear anything so you don’t start reading anything untoward into it. Obviously, since the preferred result has come out of the process I don’t mind the wait at all.

Some people have asked me what this means in terms of my every-day job. The answer is ‘not much’ – in order to get promoted, you have to show you are already meet the criteria for holding the position, which is what the application form is for. Basically I will keep on doing what I am doing, and by and by have another stab at moving up the titles. But right now, senior lecturer feels really rather good.

October 31, 2016

Livetweeting conferences – a protocol

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 1:56 pm
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This set of guidelines was originally compiled by the team of Tweeters who were planning to attend the Classical Association conference in 2014, with me basically kitten herding. The intention was to offer guidance to those new to Twitter and livetweeting, and to help them and more experienced Tweeters create a comprehensive and useful livefeed for those not attending the conference.

These guidelines originally appeared on the Classical Association blog, but because of issues with the CA’s website they are not currently available. I am taking the opportunity to repost them, and to make a few small edits to make them applicable for conferences in general. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the original #CA14 crew for their help and assistance.

The Basics

  • Always tweet using the conference hashtag. Include this in all tweets you want included in the conference feed; anyone following the hashtag will see it, and it will be used to compile an archive of the conference tweets later.
  • If you don’t know the conference hashtag, ask the organisers for one, or come up with your own – before committing to it, do check that it’s not being shared by another event.
  • Be aware that livetweeting can change the atmosphere in a room, particularly if you are attending a single track conference; it may be appropriate to tweet less and be more directly involved in conversation at smaller events.
  • If you are asked to stop livetweeting by a panel chair, a speaker or a conference attendee, please stop. Many are not comfortable with Twitter as a medium; its presence should not negatively impact the conference experience for other attendees, however positive we may feel about social media.
  • You can livetweet whatever you like about the conference – the papers, the plenaries, the social side…
  • You can tweet as little or as much as you like. A livetweeter who tweets half a dozen times over the whole conference is as important as one who tweets half a dozen times to thoroughly summarise a single paper.
  • You may find this article on livetweeting conferences in general helpful: http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2012/oct/03/ethics-live-tweeting-academic-conferences

In Panels and Plenaries

  • Always begin your tweets of a paper with the speaker’s initials, to make it clear that you are reporting their argument. If a tweet gets widely retweeted, this makes sure the right person gets intellectual credit for the idea.
  • If the speaker is on Twitter, please use their Twitter handle when livetweeting – that will let people following on Twitter connect with them if they so wish.
  • If you are giving a paper, mention your Twitter handle as you begin, or include it on your handout.
  • Remember that the goal of livetweeting a paper is for somebody who isn’t in the room to be able to follow along with the speaker’s argument.
  • You may find that sitting at the back of a room makes you feel less self-conscious about tweeting; it may also make the process less obtrusive for other attendees.
  • Please make sure that your device is on ‘silent’.
  • Please demonstrate the usual high standards of professionalism, collegiality and courtesy that are the hallmarks of classicists as a discipline – that is, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
  • It is fine to have multiple people livetweeting the same session.
  • Don’t try to livetweet your own paper. Trust us on this.
  • If anyone following along on Twitter asks a question, please feel free to ask that question of the speaker and report the answer back. However, be aware that questions from people in the room take precedence.

Outside Panels

  • Again, please demonstrate professionalism, collegiality and courtesy in everything you say.
  • Remember to ask permission before posting photographs.
  • Be mindful that people following the hashtag are interested in the academic aspects of the conference rather than what dinner looks like. Unless someone has made a scale replica of Troy in mashed potato.

September 8, 2016

Sabbatical planning 1 – Shut Up and @britishlibrary

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 9:18 pm
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I’ve been thinking about planning my sabbatical term, and have realised there is a big risk of not seeing a sufficiently high concentration of humans over the next few months, which I know is bad for me. (I suspect it will be even worse than it has been in the past given that a lot of the time when I do see humans, I’m seeing them in the capacity of infans’ mother rather than as an academic.) So I thought I’d see if anybody would be interested in a semi-regular meet-up at the British Library – a version of Shut Up And Write, but a bit more flexible.

It turns out that Clare Vernon is in the market for something like this, so we’re going to meet up on Wednesday 14th September for the first of these sessions. The plan is to meet at 9.30am for a pre-desk cup of tea in the downstairs café; meet up again for lunch; and then perhaps meet up for an afternoon tea and a debrief. We’ll also put dates into the diary for the rest of the term – I’m hoping we’ll go fortnightly, although prior commitments may mean we’re not always on a Wednesday and we might not always be fortnightly.

