Classically Inclined

January 6, 2017

Looking back over 2016 and the sabbatical

Filed under: Research,Teaching — lizgloyn @ 1:34 pm
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I’ve decided that I’ve done all the admin that I want to do for today, so am going to spend the rest of my afternoon thinking about research. That means I want to review my sabbatical, and that in turns means having a look at the first part of 2016.

The spring and summer terms involved finishing off teaching Intermediate Latin and Roman Life Stories, and teaching our first year Roman literature survey again. I learned quite a lot in the process, especially about the Roman Life Stories course, which was new on the books and will need a bit of gentle modification before it gets its next run. I also proposed the two courses I will be picking up next term, and dealt with various MA and PhD supervision. I did a couple of school talks in Somerset over the Easter vacation and submitted an overdue book review. My biggest research achievement was sending the full manuscript of the Seneca book to the publishers just before Easter, marking a significant milestone in that particular intellectual journey. Oh, and of course we had the launch of the Women’s Classical Committee!

Then in the summer I got going with the Monsters project, starting with a conference paper in Warsaw in May on the Minotaur in British young adult fiction. I also gave a paper on monsters in modern classical epic films at the Celtic Classics Conference. I helped organise an event with the WCC UK on feminist pedagogy, which was very well received. I made a good start on turning the Minotaur paper into a chapter, and had a good go at planning how I was going to tackle writing the Monster book. I got started on the process of indexing the book manuscript with the invaluable assistance of one of our graduate students.

Then, during the sabbatical term, I managed the following:

  • An awful lot of core reading around monsters, monster theory and the like.
  • Two very rough chapter drafts of the Monster book and a third in progress.
  • A conference paper exploring some of the ideas for the fourth chapter.
  • Some very exciting ideas and actions about monstrous impact.
  • A very, very almost completed version of the Minotaur chapter.
  • All the paperwork, including copy-editing and proofs, around the Seneca book.
  • A full seminar paper on Seneca, fathers and rulers, which will be the basis of an article in due course.
  • A completed and submitted application for an outreach scheme.

When I finished the summer term, I had grand ideas about getting the whole book written before Christmas. This was, in retrospect, utterly implausible, but you have to start somewhere. At the beginning of September, I was aiming to get the first four chapters into draft. I’ve not managed that – but I have done some other things that weren’t in the original plan, and I’m well underway to getting more written.

In retrospect, the most valuable thing about the sabbatical term has been the time to set the stage – to spend a month reading what I picked out as ‘core reading’, get my head around the debates, articulate some of the issues I was running up against, blog and tweet about them, take my time to get organised. I now feel like I know what I want to be doing for finishing off the chapter I’m working on and starting the next ones – the project has become manageable, which it wasn’t at the start of the summer. There’s a lot still to do, of course, not least of all finding more lovely primary sources to talk about and analyse (which, to the untutored eye, may look like watching a lot of silly television). But I now feel like I’ve made a good start. Let’s hope it gives me good foundations for the work of 2017.

December 1, 2016

On sabbatical goals and #acwrimo

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 11:56 am
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I decided this year that I was going to have a go at Academic Writing Month, better known as #acwrimo over on Twitter. Taking its inspiration from National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, it’s basically a way to get an academic writing practice established – whether that’s daily writing, having a project finished by the end of the month, you name it, you can have a go at it. I had a go at this back in 2012, with mixed results – I found it a good way to push myself forward on revisions for the Seneca book, although I didn’t get as much done I as I wanted (plus ça change). AcWriMo isn’t good for everything – its emphasis on counting words, for instance, isn’t always the most helpful thing to do to help move your academic work along. But right now, given the fact I’m trying to get as much of the monster book drafted as possible, I thought that going the AcWriMo route would be sensible to move the sheer generative phase forward.

And so I set myself a very simple goal – to write at least 500 words a day, with Sundays off. And it worked really quite well… until the 22nd of November, when I completely fell off the bandwagon through a combination of full family sickness, travelling to a research seminar and giving a paper, and needing to finish the work of rigorously checking the proofs of the Seneca book by the deadline. So there’s been quite a lot of academic work in the last week or so of AcWriMo, but it’s not really been translating into words. Which is fine, not least because the proofs have been returned, the seminar was successfully given, and generally all the other bits and pieces I needed to do are more or less done – thus again reinforcing the point that word count isn’t always the most important thing.

