World Cinema 2015

by Mr Philip Hooker

The Oscars are over, film buffs have been identifying the films which are due to emerge in 2015. These are the ones with classical themes.

We start with Christopher Honore’s Metamorphoses, briefly mentioned in the last CA News.   This is a collection of stories from Ovid, in modern times, with a non-professional cast.   It appeared at several of the major film festivals (including London) last autumn and had a release in France in September.  Will it gain a UK release?  Reviewers were not very enthusiastic, they found it all a bit baffling, so probably not.

Just out on a UK release is the latest film to depict not just a teacher, but, for extra poignancy, a classics teacher.   We have had Kevin Kline in The Emperor’s Club and Anthony Hopkins in The Human Stain (and previously Mr Chips and Andrew Crocker-Harris); we now have Jennifer Lopez in The Boy Next Door.   She has just separated from her husband, a handsome young man moves in next door and the scene is set for an “erotic thriller”.    There are references to Oedipus and, at one point, he presents her with a fine copy of the Iliad, a first edition, no less.    “One of the worst movies of the year” opined one critic.

Rather more invigorating must be Dragon Blade, the big Chinese release for its new year, with Jackie Chan as the head of the Silk Road Protection Squad and John Cusack and Adrien Brody as Roman generals, warring among themselves, in 48 BC.    Actually, the Silk Road was not there then, the Roman empire was not contiguous to China and generals would never have enlisted the Parthians for assistance, but never mind the history, just enjoy the spectacle of a $60m production; it is said to be a bit like Gladiator, but with martial arts.   It might, just possibly, appear at the Terracotta Film Festival in London in May.

Then we have Asterix: le domaine des dieux, an animated film, released in France and much of Europe in November, all about the building of a new estate next to a village in Gaul to create a Roman city.    This one has had strong reviews and is said to be close to the spirit of the original, unlike the galumphing live action movies with Gerard Depardieu.   It has a UK release date of 21 June.

At the end of the year Ithaca will be released in the US; it stars Meg Ryan (who directs), Tom Hanks and Sam Shephard; it is a remake of William Saroyan’s The Human Comedy, filmed in 1943 with Mickey Rooney, loosely based on the Odyssey.

And the one which will appear in multiplexes (due 19 February 2016) is a new version of Ben Hur, directed by Timur Bekmambetov (a Russian, best known for his vampire movies) with Jack Huston, Rodrigo Santoro, Toby Kebbell and Pilou Asbaek, which has been filming at Cinecitta in Rome and at Matera, not, we hope, a Europudding.

Mr Hooker is the Hon. Treasurer of the Classical Association.  Look out for more of his posts covering Classics in the media!

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‘Teaching with Ancient Artefacts’: JACT INSET day for Secondary Teachers at the Ashmolean Museum

By Dr Jane Masséglia

Classics teachers are multi-taskers: in any given week they might be found teaching languages, literature, and history topics across a great chronological range. And yet, some will admit to being reluctant about using archaeological material in their classroom teaching. It may not have been part of their own school or university experience, and the prospect of learning new terminology can be daunting. But in the teaching of ancient history topics (e.g. the lives of ancient women, slavery or religion), evidence such as coins, tombstones, tools and ancient art, can be an important antidote to the elite male-dominated literary sources.

The Ashmolean Latin Inscriptions Project (AshLI) is a three year project, run jointly by the Ashmolean Museum, and Warwick and Oxford Universities, which aims to demystify epigraphy (the study of inscriptions), and produce teaching resources on Roman life which complement the Primary and Secondary curriculum.

On 22nd November, AshLI teamed up with JACT to host a one-day course at the Ashmolean Museum, for Classics teachers interested in teaching with ancient sculpture, coins and inscriptions. 38 Secondary teachers from all over the UK attended the event, which was free of charge, thanks to support from Warwick’s Centre for Advanced Study and Oxford Classics Outreach.