So if you’re on sabbatical or working on research solo and would like an informal way of keeping in touch with other humans, feel free to come along. One of the reasons for setting dates is so that people who can’t make every session can plan to come along for a day – and if you can just make it for a morning or an afternoon, then you’re welcome too. The point is to create a bit of structure for community and hopefully facilitate some research work – I suspect Clare and I will set it up to suit us, but if you can hack it to suit you, then that’s all to the good. If you’d like to know the dates we come up with, please get in touch and I’ll keep you updated.

June 24, 2016

On Pandora and the opening of Zeus’ gift

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 7:30 pm
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But when he had finished the sheer, hopeless snare, the Father sent glorious Argus-Slayer, the swift messenger of the gods, to take it to Epimetheus as a gift. And Epimetheus did not think on what Prometheus had said to him, bidding him never take a gift of Olympian Zeus, but to send it back for fear it might prove to be something harmful to men. But he took the gift, and afterwards, when the evil thing was already his, he understood. For ere this the tribes of men lived on earth remote and free from ills and hard toil and heavy sickness which bring the Fates upon men; for in misery men grow old quickly. But the woman took off the great lid of the jar with her hands and scattered all these and her thought caused sorrow and mischief to men. – Hesiod, Works and Days.

I’m writing this on my way back from a conference in Dublin, where I have found it very difficult to give a paper on classical monsters in Hollywood films since 2000, and equally difficult to concentrate on the panel I have been attending about the nature of the ancient epic in the modern world. British classicists have checked the BBC and social media obsessively, sworn a fair bit, looked at each other hopelessly. Our European and international colleagues have commiserated, hugged, looked at an equal loss. And those who are British but work in the EU, or are EU nationals who work in Britain, have been doing a bit of everything.

Pandora’s jar has been opened and we are seeing the evils come out into the world.

We have had the Prime Minister resign, key pledges from the Leave campaign dismissed as ‘mistakes’, the financial markets drop sharply and struggle to right themselves, people who voted Leave astonished and upset to discover their vote actually counted, Scotland and Ireland reconsidering their positions as part of the Union, the EU Commission trying to get this process over and done with as quickly as possible, and on, and on, and on.

I am worried for myself, for my son, for my little family that had just got a little bit of stability, for my wider family, for the higher education sector, for those who had so much to lose – although, if I’m honest, in a rather blank sort of way, because I suspect I’m still in shock.

And yet. And yet.

When Pandora had opened the jar, and all the evils had flown out and into the world, one last thing remained. Hope.

Hope in the majority of people under 49 who voted to Remain, and whose political day is coming. Hope in three months’ grace before a change of Prime Minister. Hope in the pause before Article 50 is invoked. Hope in the time it will take the dust to settle and to see what landscape actually remains. Hope in the potential this has to re-engage people who believed their votes didn’t matter. Hope in the unlikeliest of places, also in the jar. Whether or not it too was an evil remains to be seen.

Only Hope remained there in an unbreakable home within under the rim of the great jar, and did not fly out at the door; for ere that, the lid of the jar stopped her, by the will of Aegis-holding Zeus who gathers the clouds.

April 27, 2016

On being a productive academic mother

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 12:40 pm
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I was having a conversation over e-mail with an academic of my acquaintance who has just had a child, and was wondering if I could offer her any suggestions about how I’ve managed to keep getting things done since infans was born. In all honesty, a big part of it has been the fact that I’ve not been required to do anything terribly creative – the book revisions and manuscript preparation, while chunky, haven’t really required me to put together much new material or think up fresh ideas, and there’s only so much imagination and intellectual capital you need to change the formatting of a bibliography. I am the first person to complain grumpily on Twitter about the slog of editing a passage for the dozenth time, but actually, that’s probably the level of mental demand I’ve been operating at. I’ve only started to think properly about the conference papers I’m giving this summer in the last month or so, and the effort required to put together something new has actually been quite daunting.

However, I did have a couple of other thoughts and suggestions about getting stuff done, if you choose to, and thought I’d put them here in case anyone else find them useful. The first is to accept that for the first few months, you probably won’t get anything done, especially if you’re breastfeeding on demand as I was – and that’s totally alright and as it should be. Giving oneself permission for this is really, really hard (or at least I found it so after the first few weeks), but actually, stop.