But on the issue of word count, I don’t think I did too badly – overall, I managed a bit over 14,000 words in those three weeks. This was made quite a bit easier by the fact I’m counting my seminar script and handout translations in those words, and the former certainly pre-existed and just needed to be shaped into a script form. But the other words mean I’ve now got all of chapter two for the monsters book in first draft, and chapter three is under way.

When I applied for this sabbatical, I said that my goals for the term were to complete the majority of the Monster book manuscript, and to complete an article based on the research seminar. A short, sharp encounter with reality meant that I soon revised the first goal to having the first half of the Monster book in first draft, which feels like it should still be doable – not least as I’m due to give a paper at an AHRC conference in a few weeks based on chapter four, which should get that started. I’m not sure about whether the article manuscript will get much further, but at least I know what I want to say and that there is a kernel of an idea there. So it’s all progress – and sometimes, putting the words down onto the paper is what you need to do.

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.

August 10, 2016

Changing times, changing working practices

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 10:12 pm
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Of all the possible blog posts I could write at the moment, I’m starting with the low-hanging fruit of some reflections on what I’ve learned over the past few months about the reality of being on sabbatical and being a parent. This is partly because Academic Twitter has been talking about working practices a bit more than usual, focusing around Raul Pacheco-Vega’s posts about low-hanging fruit and how to pick it, and another burst of interest in my post about academic otters. But as I mentioned in my last research-focused post, I am moving into a new book-sized project at the same time as having a sabbatical, and I need new strategies for how to organise my time and workflow now I’ve moved to an ideas-generating phase rather than a refining phase. (Jo Van Every has a post that articulates this better in thinking about summer writing plans in general.)

My initial plan was brilliant, simply brilliant, I tell you. I mapped out precisely which chapter and side project I was going to work on for every single week until the end of the calendar year, so that I’d have a full draft of the book by the end of my leave, and would have done All The Things. Marvellous.

Except that by the end of the first fortnight of the new Grand Plan, it wasn’t marvellous at all and I was already very, very behind what I’d hoped to get done. There were a couple of reasons for this, the most obvious of which was that I had assumed I would be able to work on the Monster book and Mazes Intricate, a related but separate chapter manuscript, at the same time. The chapter is due in November, so squeaked priority – and while some of the reading I’d done for it also fed into my thinking about the Monster book, when I got into the writing I wanted to get Mazes Intricate finished rather than spinning off onto other things. So, big lesson one of Being A Researcher With A Small Child – don’t try and do multiple projects at once. Focus on finishing one thing at a time. This is very different to when I was doing my PhD, when I’d have (at least) one other article on the go alongside my current chapter, as something to go to as an intellectual break and refresher. Now my intellectual break is helping infans explore how pouring lentils from one container into another via the medium of a yoghurt pot works. Same intellectual function, different learning outcome, to repurpose some jargon.

(more…)

December 30, 2014

Reflections and plans at the end of 2014

We’re half-way through the academic year, and coming to the close of 2014, so for a variety of reasons it seemed a good moment to pause and reflect on how things are going so far.

Teaching: as I mentioned in my most recent syllabi-wrangling post, my two biggest obligations were putting together a new half-unit on Virgil and a new Advanced Latin course (in two half units) for intercollegiate MA provision. I also decided to gamify intermediate Latin. I think gamification deserves its own post again, but I will say that I’ve been enjoying the process of incorporating game theory into my language teaching at this level, and it’s certainly appealing to some of the students. Some of the pitfalls I’m coming across are similar to those I’ve encountered with other techniques that have worked in US classrooms but seem to falter a bit in UK ones, but as I say, I’ll hold those thoughts over for another post.

The Advanced Latin course has been quietly rewarding in its own right, partly because of teaching Suetonius’ Life of Vespasian for the first time (which has turned out to be surprisingly good fun), and partly because of the student response to the independent project element. I set this up using the second year undergraduate projects we set students at Royal Holloway as an initial model, so while I knew that the format would work in principle, I had no idea whether the students in the course would bite. Well, it turns out that giving MA students an opportunity to work on texts that they actually like and want to work into their research means they have fun with the assessment you set. I’ve had some fascinating conversations with students about their individual research and where they see it fitting into their broader profile as researchers, and the students have shown me directions these projects can go in that I hadn’t envisaged when putting the syllabus together. For some reason, our impression when setting these courses up had been that they would be of interest mainly to those working on history and literature – my brain had completely left out the possibility that students with a primary research interest in classical reception might want to polish up their Latin too! The projects aren’t due in until the new year, but I’m really excited to see how they’ll turn out. And I think the students’ Latin has improved too.