The day began with an opening lecture from Warwick’s Dr Dan Orrells on Winkelmann and the history of art appreciation, and was followed by a programme of museum-based sessions in the Ashmolean, delivered by a team of Warwick and Oxford academics. With postgraduate volunteers helping them to find their way between venues, every teacher attended three taught-sessions on different types of artefacts (sculpture, inscriptions and coins), and was allocated an additional slot to explore the museum at their own pace. Dr Zahra Newby led a session on ancient sculpture, focusing on the museum’s remarkable Cast Gallery, and its main antiquities galleries. The teachers were among the first groups to visit the recently redisplayed Greek Gallery which was reopened in October 2014. Prof. Alison Cooley and Dr Jane Masséglia led a session on reading inscriptions, using material from the Rome and Randolph Galleries. They showed how both large inscriptions on stone (such as tomb inscriptions written by friends and family members), and on much smaller items (such as votive plaques, water pipes and sling bullets from the Roman Civil War), could be used to enhance teaching about Roman social life, living conditions, religious practices and the experiences of Roman soldiers. Dr Clare Rowan gave the teachers a chance to get even closer to their material with a handling session in the Heberden Coin Room. She showed how ancient coins were produced, explained about denominations, and encouraged the teachers pick up and compare Greek and Roman coins from different mints and chronological periods. For many of the teachers, being allowed to handle an Athenian ‘owl’ (tetradrachm), was one of the highlights of the day.

Mai Musié, Oxford’s Classics Outreach Officer, was also there to remind teachers of the variety of talks, teaching sessions and support available to school groups, with both Warwick and Oxford offering visits to schools and welcoming school visitors to their Classics departments. Jo Rice, Head of Education at the Ashmolean, stressed the great range of opportunities for teachers planning a visit to the museum, including bespoke sessions to complement a particular topic being studied in school.

Written feedback from teachers showed the event to be a great success. The team is now planning a similar event for Primary teachers, and will be visiting the current PGCE cohort at King’s College London to show the trainee teachers how Latin inscriptions can be used in both history and language teaching. As for the ‘demystifying’ of ancient artefacts, the team were delighted to read among the participants’ comments: ‘I run a course called ‘An Introduction to the Classical World’ in my local comprehensive. I will now definitely add sessions on Inscriptions and Coins; I have previously been wary of both.

For more information on AshLI, and for stories about Roman life taken from Latin inscriptions, see the project blog ‘Reading, Writing, Romans’,

To book a school visit to the Ashmolean Museum:

To arrange a visit to a University Classics Department, or for a speaker to visit your school:


Dr Jane Masséglia is Research Fellow, the Ashmolean Latin Inscription Project (AshLI) at the Ashmolean Museum and the Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents, University of Oxford

If you are planning a similar event take a look at the CA website for information about grants in aid of School-teaching and Outreach


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Spring Books 2015

by Mr Philip Hooker

The Bookseller has just published its Buyers’ Guide of books due in the first half of 2015.  These are books which publishers have nominated as books which should appeal to the general reader.  This note picks out some with classical themes which might have appeared as “Summer Reading” in a July CA News.

Top of the list – and highlighted – is Edith Hall’s Introducing the Ancient Greeks, which ranges from Bronze Age seafarers to the Navigation of the Western Mind, a 2000 year stretch.   She has identified ten of their characteristics and described them in ten chapters with different communities.   (Sense of humour, intriguingly, lies with the Spartans).  It was published in the US in July 2014; the UK launch event was at Kings College in December, it finally appears here on 2 April; the UK publicist calls this “Horrible Histories’ Groovy Greeks for grown-ups” which must seriously misrepresent its scholarship, erudition and originality.  Natalie Haynes and Paul Cartledge gave it enthusiastic reviews, James Romm was more mixed.

Next is Emily Wilson with The Greater Empire: A life of Seneca, a definitive, accessible, biography of the philosopher, politician and popular writer in the age of Nero, published in the US in October, due here in March.    And Guy de la Bedoyere with The Real Lives of Roman Britain – a set of individual personal stories, no military campaigns or imperial politics, due 15 May.

In the revived Pelican paperbacks, we now have Richard Jenkyns on Classical Literature; “an opinionated romp” said one reviewer.     Oliver Taplin, an accomplished poet, has verse translations of Sophocles’ Oedipus plays plus Ajax and Philoctetes, due from OUP in February; this is oddly not a World Classic, which series still relies on H D F Kitto’s 1962 version of the three most popular plays.  But it will have a new edition of Martial’s Epigrams from Gideon Nesbit (with parallel Latin text) in June. Penguin Classics has a new version of Apollonius’ Jason and the Argonauts by Aaron Poochigian in February, replacing the 1959 one from E V Rieu.

