Monday, 22 November 2021

Virtual Classics Conference organised by sixth formers

by Hebe Robertson and Lucy Turner, Oxford High School



On the 4th of November we hosted a virtual Classics conference, which we started planning in early September. This initially seemed like a daunting task, as we’re both Year 12 students at Oxford High School with no prior experience of running an event like this, however we quickly devised a plan. Our aim was to make it accessible to all ages and levels of experience, giving a glimpse of the Classical world beyond the curriculum and hopefully inspiring a love of Classics along the way.

The morning was dedicated to a series of workshops aimed at Years 7-9. We wanted to choose a theme for the workshops that would engage this age group, deciding on ‘The Gory Truth of the Classical World’. The two of us kicked off the day with a presentation on five ‘Evil Emperors of Rome’, complete with a quiz and fun facts drawn from the likes of Suetonius and Herodian. An incredible workshop on Roman Slavery by Dr Olivia Elder followed, in which she encouraged her audience to consider the variety of experiences of Roman slaves by looking at primary sources and drawing their own conclusions. Dr Alfonso Moreno then spoke on the (brutal) Athenian justice system and its punishments, pushing his audience to think about what we can learn from it, and the relationship between justice and democracy. 

Dr Alfonso Moreno

The timings for the afternoon were tight, as we had six fantastic speakers to fit in, but thankfully everything ran smoothly. Professor Oliver Taplin opened with ‘Are Greek tragedies necessarily misogynist?’ He discussed several critical interpretations of tragedy, using Antigone, Medea and Clytemnestra as examples. Professor Rosalind Thomas came next, with an engaging talk on ‘Memory and Historiography,’ which introduced the idea of collective memory, and how different narratives of certain events can come into conflict, including examples drawn from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War.

After that, we heard from Professor Phiroze Vasunia on ‘Classics and Colonialism’, an interesting overview of the influence of Classical architecture on the British colonisation of India. Using images of ‘classicised’ Indian buildings he expertly illustrated the far-reaching effects of Classics long after the fall of the Roman Empire. Dr Alison MacDonald next gave an illuminating talk on ‘Identity and Mobility in Roman Britain,’ using the archaeological record to prove that Roman Britain was incredibly diverse despite its portrayal in the media.



Our penultimate talk was from Professor Llewelyn Morgan, with the vivid title ‘Vile Violence in Virgil’. Though much of the Aeneid deals with violence, Professor Morgan looked at Aeneas’ actions in Book 12 and how some - for example human sacrifice - would be considered reprehensible even to the Romans. Last but certainly not least, we welcomed Dr Henriette van der Blom, speaking on ‘Roman Oratory - Where are the Women?’ She focussed on the rare occasions when women were compelled to speak in public - one notable example being Hortensia, who spoke against the imposition of a new tax on women.

Throughout the day, over 700 secondary school students and teachers from around the country attended online, while approximately 250 Oxford High School students attended in-house bringing the total audience to nearly 1000. We both learned so much while organising this conference, and although we were nervous at first, we enjoyed the day enormously. We wanted to reach as many people as we could and give them a different perspective on the study of Classics, and from the feedback we received it seems as though we reached that goal!


The organisers with a poster made by some Year 7 students





 

 

 

 

Thursday, 11 November 2021

Engaging Children with Classical Mythology: 'Once Upon a Myth'

by Athina Mitropoulos-Monk



Once Upon a Myth (Olympia Publishers, £9.99 $12.99) is a collection of five stories that blend fairy tales with Greek myths. Hansel and Gretel meet the Minotaur, Prometheus and Pandora climb the beanstalk, Penthiselea is merged with Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood faces Dionysus, and Snow White is combined with Medusa. Each story is written in rhyming couplets which creates a fun mood to these newly imagined stories. For example, Prometheus, Pandora and the Beanstalks start like this:

In the mythical times, set long ago,

Things weren’t very bright, there wasn’t a glow.