The Virgil half-unit has basically been a new build, and I’ve found myself being more comfortable with a note-and-text based lecture style than I have been previously. I’ve also rather liked the seminar-lecture two hour format, although I think that in the future I’d like to experiment with the active learning/lecture format that I used during my Roman Life Course unit at Birmingham – leaving students to their own devices for more or less the first hour and then lecturing at them for the second hour isn’t a format that I think works for me particularly well, although I’m very glad I’ve tried it and seen how it plays out in practice. In the end, because of the number of students, I ended up not assigning in-class presentations on secondary literature, but I think there are other ways to work that skill-set in. However, the most rewarding part of the whole course has been re-reading the Aeneid with fresh eyes and trying to get some more enthusiasm into the students about the text. I think my decision to keep Virgil out of the first year Roman literature survey is definitely the right one, as it gives students a year off and the ability to come at the poem fresh. All in all, I’m quite pleased with the experiment.

Research: a year-long view here. As far as the book is concerned, I’ve revised two chapters, finished off writing a new one, and have done a complete text/translation review of the manuscript as well as respond to a set of readers’ reports. I need to redraft the conclusion (sometime before term? Who knows?), but there’s been slow and steady progress towards getting the manuscript together. However, I will admit to being quite frustrated that another year has passed and I still don’t have a contract in hand. Still, none of the work I’m doing is wasted, and let’s hope 2015 is The Year Of The Book.

I’ve also written a chapter on women classicists at Newnham, been awarded an AHRC grant for work on the Family Archive Project (about which I will blog on here before too long, I hope!), got some thoughts together about women, space and the stage in Plautus, had the Ad Polybium article published at long last, given several other conference papers, almost got a pedagogy article finished about preparing a text commentary for the Companion To The Worlds of Roman Women, and have some positive developments on the Monster Project front (of which also more before too long, hopefully). I have to be honest that while I feel like I’ve stalled a bit on the book front, other research has been bubbling alongside it. I think the trick is going to be making sure that these opportunities generate tangible results rather than Interesting Thoughts – I’m sure they will, but the trick is going to be in the planning. So the book stays at the top of the research to-do list, but I’d also like to spend next year working on the AHRC project and preparing an article on Seneca’s use of imagery in his political philosophy that’s come out of writing the new book chapter.

Personal life: as some of you may have seen me announce on Twitter recently, my husband and I are expecting our first child in April. We are both excited and petrified in equal measures, which I gather is the sensible position to be in at this stage. Because infans has had the grace to time themselves conveniently, I’m planning to complete my spring 2015 teaching before going on maternity leave at the start of April; I hope to be back in September or October at the start of the 2015-16 academic year, all being well. It goes without saying that this is going to be a massive life-changing event for us, and we have no sense of the impact that it is going to have on our quotidian existence, let alone something as rarefied and intellectual as research. We’re looking forward to finding out – for the foreseeable future, this little project is going to be taking top priority.

June 6, 2014

The rara avis of research

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 11:09 am
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I realised a month or so ago that there had been very little content on here about my research lately, so this post is an attempt to fill in that gap. There are several reasons for the sudden hiatus – as I mentioned in my end of year round-up, the spring term was full with teaching preparation, which didn’t leave a lot of time for doing much else. The other main reason for there not being much to say is that the biggest chunk of my work over the last year has been editing three of my dissertation chapters and writing a new chapter, beginning the process of putting together a book manuscript; there are still two chapters left to edit before the whole thing is done (or at least, done until I get more peer review feedback). While this is important and serious work, it’s not terribly bloggable – I’m not thinking out new ideas, I’m making sure that I’m communicating existing ideas as efficiently as I could be. Similarly, there’s been quite a bit of editing/finessing work on other projects, like the Ad Polybium article, which is again all very important but not as exciting as classical reception at Eurovision. However, alongside this worthy stuff, there have been a couple of new projects quietly bubbling away – here are the highlights.

