Classically Inclined

June 27, 2012

Judging Stoic Influence

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 10:30 am
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I’m in the middle of revisions for the ad Polybium article, which are taking me a while to get back into – such are the consequences of letting the research wheels stop during the middle of term and the resulting dissipation. But never mind, I’m slowly getting back into the swing of things now. One of the things the article tries to do, in a very small and modest sort of way, is point out that the ad Polybium is a Stoic text. But what does being a Stoic text actually mean?

This is the sort of question that generates heated discussion at conferences, particularly when people are talking about Seneca’s tragedies. The tragedies are the sensible place to start because they exemplify the problem particularly clearly(and if you’re into this sort of thing, check out the article by Hine in the further reading at the bottom of this post, because he provides brilliant summary of the various arguments involved). We know that the Seneca who wrote these plays was a committed Stoic – but does our knowledge of his philosophical convictions change how we interpret the plays? Are they deliberately written to promote Stoicism? To illustrate the horrors of lives lived against Stoic doctrine? To show that Stoicism doesn’t work? Does Seneca expect the people who consume his plays to be fully aware of a Stoic framework, entirely unaware of it, or a mix of the two?


June 21, 2012

Writing a cover letter to a journal

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 3:41 pm
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Writing a cover letter to a journal is a bit of a dark art (like so many aspects of academia), but after time and advice from more senior academics, I’ve got a template which I usually use when sending things out. A request over on #phdchat about how to go about writing a cover letter made me realise that there is perhaps not enough advice on this sort of thing out there, so I thought I’d post my standard template as an extra resource. This is suitable for classics journals and, I would think, most humanities subjects, although I’d recommend tweaking as required or recommended by experts in your subject area and the requirements of the journal you’re writing to – checking the submission guidelines will tell you which buzzwords to include.

Dear Professor Editor,

I hope you will consider the attached manuscript, “[title]”, for publication in [journal title].

The manuscript is approximately [number] words, including [or excluding] notes and bibliography. Its [new and exciting approach to its subject] will be of interest to readers of the journal [for these reasons].

Following your submission guidelines, I have [done what the submission guidelines asked you to do – attached the manuscript in .pdf format/enclosed two hard copies/dispatched my carrier pigeon/etc.].  This original manuscript has not been previously published nor submitted to any other journal for consideration.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,


May 15, 2012

The Fortunata article is now out!

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 10:58 am
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I’m delighted to be able to announce that my first peer reviewed article has now appeared in print! “She’s Only A Bird In A Gilded Cage: Freedwomen At Trimalchio’s Dinner Party” appears in the latest edition of Classical Quarterly.

Fortunata’s journey to this point has been rather long and arduous; it started back in the autumn of 2006, when I wrote a graduate seminar paper offering a close reading of the chapter which now forms the core of the article itself. I submitted the article to the Winkler Memorial Prize, and although it didn’t win, it did produce an encouraging e-mail from one of the judging panel. So I carried on trying to refine and rework the piece, through an outright journal rejection, and then a revise and resumbit for Classical Quarterly that happily was then accepted. I doubt any of my work is going to have a pedigree that rooted in my early academic career (unless I go back to my undergraduate thesis to see what I can salvage), so it’s wonderful to see her finally in print.

What spurred me to write the original seminar paper was the good old academic vice of close reading. I noticed features of the text which didn’t make sense, and wanted to know why. These features centered on Fortunata, the wife of the nouveau riche Trimalchio who throws an extravagant dinner party in the Satyricon, a Roman novel by Petronius. The dinner party episode is one of the best preserved sections of the novel, so we can say a lot more about context and characterisation than we can about characters who turn up elsewhere. But all of the secondary literature I found didn’t address the character of Fortunata in a systematic or significant way. The most she got was a couple of disparaging lines commenting on her past life as a prostitute. And, it seemed to me, this was not a conclusion supported by what the text actually said.


April 19, 2012

Reading as Consolation in Seneca – The Aftermath

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 12:14 pm
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I promised that I would write a little more about my paper on reading as consolation in Seneca which I gave at the Classical Association conference. I thought I’d start out with a Wordle of the paper itself, just for the sake of interest:

As you will be able to guess from the Wordle, most of the paper was about consolation and how it works. I specifically looked at two passages from the consolations Seneca writes to his mother and to the freedman Polybius in which he advises them to turn to various forms of literary activity in order to assuage their respective grief. Telling people to go to philosophy for consolation is nothing new – Cicero does it in a lot of his extant consolatory letters, for instance. But where Cicero tells people to go back to tried and trusted things that they have already learned, Seneca tells his addressees to pick up entirely new intellectual projects, which will actively engage their minds and thus have the psychological effect of bringing balance back to a disturbed soul.