More populist works include Harry Mount’s Odyssey – ancient Greece in the footsteps of Odysseus, due July, a reprint of Dilys Powell’s 1973 classic Villa Ariadne, all about Knossos, Evans and Pendlebury, in June and the latest Lindsey Davis, Deadly Election, in April.   And Ian Jenkins’ The Body in Ancient Greece is the highly illustrated book of the British Museum exhibition, which runs from 26 March to 5 July.

In the Autumn, the big ones should be Mary Beard’s SPQR, to coincide with a BBC television series in November and Robert Harris’ Dictator, the final volume of his Cicero trilogy.

Mr Hooker is the Hon. Treasurer of the Classical Association and a regular contributor to CA News.  Look out for more of his posts covering Classics in the media!

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UK Theatre 2015

by Mr Philip Hooker

Programmes for UK theatre productions are mostly announced in November, too late for inclusion in a December CA News print article.   So this blog provides a better and timelier way of describing what classical works are in prospect for 2015.

We start with the London university colleges.   UCL has the Bacchae at the Bloomsbury Theatre from 10 February to 12 February.   This is the James Morwood version, directed by Emily Louizon.    Kings College London is offering the Clouds, directed by Oliver Harrington, at the Greenwood Theatre from 11 February to 13 February.

Then, at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, comes Antigone, a professional production, in a version by Roy Williams, which toured the provinces in the autumn and now comes in to London, from 19 February to 14 March.    This has a contemporary setting – a night club ruled by gang leader Kreo – and strong reviews (“chilling”, “powerful”, “incendiary”).  Mark Monero and Samantha Gordon-Libund are the leads.    Pilot Theatre will be arranging a live streaming of this production in March.     On 20 February, at the Theatre Royal Northampton, there will be a concert production of Odd, a new prize-winning musical by Chris Bush and Matt Winkworth.  16 year old Odessa is dragged from the Thames in a raging storm and then tells the incredible story of her 10 year journey home.

The big production – following the Helen McCrory Medea and the Kristin Scott-Thomas Electra – is the Juliette Binoche Antigone at the Barbican from 4 March to 28 March (all sold out).   This is a version by Anne Carson and is directed by Ivo van Hove, a very trendy director, whose A View from the Bridge has just transferred to the West End.   It then goes on a European tour and returns as a centrepiece of the Edinburgh Festival at the King’s Theatre from 9 to 22 August.   Some critics have been making ungallant remarks about the age of some of these stars and, thus, suitability for these roles, but this does not affect the box office.

And then we will have not one, but two, major productions of the Oresteia.   Both will be “streamlined” into a single play.   The first is at the Globe Playhouse, London, in an unspecified version, directed by Adele Thomas, who is best known for her version of The Knight of the Burning Pestle.      The Globe is an open-air Elizabethan-style playhouse, with cheap tickets for “groundlings” who stand and uncomfortable wooden benches, noises off from a nearby heliport and much audience interaction; performances tend to be lively.  This runs from 29 August to 16 October.      The other is at the new Home in Manchester (which replaces the Library Theatre and Cornerhouse cinemas).    This will be the Ted Hughes version, directed by Blanche McIntyre (a much-acclaimed young director), with “people of Manchester” forming the Chorus, running from 23 October to 14 November.   This would appear to be the superior production.

Mr Hooker is the Hon. Treasurer of the Classical Association and a regular contributor to CA News.  Look out for more of his posts covering Classics in the media!

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New CA Branch – Lytham St Annes

The latest branch of the country’s largest organisation for the promotion of classics – the Classical Association – is being formed in Lytham St Annes for the first time in the Association’s long and distinguished history.

And the driving force behind this newest branch isn’t a professor of Classics or Ancient History but a 17 year old sixth former – the youngest person to ever form a branch since the Association started in 1903!

Katrina Kelly from Fairhaven says she is delighted at how much interest there has already been in the new branch and is absolutely thrilled to announce that academic, author and broadcaster Dr Michael Scott has agreed to be president of the new Lytham St Annes branch.

Dr Scott, Associate Professor in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Warwick and famous for his documentaries on the classical world including the BBC 2 series, ‘Who were the Greeks?’ said: “It is an absolute delight to be president of the Lytham St Annes Classical Association branch. My mother’s family has its roots in this part of the world, and I am looking forward immensely to visiting in January 2015.”

