Classically Inclined

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.

(more…)

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.

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