Reading forms a well-known part of the Stoic armory against the distractions of the world, as Martha Nussbaum explores inter alia in her influential book The Therapy of Desire; reading serves as a grounding point, a place to start thinking about ethical growth. By applying this general Stoic attitude to the specific task of consolation, Seneca makes a new point about the use of reading for practical purposes, in this case the calming of grief. He also makes it clear that he expects his addressees to engage with their reading material actively, and that the material is itself an active participant in the process. This is in contrast to Helvia’s finances, which Seneca explicitly says he does not recommend as a distraction from grief. There’s some interesting stuff going on there about the difference between numbers and letters in terms of intellectual activity – the accounts seem passive, for sifting through, rather than active players in the consolatory process.

Where next with this work? Well, sadly, to the back of a desk drawer until I finish The Book, but I’ve got a few ideas for what to do after that. By that point, hopefully a book on the consolatory tradition that somebody mentioned to me will have appeared, which will help me work out if I’ve got a point to make in the first place – but I suspect I will. The current plan is to look at literary activity specifically as a consolatory recommendation in the Latin sources, and to see what that means in a social context where people are not necessarily reading themselves but may be read to by slave secretaries, and what differences this makes to the consolatory admonitions. This was a thread that I only identified at the end of my research for the paper and so didn’t get a lot of airtime in the paper itself, but I think it’s an important social factor to consider when Seneca is so adamant that philosophy must be an active rather than passive occupation.

February 6, 2012

Work in Progress – the Harryhausen article

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 9:05 am
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The first full version of the Harryhausen article went off to the editors yesterday, at long last – the last week or so has been a bit hectic so I missed the deadline by a couple of days, but it’s been sent out now and that’s what matters. Rather than repeat what the article deals with, I thought I’d show you all a Wordle of what it looks like:

So, what’s next on the agenda for me research-wise, now that that’s off the table for the time being? Well, this coming week is looking absolutely hectic, as I’ve got not only my normal teaching load, but also a two hour grad seminar and an hour of first year lit survey (it will be good teaching, but it’s time consuming), so I think research might be going to the side this week. Then I need to write the talk I’ll be giving at the Birmingham CA’s sixth form conference in March, which won’t be too taxing but will probably need a bit of research to get clips and write something with a decent structure.

After that – well, I might actually be able to start thinking about doing some of those revisions to the thesis…

January 16, 2012

Politics, pedagogy and research: “Reading Rape in Ovid”

Filed under: Research,Teaching — lizgloyn @ 2:18 pm
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January is turning out to be quite an exciting month, research wise, as (on top of everything else) I’ve had back some suggested edits for a paper that I hope will eventually  appear in the Paedagogus section of Classical World. I first gave this paper as part of a panel at the 2009 American Philological Association conference [link to PDF], so there’s some pleasing poetic balance in getting the revisions at around the same time as this year’s conference.

The panel and paper came out of a conversation at Feminism and Classics V about how we deal with the topic of rape in our classrooms, both as a social phenomenon and something that’s normalised in the texts we teach. If you have ever read any Greek New Comedy or the works of the Roman comic playwrights Plautus and Terence, you’ll know that rape is an almost ubiquitous plot device, and that the problems it causes are often resolved by the rapist marrying his victim (a state of affairs which is normally accepted as a perfectly sensible solution). Dealing with this sort of thing by anachronistically reading modern interpretations of rape onto ancient texts is not the way to go, but it seems to me that there’s a place for thinking about how we approach and present this material in way that is both historically appropriate and socially responsible.

The article that I’m tweaking at the moment is about a class I taught during my time at Rutgers-Newark that aimed to do just that. I tried to use a single class meeting as a properly researched and well-planned experiment in whether it was possible to deal with this material responsibly in such a short period of time. I think I found a way of creating discussion and awareness that actually worked, although it was far from perfect. But what seems to me to be the central point is that when this sort of material turns up in our classrooms, we can’t turn a blind eye to it and its impact on our classroom community. The usual statistic invoked in these circumstances is that at least one in four American college women have experienced rape or attempted rape. Those statistics may not transfer to a UK classroom, but I’m willing to bet that the numbers aren’t so very different. The responsibility remains ours to work out how to talk about this  material in a way that’s productive and open about the unacceptable behaviour it represents.

