Classically Inclined

July 6, 2015

June is busting out all over…

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 6:28 pm
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…and it’s taken me until July to blog about it. Such is the life of a new mum. I type this with infans in his sling, finally having the nap he has resisted all day, while I reflect upon the changes and developments that have happened in my life over the last twelve weeks.

Arguably the most significant of these is the arrival of the new small person, who is growing and thriving at a slightly alarming but very encouraging rate. We’ve all got the hang of the basics now, so it’s a matter of doing the day-to-day living, which is demanding but rather less intense than the first six weeks or so. That the final output of my maternity leave, when it finishes in September, should be a happy, cheerful and generally content baby looks like a goal that is on track.

However, I will happily own up to the fact that the itch to get back on with research work has already returned, reinforcing my personal conviction that a year’s worth of maternity leave would have had me climbing the walls. I’ve already been surprisingly productive – I finished off the science fiction piece, have done more work for the Family Archive project, and have sorted out the edits to an article about writing for the Companion to the World of Roman Women that started off as a series of blog posts on here.

Most importantly, however, last week I signed and posted back my contract with Cambridge University Press for a book provisionally entitled The Ethics of the Family in Seneca.

As you will probably have guessed, this is going to be the book version of my PhD thesis, and I’ve spent the time since submission in 2011 working on getting the manuscript into a good enough shape for publication. In fact, I’m still working on revising the manuscript, as those of you who follow me on Twitter will know, but now there’s an end date for the manuscript to be finished, and everything feels more… real.

When I graduated, I said that my life goals for the next few years were a baby, a book and abode. It looks like the most elusive of those three is finally getting closer. I may write more about the process of getting here at some stage, but right now, I’m going to go and help infans (who has woken up since I started writing this post) practice rolling onto his side.

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August 6, 2014

New publication: My family tree goes back to the Romans

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 2:57 pm
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As those of you who follow me on Twitter will know, at the minute I am elbow-deep in assessing the revisions needed for chapter six of the book manuscript. I have just realised that I haven’t officially announced that a version of that chapter is already out in publication, as of a few months ago!

“My family tree goes back to the Romans: Seneca’s approach to the family in the Epistulae Morales” appears in Seneca Philosophus, a volume that came out of a conference in Paris about Seneca as a philosopher which I was unable to attend because – cheerful irony of ironies – it took place on the weekend of PhD graduation, so I kind of needed to be on another continent. However, I wrote to the conference organiser because I wanted sight of the paper she’d given, explaining what my interest was – and, lo and behold, she asked whether my book would be finished in time for consultation for the conference volume. As that was totally out of the range of possibility, I said so and sent her my Epistulae Morales chapter in PDF form instead. She then invited me to contribute it to the conference volume as it would make a good addition to the range of pieces talking about the letter collection.

Given that I had no idea how long it would take me to get the PhD into a book manuscript shape, I jumped at the chance to get some of my research out, and in a volume that contains some of the most significant scholars currently writing on Seneca, no less. So it’s out there, and in a book! Which is very exciting.

Of course, this now leaves me in a slightly perplexing place with what is now chapter six of the book manuscript. There are several discussions that didn’t make it into the Family Tree chapter, not least because of reasons of length, and because the argument that chapter makes had to stand alone rather than finish off the dissertation as a whole. I got some very good feedback on the Family Tree chapter as a stand-alone piece that I’m incorporating into the revised chapter six, but I’m also realising just how much I need to do in order to make sure that it does what I need it to do in terms of the overall book’s direction. It says a lot about the progress I’ve made over the last few years that I’m seeing so many different things I want to change and improve compared to the first time that I revised it – the only downside is that I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me. Never mind – the chapter is out there, if anyone wants to read it and get a head-start on the book!

July 24, 2013

On editing and catharsis

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 2:55 pm
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Things have been a little quiet here on the blog, partly because I took some time off to go to the seaside, and partly because what I’m doing at the moment doesn’t necessarily translate terribly well into exciting blog posts. For, dear readers, in line with my summer goals, I am trying to work through edits to my book manuscript in order to get the chapters which are coming out of the PhD into shape.