If you do have things that absolutely must get done, then naps are the way forward. If you’re lucky enough to have a baby giving you enough sleep during the night to function during the day without naps yourself, and have a baby who will go to sleep somewhere that is not on you, and for more than five minutes at a time. Sometimes babies do not seem to realise mummy needs time to reply to that research collaborator. And that is OK too. But thinking about how to use any nap time you do get strategically is key – what do you most need to do to give yourself piece of mind? It may be having a cup of tea and checking the proofs you’ve been asked to return before the end of the week; it may be washing up and tidying the kitchen so the thought of the post-lunch mess doesn’t keep you consistently on edge; it may be having a nap yourself, or a shower, or watching an episode of some mindless television. All of these things are also OK.

The only way I did get anything done during those naps was lists. Lots and lots of lists. I prioritised things that had immediate deadlines or I had already committed to (like final revisions and copyedits for articles which were more or less done), and things related to the book manuscript. I did agree to take on a short piece for a web-based outreach project, which I thought would be a good way of getting me back into the groove of generating ‘new’ words, but in retrospect I wish I’d said no to that as I did to a book review invitation – it didn’t drain away time, but it was a bit of a distraction. What worked particularly well for me was accepting that tasks which came under the heading of ‘collegiality’ – things I should do not to hold up collected volumes/editors, meeting deadlines and so on – needed to be done; the book was the massive priority, even if it was advancing a paragraph of edits at a time; and everything else could wait. Really.

So the big ‘formal’ advice I have is to push back firmly on anything related to teaching or administration, and to only let research in if there are imminent deadlines or if it is the most important project you have in hand. I was also a big fan of checking my e-mail even if only to delete or file it, as I did with about 95% of the e-mail I got during the course of my leave – the thought of coming back to an untouched inbox after even a few weeks gives me the shivers.

Some of this is, of course, down to who you are as an individual and where you are in your career, and I really don’t want to suggest that I did the ‘right’ thing. I felt particularly under pressure about the book because of being, at the time, on a three year contract and being very aware that I needed to have the book in press for job hunting. I also inevitably start feeling a bit jumpy after a few weeks if I don’t have something academic to get on with – one of the reasons that a year’s maternity leave completely off from academia would have been a really, really bad idea for me. Please don’t look at this post and assume these have to be your choices – they don’t. I recommend Rachel Moss’s thoughts about some of the choices she made in the early months, and I’ll also mention that I went back to work after just under six months of maternity leave (again, entirely my choice but under the implicit pressure of a short-term contract). I am pretty sure that if I ever do this again, I will make a different set of choices.

Since going back to work in September, I’ve also found that I think about far fewer projects than I did pre-infans. In those heady days (ahem), I could have two or three projects in various stages on the go at once, and could balance hopping between them – for instance, I often found I needed the other projects to give me something to do when the book was getting too much or had reached a pause point, and there would often be some outreach or cross-over work in there too. Now, with teaching and everything else, I think realistically I can only manage one project at a time. I was recently given the advice that with children, one should prioritise quality over quantity – and I now see why that was an excellent suggestion, if only because I cannot imagine trying to do more than one thing at once in the more strictly delineated working time I now have. This will change as infans gets older, of course, but right now that’s the reality.

Now I find myself in the slightly strange vacuum between finishing a big project and starting a big project, and not knowing quite what to do with myself… but that’s another subject for another post.

March 11, 2016

Future Plans

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 8:24 am
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As some of you may recall, my contract at Royal Holloway was for a three year post, scheduled to end this August. I’m delighted to be able to let you know that I have now been offered and have accepted a permenant post in the department of Classics here.

The process of getting to this stage has been a bit Byzantine and complicated, so I shan’t bore you with it, but I’m delighted. As regular readers and Twitter followers may have gathered, I enjoy teaching the students who come to us very much; I have the opportunity to teach across a range of subjects in my research area, including the languages; and I feel like I fit well with my colleagues in both research interests and general temperament. Given some conversations going on elsewhere about the pressures on female academics with children, I should also say that I feel I’m in a department which is very sympathetic to those pressures and the needs of academic parents – on the announcement of my pregnancy, I had two professors and a lecturer (all male) crowded in my office with congratulations and tales of their own children as tinies, which I treasure as a rare and precious thing (though it shouldn’t be).

As this news came in the middle of term, and we’re still not out of the teaching woods, I will be honest that the long-term effects of this still haven’t quite sunk in. The most obvious of those is that according to RHUL’s sabbatical policy, I am entitled to a sabbatical, which I’ll be taking in the autumn term – the sabbatical was confirmed a few days before the paperwork dealing with the contract change was sorted, which was mildly amusing! Of course, in the longer term this means there are all sorts of options open for collaborations with colleagues, getting the Monster Project up and running, and developing some more courses that really draw on and advance my research interests. But for now, I’ll settle for getting through term without the worry of watching the job adverts.

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