If you’re interested in reading a bit more on this topic, the first issue of EuGeStA includes an article by Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz titled “Greek Tragedy: A Rape Culture?”, which is freely available and well worth a read.

January 11, 2012

Turning over a new leaf – page proofs for the Fortunata article

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 2:35 pm
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You may remember that I’m going to have an article published in the May edition of Classical Quarterly on Fortunata in the Cena Trimalchionis. When I was on holiday last week, the page proofs finally arrived! I’m quite glad I popped into the office last Friday to have a survey of my inbox, as it meant I could spend the weekend looking over the proofs and return them in a timely fashion.

They also came with an order form for hard-copy offprints, an oddity now that all authors are provided with a PDF version of their article – far easier to circulate and share with people who would like to see it. The expense involved in providing offprints is reflected in the costs for 25, 50 or even 200 hard copies of articles – and I’m afraid that I baulked at the prices, more because I can think of very few people who would want a hard copy, let alone to whom I would like to give one. PDFs all round, I suspect.

The first thing that particularly struck me was the speed of turnaround requested; I was asked to return proofs within three days of receipt. They arrived in my inbox on Thursday, so I presume that getting them out by Monday was near enough as makes no odds, but it is possibly the quickest part of the publishing process that I have yet experienced. I had been warned that I would be expected to return proofs swiftly, but this is a little swifter than I had bargained for.

Mind you, nothing takes away from the wonderful feeling of actually seeing the words I have spent so long working with in proper, journal-ready, formatted print. I also found it a strange experience to read something I know used to look rather different, and find myself thinking ‘oh, yes, this was the original opening section’, or ‘crikey, I could have written that better’ – but these proofs are for typographical errors only, not content changes. Besides, if I always made more edits when I thought I could phrase something better, I’d never submit anything. Sometimes you just have to let go.

But I suppose this is part of the point of this process, from a psychological rather than a practical point of view. Realistically speaking, most of the typos should have been caught by the time the article makes its way to a journal for its first consideration, so the checking of proofs ideally is a formality. But it’s also an opportunity for closure – for saying goodbye to all that hard work, acknowledging that it is about to be committed to print and that you can’t change it any more. This is no bad thing, as it frees up the mind to think about other projects, but it places the closing seal on the work done. Strange how difficult it is to let work leave your hands and seek its fortune in the wider academic world, but it has to happen for it to take part in the wider conversation. Perhaps that’s the reason behind giving such a tight turn-around time for returning proofs – to stop us feverishly reading through the manuscript just once more, just in case we’ve missed something.

December 28, 2011

Thinking about monsters

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 12:20 pm
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I type to you from the British Library, where I have taken cover for the day in order to do some more reading for the Harryhausen article. The thing I’m currently trying to get a handle on is monsters and the monstrous in film. The problem is that the two Clash of the Titans films both appear in just the wrong eras for the usual social matrixes to apply, and I’m having trouble working my own way through the implications of historical context.

To back up a little. Film has to be understood as part of its historical context. It’s one of the things that creates a film’s production conditions, that emphasises what contemporary social and cultural concerns a film speaks to. The big player in this game is American society exploring its anxieties about itself through representations of the Roman Empire, normally through empire films like The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) or Gladiator (2000). Here, the historical context is set either in the Cold War, in which case there’s obvious historical interpretation about the anxieties concerning Russia and nuclear annihilation, or it’s a question of America’s new role in the world as the lone superpower, questions of modern empire, that sort of thing. (Monica Cyrino’s Big Screen Rome has a good intro to this sort of thing if you’re interested.) The monster analysis I’ve found so far fits into this pattern – 1950s monster movies work out the social anxieties of the Cold War period, and the danger of the end of humanity, through a dehumanised vehicle that allows fear to be fully represented without coming too close to home.

Here’s the snag. The two Clash films are neither set in the right period, nor are they about Romans. The non-Roman kit isn’t such a big deal, but the chronology is more of a problem. Even given the time delay involved in producing a Dynamotion picture, the 1981 Clash is a product of the late 1970s to early 1980s, but before the 1980s egotistic boom gets under way – Perseus is, in some ways, the last of the traditional film heroes before the anti-hero craze kicks in. The Cold War is over, more or less, and the biggest national incident is the Iran embassy hostages (now, this may be a lead worth following, but I digress). 1980, interestingly, is the year Mount St. Helens erupts, which may link into concerns with landscape and danger, but only tangentially. As for Clash 2010, it too falls in an interesting half-place – it’s too late to be all about the invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan (or indeed quite properly about the global financial crisis), and while it’s obviously more interested in the individual hero narrative, I don’t quite see Hades as Goldman Sachs or the collapse of the Eurozone.