No, our story starts in a cold and dark land,

Where all were under cruel Zeus’ command.

They serve as an introduction to Greek mythology and have a helpful, educational glossary at the back to support the learning of new characters and monsters. 

Having taught Classics for almost ten years, I know that personal interaction and activities are vital to promoting and inspiring an interest in the ancient world. I am therefore also running a series of workshops and talks at various schools and community centres to promote the book and mythology in general. A fee is asked when doing a series of workshops, however this is not applied to state schools or community centres. I have two types, though each is adapted to the given centre. Firstly, I have a Mythology Creative Writing workshop for years 7-9 where I discuss the appeal of mythology over the ages and how it is possible to retell one of these famous stories in a unique way, despite their popularity. Pupils are then encouraged to write their own version of a Greek or Roman myth. Secondly, I offer a Mythical Monsters workshop, aimed at years 4-6. This goes through a wide range of mythical monsters, from the well-known Medusa and Minotaur, to the lesser known Lamia and Chimaera. Pupils create top-trump style cards which are used for an activity and they are then encouraged to design their own mythical monster, inspired by the ones discussed. I am running these at state and private schools, as well as local community centres, and am very keen to continue offering these in the future.



From a recent workshop at Cranleigh Prep School, one pupil reported back that "the talk was excellent, and Mrs Mitropoulos-Monk was very inspiring.” 

Another parent posted “My son absolutely loved it! Thank you. We are reading it every night!”

If you are interested, please email me at athina.mitropoulos@gmail.com


Friday, 5 November 2021

An Ancient Greek Philosophy of Management Consulting

by David Shaw

My forthcoming book, “An Ancient Greek Philosophy of Management Consulting: Thinking Differently about its Assumptions, Principles and Practice”, explores the work of ancient Greek Philosophers from the end of the 6th century BCE to the end of the 4th century BCE, in a search for new perspectives on the management consulting industry. The publisher, Springer International Publishing, has announced details of the book at the following link: https://www.springer.com/gb/book/9783030909581. In his Foreword to the book, Andrew Pettigrew - Emeritus Professor of Strategy and Organisation, Said Business School, University of Oxford – speaks of "its capacity to shape the theory and practice of management consulting and the development of the scholarly field of management itself".

Management consultants’ practice is influenced substantially by the assumptions and principles that they bring to their work. Very often, these assumptions and principles have been adopted unconsciously, and in consequence have eluded serious, critical examination. The rapid growth of the management consulting industry has brought substantial change over time, both in its scope and scale and in its fundamental characteristics, and may have outpaced the capacity of management scholars and management consultants themselves properly to scrutinise the assumptions and principles that now underpin the industry. Important philosophical issues underlie these assumptions and principles. The nature of the organisations in which management consultants seek to facilitate strategic change, and of the interventions that they make in them, are ontological questions. The ways in which management consultants ought to behave in order to perform their work in a morally acceptable way are ethical questions. The nature of management consultancy knowledge, and whether management consultants actually possess the kind of knowledge to which they lay claim, are epistemological questions.

The ancient Greek philosophers thought deeply about these kinds of questions, but they approached them from a very different intellectual tradition from our own, and they were responding to social and economic conditions that were wholly unlike ours. The distinct perspectives that are reflected in their work provide a rich resource for novel thinking about contemporary philosophical questions, including those arising in so modern an industry as management consulting. The speculations of Heraclitus, Parmenides, Leucippus and Democritus about the nature of the universe have the power to stimulate useful new perspectives on the nature of organisations and management consultancy interventions in them. Aristotle’s development of virtue ethics has a distinct contribution to make to assessments of what constitutes ethical practice in the professions and in business, including management consulting. Plato’s theory of knowledge and belief, and Aristotle’s distinction between wisdom (sophia) and prudence (phronesis), are invaluable in assessing the kind of knowledge that management consultants need, and are capable of possessing.