Now, this does not mean that I have been quiet on the internet. Any of my very, very patient Twitter followers will be able to tell you that I have been whinging like mad about this process over there, because let’s face it, if you need to vent for more than 140 characters, you should probably rethink your venting forum and whether there’s a bigger problem there. That said, thinking about this process honestly made me realize there was probably a blog post in here.

I should point out here that I’m already doing something a bit unusual in trying to convert the PhD into a book to begin with – plenty of academics just don’t bother. Well, that’s not quite accurate. They decide that the PhD was a thing good in and of itself, but that it’s best suited to life as a series of articles than as a monograph. Or that this chapter and this chapter are worth keeping, but the rest of it can go and they’ll write the rest of the manuscript from scratch. Or that now they actually want their first book to be on this topic instead. All of these are totally reasonable and sane decisions to make, but I’m in the minority, because I want to keep the structure of my PhD and add an extra chapter.

I’m currently up to my elbows in trying to deal with chapter one. Ah, chapter one. This was the ‘let’s see if it works’ chapter, the cocky chapter, the ‘I’m completely sure that there will be no problems whatsoever with this’ chapter, but also the ‘what if I’m wrong’ chapter, the ‘I have no confidence in my own writing’ chapter, the ‘excessive deference’ chapter. I started reading and writing for it in summer 2008. That’s five years ago. Just sit with that for a moment. Five years. In between which, I have won my PhD, had my first peer review articles published and accepted, and generally just… grown up a hell of a lot academically. But I’m trying to get something I wrote when I had just passed my qualifying exams into shape. It’s come a long way – from those first early steps to the last-minute restructuring a few months before submission to the first-round edit it had before going through the department’s work in progress seminar, and now my attempts to edit according to that feedback. And, you know, it’s hard to keep all that development in perspective.

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December 17, 2012

End of term wrap-up

What with one thing and another, I’ve been run off my feet for the last fortnight or so. Term has now officially been over for a week, but I don’t feel as if I’ve got the paperwork and administration for everything quite under control yet. It’s getting there, but there are a couple of things that still need finishing off. I have, of course, finished all my teaching. The Roman novel first year seminar is working much more smoothly than it did last year; this is partly due to the department increasing seminar lengths from one to two hours across the board, meaning there’s more space for presentations and discussions, but I think the tweaks to the syllabus that I made at the start of the year have paid off as well. There’s still one class that isn’t quite working as I want it to work, but I’ve had another go at redefining the discussion questions, so we’ll see if that helps. It is, in fairness, the class dealing with literary form (e.g. why are parts of the Satyricon in poetry, and do we care?), so I think it’s going to be a case of continually experimenting until I get the formula right. I shall miss my first year tutees, who will be disappearing off to pastures new, but it will be good to meet some more of the first year intake next term.

The Roman Life Course lectures are going well – I have a good group of students, and we’ve established what feels like a productive discussion-based atmosphere to complement the parts of the session where I lecture more traditionally. The material seems to be engaging the students’ interest, and I’m sneakily incorporating as much philosophical evidence for social history as I can – one of the surprise hits was Plutarch’s The Training of Children, which seems to have gone over rather well! The blog posts are still working more or less as I want them to, and the students seem to like the idea of blog-based work in principle even if the practice is a little shakier. I’m also glad that I decided to stick it out with the critical incident questionnaire, for the simple reason that it’s really helping me see what is and isn’t working with this sort of teaching.

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November 26, 2012

#acwrimo 2012 – some reflections

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 3:47 pm
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It’s the final week of #acwrimo, and I wanted to have a bit of a reflect on how the process has gone for me. I set off with some very elaborate plans, in the spirit of the thing, and it seemed like a good thing to have a pause and a think about the process before crossing the finish line.