He continued: “I would like to offer my congratulations to Katrina Kelly for taking the initiative in setting up this branch of the Classical Association, an organisation that does incredibly important work in connecting people with what is going on in the study of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, and in supporting schools around the country so that students continue to have the opportunity to learn about these cultures, which have had such a massive effect on our world today.”

“I hope you will join me in wishing the Lytham St Annes Classical Association a long, happy and healthy future, and in giving it the support it so richly deserves.”

Dr Scott‘s lecture entitled Invisible Rome is part of an outstanding programme delivered by first class classicists from around the country including Dr Lindsay Allason-Jones OBE, historian, archaeologist and Time Team contributor from the University of Newcastle who will deliver the Association’s first lecture on The Women of Roman Britain at 7pm at AKS on Clifton Drive, Lytham St Annes on 2nd October.

Katrina, who is studying A levels at AKS, and is currently at Greek Summer School at King’s College, London, said she is “delighted that Dr Scott has accepted the role of president. We are confident that with the support of Dr Scott, all the inspiring lecturers who have agreed to be part of the inaugural programme and, most importantly all our new members, the first year of the LSA Classical Association will be a great success. We need 85 Founder Members so please come and join us: it only costs £12 a year for adults and £5 for students for free entry to seven monthly lectures – fantastic value for money!”

Barbara Finney, Branches’ Secretary of the Classical Association said they are delighted to welcome the new branch. “It is exciting to know that enthusiasm for Classics is bubbling up in this part of the world. On behalf of the Classical Association I wish Katrina Kelly and her fellow members every success and hope that they all gain as much enjoyment and stimulation from their pursuit of Classics as I and the other officers have over the years.”


The Lytham St Annes Classical Association can be contacted on facebook, twitter (@LSA_Classics) or by email at .

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Tweeting the CA Conference #CA14

In recent years, there’s been a lot of Twitter chat about the CA Conference, be it amusing shots of Percy Bear, livetweeting from the panels, or questions put to speakers via Twitter. We think this is great, and we want to encourage as many people as possible to get involved, so below is a set of guidelines intended to offer guidance to those new to Twitter and livetweeting, and to help them and more experienced Tweeters create a comprehensive and useful livefeed.

The Basics

  • Always tweet using the conference hashtag. For Nottingham, this is #CA14. Include this in all tweets you want included in the conference feed; anyone following the hashtag will see it, and it will be used to compile an archive of the conference tweets later.

  • If you are asked to stop livetweeting by a panel chair, a speaker or a conference attendee, please stop. Many are not comfortable with Twitter as a medium; its presence should not negatively impact the conference experience for other attendees, however positive we may feel about social media.

  • You can livetweet whatever you like about the conference – the papers, the plenaries, the social events…

  • You can tweet as little or as much as you like. A livetweeter who tweets half a dozen times over the whole conference is as important as one who tweets half a dozen times to thoroughly summarise a single paper.

  • You may find this article on livetweeting conferences in general helpful:

In Panels and Plenaries

  • Always begin your tweets of a paper with the speaker’s initials, to make it clear that you are reporting their argument. If a tweet gets widely retweeted, this makes sure the right person gets intellectual credit for the idea.

  • If the speaker is on Twitter, please use their Twitter handle when livetweeting – that will let people following on Twitter connect with them if they so wish.

  • If you are giving a paper, mention your Twitter handle as you begin.

  • Remember that the goal of livetweeting a paper is for somebody who isn’t in the room to be able to follow along with the speaker’s argument.

  • You may find that sitting at the back of a room makes you feel less self-conscious about tweeting; it may also make the process less obtrusive for other attendees.

  • Please make sure that your device is on ‘silent’.

  • Please demonstrate the usual high standards of professionalism, collegiality and courtesy that are the hallmarks of classicists as a discipline – that is, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

  • It is fine to have multiple people livetweeting the same session.

  • Don’t try to livetweet your own paper. Trust us on this.

  • If anyone following along on Twitter asks a question, please feel free to ask that question of the speaker and report the answer back. However, be aware that questions from people in the room take precedence, and ask accordingly.

Outside Panels

  • Again, please demonstrate professionalism, collegiality and courtesy in everything you say.

  • Remember to ask permission before posting photographs.