The endeavour to acquire some depth of classical knowledge is, however, necessary in order to unlock the rich seams of useful novelty that lie embedded in the work of these ancient thinkers. Distinct, ancient religious beliefs run through much of the work of these philosophers. Thus, Heraclitus’s belief that much, if not everything, in the universe consisted of continually changing flows, like the flows of water in a river, rather than static substance, can properly be understood only in the context of his belief in divine Justice (dike), that is, the order of the universe that had been ordained by the gods, whereby there was continuity in the universe that enabled us, for example, to be assured that the sun would rise each morning and set each evening. Plato and Aristotle lived in the city-state of Athens, and their notions of what constituted moral behaviour could not be separated from their beliefs about the ways in which people ought to behave towards each other in this powerful, maritime state that was yet probably no more populous than the English city of Wolverhampton. Moreover, these philosophers revealed their ideas in language that often defies translation; for example, the usual translation of “virtue” only partially captures the sense of the Greek word arete as it appears in the work of Plato and Aristotle, and the shifting in meaning of the Greek word hamartia between a “missing of the mark” or a “mistake” to, in Christian texts, “sin”, makes Aristotle’s use of it complex and even debatable.

Management consultants’ rhetoric typically promotes the notion that they have methods that enable them reliably and predictably to bring about particular kinds of organisational change that their clients desire. Consideration of this rhetoric in the light of comparison with the speculations of the Presocratic philosophers, and with the ideas of Plato and Aristotle on knowledge and reasoning, suggests possibilities for different perspectives on the kinds of interventions that management consultants make and the nature of management consultancy knowledge.

Book retailers such as Amazon will announce the book in the near future.

October 2021

Dr David Shaw is an independent researcher on the philosophy of management, and a former Teaching Fellow at Queen Mary University of London and Visiting Lecturer at the University of Greenwich Business School.  David graduated with a degree in Classics from Oxford and spent 22 years as a management consultant, with UK-based and international experience in organisational change management. 




Thursday, 23 September 2021

CA Honorary President 2021-2022: Stephen Fry

 by Arlene Holmes-Henderson



We are absolutely delighted that Stephen Fry will be the Honorary President of the Classical Association in 2021-2022. A national treasure, Stephen is an English actor, screenwriter, author, playwright, journalist, poet, comedian, television presenter and film director.

Stephen is well known for his love of the ancient world. His bestselling trilogy of books Mythos, Heroes and Troy retell Greeks myths from theories of the world’s beginnings to the aftermath of the Trojan War. In 2019, he took these Greek myths on tour in a sold-out show around the UK via MythosLive: Gods.Heroes.Men.

Born in London, Stephen grew up in Norfolk and gained his A-Levels at City College, Norwich. He gained a scholarship to study at Queens' College, Cambridge but taught briefly at Cundall Manor, a preparatory school in North Yorkshire before taking up his place. Stephen has been a stalwart support of educators throughout his career: paying tribute to the world’s teachers during the Global Teacher Prize (2020) and sending a message of support to teachers in his home county via Radio Norfolk in January 2021. His book on poetic form, The Ode Less Travelled, is widely used in schools and colleges as a guide to prosody.

As a proudly out gay man, the award-winning Out There, documenting the lives of lesbian, bisexual gay and transgender people around the world is part of his thirty year advocacy of the rights of the LGBT community. Stephen’s most recent television role in 2021 was Tory MP Arthur Garrison in Russell T. Davies’s award-winning series for Channel 4, It’s A Sin.

He has been President of Mind, Britain’s largest mental health charity since 2011, and an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists for over ten years.

Stephen has won many prizes for his performances as an audiobook narrator – of his own works and most notably as the voice of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Players of videogames may also recognise his voice: he is the narrator of the first four Harry Potter games as well as LittleBigPlanet, Fable II and Fable III.

We look forward to working with Stephen to engage all Classics enthusiasts in communities around the UK. Via our local branches, Teaching Board and annual conference, we will work together to showcase the breadth and diversity of ancient world studies while continuing to value and celebrate educators of Classical subjects at all levels.

Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson is the Classical Association's Outreach Officer

 

 

 

 

Monday, 30 August 2021

Preparing for your first CA conference as a teacher

by Arlene Holmes-Henderson

On Monday 14th June 2021, the Classical Association (CA) hosted a virtual event for schoolteachers, designed to provide information, and dispel myths, about presenting at a CA conference as a teacher. Devised and hosted by the CA’s Outreach Officer, a former schoolteacher herself, the event was a successful example of collaboration and knowledge exchange across educational phases, with both academics and teachers presenting. 

The organisers of the forthcoming CA conference in Swansea 2022, Ian Goh and Maria Oikonomou gave a short presentation explaining the difference between a paper and a panel, outlining what makes a successful abstract and charting the process from abstract submission to conference presentation.

Three teachers then provided personal testimonies of their CA conference presentation (and attendance) experiences. Pete Wright (Blackpool Sixth), Gemma Williams (Allerton Grange School, Leeds) and Andrew Christie (Streatham and Clapham High School) explained which CA conference they had attended, what their paper title had been, how many people had been in the audience, whether they applied as a paper or as part of a panel, how they handled questions and whether the conference had been as expected.

In a Question and Answer session, Pete, Gemma and Andrew then answered questions such as: 

a)       What approach did each of you take to your ‘presenting style’? Did you read from a           prepared script, talk through powerpoint slides or something else?

b)      How did you handle questions from the audience?

c)       Tell us about your liaison with the panel chair.

d)      Did you produce a handout?

e)      How long did your presentation last?

f)        Did you get time off from your school to attend the conference?

g)       Did you pay to attend the conference, or was there some support available?

Pete, Gemma and Andrew ended by sharing their top three tips for aspiring teacher presenters. These included suggestions such as, ‘Go for it! You present information in an engaging way every day, why would 20 minutes at the CA be any different?’ and ‘Don’t try to cover too much – the time goes really quickly’. 

Ian and Maria ended the event by promoting Swansea’s tourist attractions – the conference is about more than just the academic papers - and making it clear that abstract submissions from teachers are especially welcome, with one whole theme dedicated to Pedagogy, Outreach and Technology. Other possible themes include Classics and the Future and Digital Classics.

Full details can be found on the Conference page of the CA website.

Because this event was the first of its kind, we were keen to gather feedback from participants. Results showed that 100% of attendees found the event ‘extremely useful’. 100% of attendees felt better informed about writing an abstract. 100% of attendees felt better informed about the difference between a panel and a paper. 100% of attendees said it was ‘likely’ that they would submit an abstract to the Swansea conference. When asked what they found most surprising, comments included: ‘how many people attend the CA conference’ and ‘that academics are keen for schoolteachers like us to get involved and have our say’.

The CA is the subject association for educators at all levels, and the conference is an important venue for bringing them into conversation.

The event was recorded and can be watched here (the playlist includes five videos of different sections of the event).

Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson is the Classical Association's Outreach Officer


Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Two CA Officers contribute to volume on Classics Education

By Alex McAuley

In what must be a first for the Classical Association, two CA Officers, Arlene Holmes-Henderson and Alex McAuley, have each published a contribution to the volume Our Mythical Education, edited by Lisa Maurice.

The volume is part of the ERC-funded Our Mythical Childhood project, and examines the reception and use of ancient myths in formal education in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries across a wide variety of geographical case studies.

Arlene Holmes-Henderson’s chapter ‘Developing Multiliteracies through Classical Mythology in British Classrooms’ examines how creative and innovative teaching of classical mythology can act as a medium through which to enhance literacy. Two case studies from British primary and secondary schools demonstrate how the study of mythology contributes to pupils’ information literacy, cultural literacy and critical literacy skills.