I set myself a content-related goal and a time-related goal. I sincerely doubt I am going to make the content-related goal, which was to revise the introduction and first three chapters of my book manuscript. However, I have revised the first chapter, and am in the middle of revising the second chapter; I’m hoping to make a start on the third chapter before the end of the week (fingers crossed!). The thing that has taken me more time than I had expected is not the writing, but the additional reading I’ve needed to do. For instance, for the chapter one revisions, I needed to include a couple of paragraphs about the Roman concept of motherhood and what a Roman mother looks like – this is a bit of social history background that all my other chapters included, but my first chapter (which was the first thing I wrote for the PhD) had managed not to think important. (And this demonstrates, as if proof were needed, just how much better you get at writing as you do more of it.) This was also an area of scholarship that I knew was important but hadn’t really got to grips with before, so I needed to put together a bibliography before I could start doing any reading. And so, if you look at the Academic Writing Accountability Spreadsheet, you’ll see that I spent five days gathering citations and doing extra reading which, in the end, resulted in three extra paragraphs.

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October 25, 2012

#acwrimo and me

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 1:43 pm
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Most people will now be familiar with NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, which has been running since 1999 with the goal of making November the time when people let out their frustrated inner novelists. Last year saw the arrival of AcBoWriMo, or Academic Book Writing Month, in an attempt to bring a tried and tested method of productivity to the field of academic writing. This was not without its problems – a lot of constructive debate took place about whether this was a healthy thing to be aiming for, giving the need for academic writing to simmer and mature, and the general pressure on academics to work flat out doing all of our seventy-two top priority things at once anyway. I didn’t take part – I certainly didn’t have a book to write, was finding my feet in a new job, and generally looked on in a ‘good luck if you’ve got it in you’ sort of way.

Well, this year, the project is back and it’s developed a bit as the result of the discussions last year – now it’s simply AcWriMo, or Academic Writing Month, recognising that academic writing isn’t always about generating fresh text, and isn’t always about books. As the Thesis Whisperer has noted, this explicit widening of the project to all kinds of academic writing makes the project more hackable to suit where each individual researcher is at when November starts. NaNoWriMo asks potential novelists to make the committment to generating crazy amounts of fictional prose; AcWriMo asks researchers to set crazy goals suitable for them. If that crazy goal is to prioritise your own research for an hour a day through the month, then that’s a crazy enough dream to head for.

I’ve been pondering this for some time, and I’ve been thinking about whether this will work for me – and, do you know, I rather think it will.

As some of you may remember, I have that whole thesis thing sitting and waiting revision into a book manuscript. I actually made a start on that this Monday (shock! horror!), and it’s not half as bad as I thought it was going to be. But I need to get on with it, and I need to prioritise it – there is a real pay-off here, in that the sooner I can get enough revised text to my publisher, the sooner I have a chance of getting a book contract, and the sooner that contract can appear in job applications and on my CV. (Mercenary, I know, but the current market doesn’t leave me much choice.) So here I am, getting on the #acwrimo bandwagon by publicly declaring my goals:

  1. By the end of November, I will have revised the introduction and first three chapters of my book manuscript.
  2. From 5th November onwards, I will spend at least one hour every weekday working on revisions.

There’s no point in me setting a word-related goal, as I’m not generating new material but reworking older stuff. As I’ll have prepared my teaching notes up to week 9 as of next week, I should be able to find the hour a day without taking away from teaching-related work. Having the pressure of revising three chapters over the course of the month should stop me getting precious about the whole affair and fussing that it’s not quite perfect – and should also capitalise on the sudden burst of confidence I find I have now that I’m coming back to the revision process after eighteen months thinking about the project but not looking at it.

And if it doesn’t work out to plan? Well, I’ll have a couple of revised chapters in hand, and that’s still going to be a positive result.

October 15, 2012

So, those summer goals…

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 10:57 am
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Back at the end of July, I wrote about my summer goals for the upcoming vacation – perhaps a little late, but better late than never. One of the tricks to setting goals, of course, is to look back over them and see how one has done, so in the spirit of intellectual honesty, here is a quick review!

Personal

  • Have a holiday – achieved! I managed to have not one but two of these, counting the honeymoon, so I get a pat on the back for that.
  • Get married – achieved! This happened, and happened successfully! All the hard work and planning that went into it paid off, and it was a lovely day.