  • Be mindful that people following the hashtag are interested in the academic aspects of the conference rather than what dinner looks like. Unless someone has made a scale replica of Troy in mashed potato. We all want to see that.

  • The Classical Association always welcomes innovative pictures of Percy the Bear attending conference!


We’re very grateful to Liz Gloyn (@lizgloyn) who compiled this list with help from the #CA14 Twitter community. You can follow the Classical Association on Twitter at @Classical_Assoc. The official 2014 conference Twitterfeed is @CAconf2014. The hashtag for the 2014 CA Conference in Nottingham is #CA14

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How my training in Classics helps my work as a journalist

By Juliette Harrisson

I am a lecturer in Classics and Ancient History, with three degrees relating to the ancient world (BA in Ancient History, MA in Myth, PhD in Classics). I am also a freelance journalist, writing primarily for website Den of Geek (you know all those statistics about how many people have to work lots of part-time jobs to generate a living wage due to the recession/economic downturn/word-to-describe-utter-financial-meltdown-of-the-week? That’s me!). As I’ve started to do more and more work as a journalist, I’ve been very pleased to find that all those years of university weren’t wasted, as my training in the humanities (specifically Classics) has proved to be an enormous help in the world of journalism.

I work in arts and entertainment journalism, writing about entertainment and culture (primarily film, television and popular literature). One of the mainstays of entertainment journalism is interviews with actors, writers and directors, and these are conducted in various forms. Some interviews are one-on-one, whether it’s a long face-to-face chat, a telephone interview or a brief few minutes as part of a press junket. Other interviews and chats with the people behind films and TV programmes save time by addressing a group of journalists at once, either a small group in a roundtable discussion or a large group in a big Q&A session or press conference.

Nothing is better preparation for a roundtable interview than attending and participating in seminars at university. To take part in a roundtable discussion, you need to pay attention to what others are saying, consider what the answers to other journalists’ questions have revealed and most importantly, you have to have mastered the art of polite butting in. Whereas in a bigger Q&A or press conference, questioners will raise their hands and wait to be called on by the chair, in a small roundtable interview, people will jump in with a question whenever they have one, and if you want to drill the actors, writers and creators on the aspect of the show you’re most interested in, you need to be able to get in there. If you interrupt and talk over everyone else, of course, you will not get a very favourable response, but if you’re too shy, you won’t be able to get a word in edgeways.

(It is, of course, possible to simply listen and report the responses to other people’s questions, and in a larger Q&A with a big audience, this may be the only realistic option. However, it’s important to be able to ask your own questions in a small Q&A because different publications need different information. Imagine writers from a fashion magazine, a tabloid newspaper, a TV guide and a science fiction and fantasy magazine all sitting down to interview an actor about a science fiction show. The fashion magazine will want details of the costumes, the tabloid will want personal stories, the TV guide will need general information about the show and its intended audience, while only the science fiction and fantasy magazine is likely to be interested in whether or not the main character would be able to defeat Captain Kirk in a fist-fight).

While I was doing my MA at the University of Bristol, all of us MA students were instructed to attend the weekly departmental research seminars, and once there, we were positively encouraged (read: ordered!) to ask questions. This was a terrifying experience; we all felt that we knew nothing compared to the veteran scholars also attending these seminars, and we were terrified of asking something that would make us look stupid. It was only through attending and forcing myself to ask questions, even though my hand was shaking as I nervously held it up and I had to concentrate fiercely on every word, that I gained the confidence needed to ask whatever you need to ask, and to understand that there are no stupid questions. (You also learn how to disguise or excuse potentially daft questions; the phrase ‘This is really a question coming out of total ignorance, but…’ is by far the best way to ask something that may sound terribly obvious to a specialist in the field).

While doing my PhD at the University of Birmingham, in addition to attending departmental research seminars, I also participated in the department’s postgraduate forum. This gave me invaluable experience in presenting, dealing with questions on my own papers, chairing and joining in a conversation without being (too) rude. The more informal nature of the postgraduate forum meant that, although sessions were chaired and questioners usually raised their hands, sometimes a more lively and free-wheeling discussion would break out. By interrupting, talking over and generally annoying my friends (who forgave me, I hope), I learned how to participate in free discussions like this in a professional manner, making myself heard without making myself too difficult to put up with.