Grants, grants, grants: yes, in the new and exciting world of academia, even those of us in humanities have to bring in grant money. Thankfully, the AHRC has a scheme that makes that seem sensible rather than daft, namely their Early Career Researcher grant linked to their ‘Care For The Future’ subtheme. The lovely thing about these grants is that they are designed to be collaborative projects between ECRs which have grown out of a workshop that took place earlier in the year – it’s an example of coming up with new interdisciplinary ideas that fit people rather than trying to squeeze something you already want to do into guidelines and claim it’s interdisciplinary really. I’ve been involved with developing two proposals as a result of the workshop, which were submitted today. I’ve been doing quite a bit of work on both of them one way or another, so I hope that they will do well in the funding call; whatever happens, it’s been a very useful learning experience even to get this far.

Women as Classical Scholars: I wrote a little about the early stages of this project back in November; it’s an investigation of the women who taught Classics at Newnham College between 1882 and 1922. Those of you who follow me on Twitter will have been seeing the occasional burst of archive-related tweets as I’ve been working through the data gathering stage of the project. I’ve got a first draft written which needs quite a bit of work, but the archive work is done. There is far more research to be done here, but this will be a beneficial first stage for a bigger project.

Public speaking: I may have overdone this a bit this year – I’ve committed myself to five academic talks or seminars in as many months, plus an outreach talk at the end of this month. Which means they all need writing. (Incidentally, if anyone fancies coming to RHUL’s School Teachers’ Colloquium on Roman culture on 20th June, there are more details here.) In fairness, most of these are either projects I’ve been mulling over for a while or spin-offs of existing work, and I’m giving one of the talks twice in two very different venues. However, I think I’ve paid my conference dues for this year and the next, and unless someone offers me something absolutely irresistible, I think I get 2014-15 off from submitting abstracts.

So that’s what I’ve been doing – quite bitty, quite difficult to pin down in any coherent way, but all adding up to a not-at-all bad picture. I’m wondering whether doing a summer goals post this year is actually a helpful thing or not – quite honestly, meeting all my deadlines and getting on with editing the final two book chapters would be more than enough for me.

October 1, 2013

Those summer goals… 2013 edition

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 12:41 pm
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At the end of June, I set myself some summer goals – so it’s now time to see how they turned out…

Personal

  • Have a holiday – achieved! We spent a week in Germany and I had a week in Suffolk, so that’s not bad going.
  • Move – achieved! Although now it looks like I’ll be moving again in the next couple of months as we have (quite excitingly) bought a house, but never mind.

Conferences

The Book

  • Finish sorting out the new chapter four – not-quite-achieved… well, when I wrote my summer goals post, I had a very rough full draft with incomplete footnotes. I now have a chapter that has been past my reading group and thus needs some fairly heavy-weight restructuring, but I know what I’m doing with it. So getting this done involved the first draft being more or less fine, which it wasn’t. This is actually OK, and getting this into shape will be my big autumn project.
  • Complete revisions on introduction and chapters one to three – achieved! The appendix still needs going over and I will need to rewrite the paragraph in the introduction which describes what chapter four does, but that’s fine.

Miscellanea

  • Complete a book review – achieved!
  • Do an archive trip to Cambridge if possible – achieved! And very positive it was too.
  • Put together a proper research bibliography on Plautus and Roman comedy – possibly achieved? I had an undergraduate student working with me who was putting this together as a bit of an independent research project over the summer, and am waiting to see the final files before I count this as done. But at least that’s a start made!

I said in my original goals post that the focus this summer needed to be on the book. I think it was, not least for getting the earlier chapters sorted out (they needed rather more work than I had hoped, but that’s always the way). This was a more ambitious set of goals than I set last year, but I’ve still actually done quite well in comparison. I do notice some patterns, namely the tendency to bite off more than I can chew on the research front – but I’m assuming that’s a good thing. I’d rather be overambitious than less, not least because the process of working through this stuff makes it better than it would be if I just fudged along. So autumn is going to be all about trying to sort out chapter four, and I should really start thinking about my classical women chapter as well. I draw a veil over my current interior dialogue over whether to submit something for LonCon3’s academic track and/or for From I, Claudius, to Private Eyes: the Ancient World and Popular Fiction, although that may turn up here in due course…

June 24, 2013

Summer goals 2013

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 2:10 pm
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Last year, I found having a set of summer goals surprisingly useful in making sure my work was targeted and well-organised, so I’m going to have another go at it. That’s not to say that I managed to meet all of my goals, of course, but part of the point of strategy is to have a plan and see whether or not it’s a realistic one. Something that’s becoming more and more clear is that I need to be thinking practically about ways that I can keep my research moving over the year to respect the different patterns that the academic year imposes upon academics. The same strategies that work for the summer won’t work in the middle of term, for instance. After an academic year where I’ve been pretty dedicated about carving out half an hour here or there for research, I’m finding that to have days without anything else in them is slightly disconcerting – hence the need for some proper goals to create a bit of structure and order.