Abstracts

  • Classical Association 2013achieved! I followed my instincts and put together an abstract thinking about Seneca’s De Matrimonio; I’m now waiting for the conference organisers to let me know their decision, which should come through by the end of this month.
  • Swords, Sorcery, Sandals and Space: The Fantastika and the Classical Worldachieved! Alright, this got done in the weekend before the deadline, but never mind. The abstract also fell into place nicely with the ideas I was tinkering with and what the texts actually said, which is always a nice surprise. The conference organisers should be in touch at some point this month.

Publishing

  • Condense Chapter Five – achieved! The summer goal was to tighten the chapter up and have it with the editor by mid-August, and I managed that. However, I also managed to do a first stage of edits and refinements that the editor suggested, and am now awaiting a second batch. So this is still a work in progress, but it’s moving along at a healthy speed.
  • Revise and Resubmit the Ad Polybium – almost achieved! No, the Ad Polybium article still hasn’t made it out of my hands, but it’s so very very nearly there. I have set firm limits on how much more reading I’m going to do (one German book down and one to go), and after that it’s a question of checking that the writing is Good Enough and letting it go. So very nearly within my grasp – but not quite there.

All in all, I think that looks like a pretty productive summer. I do wish I had got the Ad Polybium article out of the way, but I feel a lot better for setting firm boundaries about how much energy I’m willing to give it and the end of the tunnel is looking fairly close. There have been substantial improvements from the version that went to the journal originally, and that in and of itself is good enough for now. I also want to get my attention focused on the process of revising the Book, especially as I have a slot coming up at the end of November in the department’s Work in Progress seminar – I want them to have a look at a hacked-about version of my first chapter, and in order to get that into shape, I need to start paying it some serious attention!

July 31, 2012

Summer goals

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 11:35 am
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Lately, my bit of the Twittersphere has been talking about how best to survive the summer. There have been two threads to this discussion. The first has focused around how to formulate and tackle summer goals – Flora Poste seemed to start the trend on this. The second has looked at ways of using the summer as a space to decompress and recharge – that was what I took away from the last #femlead chat I attended, and you can read the Storify archive if you’re interested. Summer may be late coming in this year, but I thought it was probably a good thing to share my summer goals now that they’ve actually solidified! They’ve also changed a lot since the summer started, mainly because of some unexpected opportunities that have turned up; now is (oddly enough) probably the right time to post them, especially as I’m extending my definition of summer to ‘when term starts’. My overarching aim is to Get Some Research Out There And Stay Sane, which doesn’t sound like it should be too difficult… (famous last words).

Personal

  • Have a holiday – what I spent last week doing, so this gets a big tick.
  • Get married – happening in early September, so a lot of energy is going into organising this and it only seems fair to acknowledge it!

Abstracts

Publishing

  • Condense Chapter Five – this would be the completely unexpected opportunity of the summer. I’ve been asked whether I’d like to submit a piece to a collected volume of a conference I was unable to attend last year (it was in Paris on the same day I was graduating with my PhD in New Jersey…), but the deadline is quite tight. My current Major Goal is to have the chapter tidied up and in line with editorial guidelines by the middle of this month. Fingers crossed!
  • Revise and Resubmit the Ad Polybium – oh, this article. I’ve made some progress so far over the summer, but not quite enough. Having to read a lot of work in foreign languages that ultimately turns out to have nothing relevant to contribute isn’t helping (for more on which, see Mary Beard’s latest piece on damn footnotes). I’ve had a first go at revising it, and now have some helpful comments from my reading group, and a whole pile more reading to do – but there’s no deadline. So once I’ve got chapter five out of the way, I’ll sit down and do some more heavy lifting with it.

If all goes according to plan, at the end of the summer I will be well rested and married, have submitted two abstracts, have two pieces off seeking their fortunes with their spotted handkerchiefs, and be ready to pick up the thesis manuscript and get properly stuck into revisions. Fingers crossed!

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?

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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.

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