Without all those years of training, I would have been far too terrified to walk into a small roundtable interview and ask my own questions. I remember how much of a fraud I felt when I first started to open my mouth at Bristol’s departmental seminars, one of the youngest people there with two degrees less than most of the others. Bristol taught me that my opinion was just as valid as anyone else’s regardless of age or experience, and that’s why I was able to walk into my first roundtable interview and speak up, even though I once again felt like a complete fraud, surrounded by much more experienced journalists. Birmingham taught me the art of being heard without being obnoxious, which is what gave me the confidence to get my questions in there. And it was thanks to my experiences at both institutions, and years of ridiculous questions on my part, that I felt assured that honestly, the worst that can happen is that you look a bit silly for five minutes, then everyone forgets about it – so go ahead and ask the potentially odd question if that’s what you need to know. No-one remembers the time I mistakenly got the idea that Diotima was actually supposed to be at the all-male discussion in Plato’s Symposium except me, and more importantly, no one cares!

I’ve talked mostly about my postgraduate experience here, but an undergraduate degree in the humanities provides lots of valuable experience as well. Most institutions hold research seminars that are open to all, so undergraduates, if you’re interested in either postgraduate work or a related field like journalism, go along and join in! It’s pant-wettingly terrifying to ask your first question of a professional at a research seminar, but the experience is invaluable. And training in humanities subjects like Classics helps in other ways as well. I’m a critic and features writer, and I know that it’s my years of pulling apart primary sources every which way looking for new angles, new perspectives and new arguments about them that have trained my brain to see the possibilities for discussion in the simplest of stories. Thinking of interview questions is also harder than it looks – so the more time you spend asking questions in lectures, seminars, conferences and so on, at whatever level, the better prepared you are to come up with enough interesting questions to fill a half-hour one-on-one interview. Even the specific subject matter of Classics degrees is occasionally useful, considering how many film and television writers like to cite Greek tragedy or Jungian archetypes as their inspiration – but more importantly, it’s the skills developed in the course of studying Classics that have helped me make the move into journalism.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance journalist and part-time lecturer for Newman University and the Open University. She blogs about Classical reception in popular culture at Pop Classics and she also writes for Den of Geek and Doux Reviews.


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The Olympics: One year on…

You may remember a while ago, we posted about the ‘Sport and Competition in Greece and Rome‘ colloquium which was held at the British Museum.  One year on, Prof. Carey sends the following update on the event and the resources it has generated.

In case anybody missed it, in 2012 the Olympics came to London after an absence of 64 years. Since it will probably be another 64 years before they come back, the opportunity to emphasize the ancient background of the games seemed too good to miss. So a number of organizations (Classical Association, the societies, JACT, Friends of the Classics, the British Museum, Sir John Soane’s Museum and several universities) got together to produce a programme of events, exhibitions, debates, conferences and colloquia, public lectures. The biggest feature was a two day event at the British Museum consisting of a conference (Sport and competition) followed by public lectures by Mary Beard and Nigel Spivey. Topics ranged from fighting over control of the Olympics (Hans Van Wees), through Herodotos on Greekness and the games, Hazel Dodge on Roman chariot racing, to Alan Peatfield’s research on reconstructing ancient combat sports from vase paintings, plus of course Nigel on the archaeology and Mary on the Much Wenlock Olympics.

The idea was always to produce something lasting from the event. The lectures (almost all) were filmed and the full videos can be found on the Hellenic Society’s YouTube channel.

But we’ve also pulled together short film clips, texts and images to provide a teaching tool for schoolteachers and students (or just entertainment for the curious) here.

Prof. Chris Carey

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CFP: CA Conference, Nottingham 13-16 April, 2014

In 2014 the Annual Conference of the Classical Asso­ciation will be hosted by the Department of Classics at the University of Nottingham. The dates for the con­ference are Sunday 13 April to Wednesday 16 April 2014. The conference dinner will be held at Colwick Hall, ancestral home of Lord Byron.

We welcome proposals for papers (twenty minutes long followed by discussion) from graduate students, school teachers, academic staff, and others inter­ested in the ancient world, on the topics suggested below, or on any other aspect of the classical world. We are keen to encourage papers from a broad range of perspectives. We are particularly keen to receive proposals for coordinated panels (comprising either three or four papers on any classical theme). We also welcome suggestions for informal round-table discussions; for instance, we propose one on ‘Classics, popular culture and recruitment’.

