By first time attendee, Sophie Raudnitz
As an MA student contemplating a PhD, I decided to attend the CA conference this year in an endeavour to ascertain ‘Who’s Who’ and ‘What’s going on’ in the world of Classics. I had some trepidation in advance, on both intellectual and social fronts. This was not only my first Classical Association conference but my first academic conference of any kind since my undergraduate days almost twenty years ago. Also because I am a distance learner with OU, I knew that I would not have any contacts via a university faculty and that as a mature student, most other people in my position academically would be very much younger than me.
In the event, I found the conference hugely rewarding intellectually. Although I had gone with a view to finding out what was being studied, it was even more interesting and instructive for me to think about how different scholars were approaching ancient material, that is, by way of history, politics, literary theory etc. This was not in the spirit of pigeonholing but rather in terms of the ways in which different approaches could complement each other and what they had to offer in practice. This, I know, will help me in no small way to clarify my thinking about my own projected research.
Socially, the reality was as difficult as I had anticipated.That said, I did stumble into someone else taking my course and also managed to meet a few women in similar situations to myself, largely thanks to Twitter, which provided not just a photo for identification purposes but also a pretext for opening a conversation, especially where I had corresponded with the person already.
I was hugely impressed by the smooth running of the conference, especially given its size and scope. This is a tribute to the vast amount of preparatory and behind-the-scenes work that must have gone on. I was also agreeably surprised by the diversity of the academic classical community, particularly in terms of the male/female split. Though there were clearly fewer women in senior positions, it is to be hoped that some of the large numbers of young women presenting papers will eventually help to swell their numbers. I was delighted too that Will Griffiths received the Classics prize, especially as someone who had very little (and no positive) experience of Classics at state school in the late ’80s/early ’90s.
Overall I am very glad that I battled my demons and attended the conference. In addition to being ‘character developing’, it was useful, very interesting and even (I can say this in retrospect) fun.