So I’m trying to work out the historical context in which these two films place monsters, and which anxieties and fears those monsters express (and why the question of landscape is then relevant to how those monsters are thematically expressed). If you can see something I’ve missed or have any ideas, please do put them in the comments!

October 26, 2011

Forthcoming article: “She’s Only A Bird in a Gilded Cage: Freedwomen at Trimalchio’s Dinner Party”

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 8:32 pm
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I’m delighted to be able to share the very exciting news that my first article, “She’s Only A Bird in a Gilded Cage: Freedwomen at Trimalchio’s Dinner Party”, is now scheduled for publication; it will appear in volume 62.1 of Classical Quarterly in May 2012.

For me, this is enormously important for a number of reasons. The biggest reason is that it’s going to be my first piece of serious peer-reviewed scholarship, and to have it appear in a prestigious journal like Classical Quarterly is a great start to the academic career. However, the idea at the kernel of the article, that there is more to the freedwomen in the Cena Trimalchionis of Petronius’ Satyricon than you would think from the scholarly consensus, has been with me a long time. I wrote a seminar paper on basically the same material in autumn 2006, submitted it for a prize in 2007, didn’t get the prize but got quite a bit of encouragement, and the paper’s basically evolved from there. It went to a different journal first and got rejected, but I got useful feedback that I took on board, so when Classical Quarterly asked me to revise and resubmit I was more than happy to do so. And now that article, that’s been through so many incarnations and which I’ve spent so long working on, is going to be sent to me in proof form to approve in January.

I can’t quite believe this is happening, actually. The unspoken goal of graduate school was to get something published, get something out there. (I misfired at first and tried to get my MPhil thesis out – this was a bad idea, but you can only judge these things in retrospect and it made sense at the time.) And now my very first article is almost there. I have no idea how many people will read it, or indeed how many people will agree or disagree with it. But it’s going to be real. It’s been a long process, and it’s very nearly over – and, I’ll be honest, I’m not quite sure how I feel about that now the end is in sight. Oddly bereft, I think.

But there’s still the examination of the proofs to go. I don’t have to say goodbye to this project just yet.

October 6, 2011

Success! An article off to seek its fortune

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 11:40 am
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I am quite chuffed with myself this morning, because I have finally got the Ad Polybium article out to the journal I wished to submit it to. I feel very much as if I am sending it out to seek its fortune, stick with a knotted handkerchief on the end and all. It’s been quite a rough process; I had hoped to have this over and done with by the start of September, but fate and events conspired against me and my optimistic opinions of my own ability to do everything all at once. The process this week was more about making sure the minutiae were in place – checking that the document I intended to submit met all the requirements of the journal’s submission guidelines, for instance, which included writing an abstract and fiddling about with page numbers. When you’ve engaged with chunky arguments and argumentative approaches, coming down to small-scale formatting feels like rather a bump, however necessary it is.

In fact, it was fiddling about with page numbers that means this post is going up today rather than yesterday. At the moment, I don’t have access to a printer at home, so wanted to print the article at work. There is some Greek in the article, and thus I created a PDF at home so as to not risk the problem of the font getting garbled. Unfortunately, when I opened the file yesterday, the first thing I noticed was that the page numbers were out of sync… and there was no way for me to edit the document at work without garbling the Greek. (My attempts to install the correct font were, alas, unsuccessful.) So I had to create a fresh PDF with the correct page numbers at home before printing it all out this morning – but it’s done now!

I am hoping that this small hurdle will be apotropaic and spare me from other indignities of the article submission process, but it’s a vain hope. I know that my reading group have been over the manuscript with a fine tooth comb and have made it an infinitely better product, but I also know that guarantees nothing in the world of anonymous peer review. Obviously I’d like the article to be accepted, but more realistically I’m expecting at least one more round of significant revisions. The article has already changed its shape quite a lot since I wrote about it in May, and I expect it will change more before it finally appears in print. However, it’s out there, and I can now turn my attention to my paper for Animating Antiquity next month – it’ll be a nice change of pace to spend some time in front of my freshly ordered Clash of the Titans DVDs!

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