Personal

  • Have a holiday! This turned up last year, but it is an important goal, and one that needs acknowledging.
  • Move. This is going to be fairly straightforward, as I have somewhere to move to sorted, but the end of August is going to involve a bit of logistics-wrangling.

Conferences

The Book

  • Finish sorting out the new chapter four.
  • Complete revisions on introduction and chapters one to three.

Miscellanea

  • Complete a book review.
  • Do an archive trip to Cambridge if possible.
  • Put together a proper research bibliography on Plautus and Roman comedy.

There’s a lot of small stuff drifting around the edges, but the main focus over the summer really does have to be on The Book. I’ve made quite big strides with getting the new chapter written during term time, but now I need to pull it all together and get it to a stage where I can send what I have off. Wish me luck!

May 14, 2013

#ECRchat – Managing Career Expectations

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 10:17 am
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The #ECRchat that I hosted last week started off with a poll full of options about professional development for the early career researcher, and it ended in a tie for topics, which I don’t think has ever happened before! As I’d done more thought about managing career expectations, we went with that; learning and developing leadership skills will be the topic of a future chat.

Managing career expectations was a topic I wanted to look at because there is often a tendency for ECRs to think about this as an internally-focused process, where one adjusts one’s own expectations of what might happen in the future. However, in the business world, managing expectations is all about how you relate to other people, both customers and colleagues, rather than some kind of self-policing mechanism. I wanted to see what happened if we applied this idea to the ECR sphere, whether it could be helpful for us to think with, and what insights considering the idea of managing expectations would generate.

We started the chat by thinking about what managing expectations is, and where those expectations come from. The idea of the disconnect between the ideal and the reality felt like a central part of this, as did the way that expectation gaps create disappointment. People felt there was a fine balance between aiming high and accepting the realities of one’s situation – including, perhaps, that certain things just wouldn’t work for you as an individual. Digging a bit deeper, we identified plenty of places where expectations come from – the job specification, your department, your university, disciplinary norms, ourselves, our families, the norms of (senior) colleagues, search committees, your PhD supervisor, funding bodies, and students. Being aware that expectations sometimes come from outside, and that this means we have the power to decide whether we want to sign up to them, seemed an important take-home point here.

After thinking about where expectations come from, we considered how we might find out what those expectations are before it’s too late to engage with them. There were lots of possibilities – considering the needs of the stakeholders in your projects, for example, or talking to colleagues to work out how the expectations of you on paper might play out in practice. The key message which came from this section of the chat was the importance of communication to make sure that you knew what people were after, and could adjust your behaviour accordingly. This also held true when we thought about how to go about managing those expectations – honesty, clarity, straightforwardness and a dose of humour seemed the sensible way to go! Participants also flagged up the importance of being willing to say ‘no’ if an expectation was genuinely at odds with other things which also needed doing. It felt as if some personal thought was needed here too, to work out what your career priorities were and how they fitted into the expectations of the institution, so you could balance the two accordingly – but it felt very difficult to make a satisfying plan without knowing the shape of all these jigsaw pieces.

We closed by thinking about how we might use expectations for our advantage rather than as coercion. Some suggestions including making sure that we know expectations so we can show how we are meeting them during performance reviews; using them to gain opportunities that might not otherwise be available; making them a tool to point out where your potential isn’t being fully developed or used; and using them as part of the networking process to discover more about your field and what’s going on in it.

If you’d like to read more from the chat, the Storified tweets are here.

Crossposted at the #ECRchat blog.

May 6, 2013

Hosting #ECRchat

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 10:00 pm
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I’m looking forward to hosting another edition of #ECRchat on Twitter later this week! As usual, the chat will take place on Thursday at 11am UK time and will last an hour.  All you need to do to take part is follow the hash tag! If you haven’t come across #ECRchat before, there’s plenty of information on the website. You can also vote in the poll to decide what the topic of the chat will be – the topics this week all look at aspects of professional development for the early career researcher. I hope you can join us!

 

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