Suggested topics: slavery; drama and its reception; Sparta and the Peloponnese; Greece and the Near East; Late Antiquity; warfare; emotions; liberty and licence in Latin literature; Neo-Latin; Byron and the Classics; visual narrative; dealing with data; travel and professionalism; cognitive approaches to Classics; the intersection between research and teaching.

Please send your title and abstract (no more than 300 words), not later than 31 August 2013 to Proposals for co-ordinated panels should include an abstract (no more than 300 words) outlining the overall theme of the panel, as well as abstracts for the individual papers within that panel.

We prefer to receive abstracts by email attach­ment.

Please note that all delegates, including those giving papers, must pay the conference fee in order to attend the conference. Applicants are advised that the conference fee for attending the whole conference including all meals and accommodation will be comparable with those of the previous conferences (at least £400, with concessions for students and the unwaged). Day rate fees will also be available as well as bursary schemes for teachers, students (both at UK and overseas institutions) and newly-graduated PG students. Details of how to apply for a bursary for this conference will be posted on the CA website in October 2013.

We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in Nottingham!

And for all you Twitterers, the hashtag or this conference will be #CA14. See/tweet you there!

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#CA2013: A Twitterer’s Perspective

By Robert Harris

I tweet a lot – that much needs to be clear from the outset. I’ve been asked to share some thoughts on my experience at this year’s Classical Association conference, but to do so requires that I first make this admission. I must also assume that individuals reading this have at least a passing familiarity with Twitter and how the microblogging service functions. If you don’t, a few minutes of research will repay you with an overview more accurate and informative than I have the space to offer here. My goal in this piece isn’t to provide an introduction to the way Twitter works, but rather to illustrate specifically how it worked for me in Reading. Despite the growing number of individuals within the academic community who’ve embraced the service, Twitter still seems to have a somewhat troubled reputation. It’s often popularly portrayed as a bastion of banality, or at the very least, as a distracting triviality with little practical value. I’ll readily admit that Twitter is not without its faults, but it’s also not without its virtues, and prolific twitterer though I am, even I was taken aback by the degree to which it helped positively shape my time at the conference.

Really, it all began with the drinks reception on Wednesday evening. I was, in a word, nervous. Unlike many of the other delegates, I wasn’t attending with any colleagues (who in my case would have been my fellow MA students); even more worrisome was the fact that this was my first CA conference. While I knew I wouldn’t have trouble meeting like-minded individuals at the paper sessions, walking into a room packed to the gills with established academics is surely an intimidating prospect for any junior scholar. Certainly it was for me, and I must confess that after ten minutes I retreated to the Irish pub across the street to rethink my plans for the evening. Here Twitter came into play, as I quickly discovered that another delegate – one with whom I was already acquainted via Twitter – also happened to be a Reading local, and was at that time no more than a stone’s throw from the very pub I was sitting in. Arrangements to meet were quickly made, and I passed the rest of the night in pleasant (and beer-filled) conversation on all things Greek and Roman.

Thursday came and went in a blur of Herodotus papers and a snowy trip to Silchester (an excursion which generated no shortage of tweets by itself), but it was again in the evening that Twitter really revealed its usefulness, after Charlotte Roueché’s brilliant plenary lecture. In the minutes that followed, after I had breathlessly tweeted my own energized response, I read through the other tweets marked with the #CA2013 hashtag. It soon became clear that I was hardly the only delegate to have taken to Twitter to enthuse – in fact, as it turned out, one such individual had been sitting in the row in front of me the entire time. It seemed absurd to have been so close but to have not met in person, and so I tweeted the obvious solution: I inquired whether fellow conference twitterers would be interested in meeting in person during the next day’s coffee break. Responses came within minutes. To my surprise, all of them were positive, and so the plans were set.

Friday arrived, and after an excellent session of papers on Classics and Children’s Literature, I made my way to the front doors of the Palmer building at the University of Reading, where we’d arranged to meet. A half-dozen delegates soon arrived, and we made our introductions, finally putting names to faces (or at least to profile icons). It’s fair to say that folks hit it off: the half-hour coffee break flew by and proved to be insufficient time to chat, so it was suggested that we meet again for lunch. In the meantime, another twitterer and I trotted off to the e-learning paper session. Both of us ended up live-tweeting it (a subject to which I’ll return shortly). By the time lunch rolled around, our numbers had doubled to over a dozen twitterers, including two of the “Greenshirt” student volunteers. As with the coffee gathering, this lunch meeting proved a success – so much so that a few hours later, an invitation spread (via Twitter) for the same group of individuals to meet for an evening meal. Though I had to decline (I was attending the conference dinner), I’ve no doubt it went well.

Finally on Saturday came the second set of papers on Classics in Children’s Literature. I was live-tweeting this session, and things were running relatively normally until we came to Helen Lovatt’s paper on The Roman Mysteries book series by Caroline Lawrence. I knew from past experience that Lawrence was active on Twitter, and so I mentioned her in a few of my updates. This got her attention: moments later, she was responding, and indeed actively following the discussion via the #CA2013 hashtag and my own tweets. I asked if she wanted me to convey a message to the delegates present, and she generously offered free copies of some of her books to anyone attending that session. There was something of an astonished gasp when I relayed that offer to the audience; that the author could be present in this way seemed remarkable for many individuals. It even prompted one delegate to ask me to question Lawrence about the state of German translations of her books. Again, within minutes, the delegate had her answer, along with the promise of a free German edition of the book of her choice from Caroline Lawrence herself.

What can one usefully make of all this? What do these incidents reveal about the potential utility of Twitter at conferences? Firstly, there’s the social networking aspect. That word networking is key, since it’s a common refrain that this is one of the primary reasons to attend conferences: the chance to meet new people and make important professional contacts. If Twitter can help facilitate that kind of interaction, so much the better, but the social benefits of the service run deeper. Perhaps helping to salvage the night of a slightly overwhelmed delegate, or giving a group of strangers other people to sit with at lunch, seem like trivial use cases, but for me, and doubtless for some of the others who attended the informal “tweetups”, they made a great deal of difference. In my view, the use of Twitter offers a point of common reference for conference-goers, one which can smooth the way for new attendees who might otherwise end up isolated.

I said I’d return to the subject of live-tweeting, but the truth is that it’s a topic far beyond the scope of this piece. There are too many important questions: to what extent does the practice disrupt paper sessions, for example, or how appropriate is it to paraphrase a presenter’s words outside of their immediate context? To these and all the other vital questions I have no obvious answers, but what I will say is this: I know I personally benefited from live-tweeting at the conference. Having to quickly digest and relay the speaker’s salient points forced me to pay better attention, to truly understand what was being said in order to adequately rephrase it in 140 characters or less. It also allowed me to catch up later with material I’d missed from sessions I wasn’t able to attend.

Perhaps more importantly, I also know that others benefited from my live-tweeting. I have a fair number of followers, the vast majority of whom are not Classicists. One might have expected them to voice some dismay as I merrily filled up their timelines with conference chatter, but their response was quite the opposite: I received nothing but enthusiasm from them. Simply by being at the conference and sharing a small sliver of my experience, I was able to generate real excitement for the field of Classics amongst people who would otherwise have very little exposure to this kind of material. One individual even mentioned that it had helped finalize their decision to pursue a Classics degree. I don’t mention this to brag, but instead to illustrate that the power and promise of Twitter is in just how vast an audience it can reach, and how varied that audience can be, including everyone from authors under discussion (as in the case of Caroline Lawrence) to students considering their futures. Though live-tweeting obviously can’t offer a follower the whole experience or advantages of attending a conference in person, there are clear benefits to actively engaging with these external voices.

In the absence of Twitter, my trip to Reading would not have been wasted. Too many people worked too hard for that to have ever been a potential outcome, and I’m grateful to everyone who helped make the conference possible. In the simplest terms, I’m sure I would still have met many people and learned many things – but reflecting on the examples I’ve shared, I’m also quite sure that without Twitter, my experience would have been much less rich overall. Far from being a frivolous waste of time, Twitter was in fact key to me making the best use of my time in Reading, and I’ve no trouble believing it would prove equally useful to others.


Robert Harris is currently an MA student at the University of Birmingham. He intends to start a PhD this year and tweets under the name @foalpapers.

To see all the tweets from the CA conference in Reading, search Twitter for the hashtag #CA2013, or view them all on Storify here.

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