Alex McAuley’s contribution, ‘Reconciling Catholicism with the Classics: Mythology in French Canadian Catholic Education’ considers the tension between the teaching of mythology and religion in Catholic schools in French Canada, and examines how the teaching of pre-Christian Graeco-Roman mythology fit into evolving narratives of French Canadian identity.

The volume has recently been published by the University of Warsaw Press, and is available to download open-access via this link. This research project will also soon be publishing the OurMythical Education Database, which will collate information and resources on the teaching of Classical Mythology for educators and the general public.

Alex McAuley is a Senior Lecturer in Hellenistic History at Cardiff University

Monday, 29 March 2021

Out of Chaos: Reading Greek Tragedy Online

by Paul O'Mahony

I’ve worked in theatre for 18 years - as an actor, writer, producer and director. My theatre company Out of Chaos has toured throughout the UK, Europe, USA and New Zealand, winning several awards along the way. Many of our shows have been inspired by Greek and Roman literature, including Out of Chaos, Unmythable and the upcoming Crossing the Sea.

When the world went into (its first) lockdown in March last year, I contacted Lanah Koelle at The Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington DC to propose a collaboration: we would live stream scenes from different Greek tragedies, with analysis provided by academics associated with the CHS. My intention was to create a community at a time when we were all separated, and to explore these stories for what they might reveal about our current situation. Lanah was immediately enthusiastic; she told me Joel Christensen from Brandeis University had also been in touch about arranging an online group and we decided to meet via zoom on Tuesday 24th March. After working out some (very) rough details we reconvened 24 hours later for our first reading, Euripides’ Helen. We all enjoyed it immensely, and after that we resolved to live stream an episode every Wednesday for the rest of the year. We ended with 41 episodes including all extant tragedies, a few comedies and episodes on the Iliad and Odyssey (plus a 24-hour reading of the whole poem). Each episode of Reading Greek Tragedy Online is 90 minutes long, containing approximately 45 minutes’ worth of scenes and a further 45 minutes of discussion led by Joel and different guest academics.

Throughout the course of the year, the project gained momentum with increasing numbers of artists from around the world involved. We were able to call upon brilliant performers, and we became more and more ambitious with our stagings - we had a Cyclops rock opera, a 25-strong puppet Frogs chorus, and an incredible performance of Oliver Taplin’s translation of the Oresteia across three consecutive weeks. One of our most frequent collaborators, Tabatha Gayle, coined the term zoomcraft to describe what we were doing – in essence, taking whatever we could find at home and turning it into the stage we used each week. We played with lighting effects (it’s amazing what you can do with a cheap ring light), camera angles, some limited costume choices. Each week actors made bold, informed, inspired choices to bring their characters to life.

We received appreciative messages from audiences across the world, and inspired play reading groups as far apart as Wyoming and Brasilia. We launched an outreach competiton called Playing Medea, inviting US and Canadian students to film scenes from Medea. This proved very successful and, with generous financial support from the Classical Association, we launched the UK Playing Medea at the end of last year. Full details are on the Out of Chaos website.

This year the live streams are switching to a monthly schedule and we’re broadening our scope. We’re performing Thyestes, the Argonautica and the Iliad (again), and exploring reception from the 17th Century to the modern day.

The series has led to numerous exciting collaborations (not least a new Greek Theatre course developed with the British American Drama Academy), and demonstrated the power of performance as a shared experience. We have plans to work together as an ensemble when circumstances allow, and we’re in the process of planning new ways of sharing our work online, including masterclasses and workshops. All episodes will remain online as a free resource.

All episodes can be found here: https://www.out-of-chaos.co.uk/greek-tragedy

And here: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheCenterforHellenicStudies

Playing Medea UK competition: https://www.out-of-chaos.co.uk/playingmedea-uk

And here’s a new course that has been inspired by the series: http://www.bada.org.uk/study/greek-theatre/


Paul O'Mahony is Artistic Director of Out of Chaos theatre company.

You can find out more about Out of Chaos on 7 April 2021 during the CA's free online conference, where it will feature in a session on Greek theatre online, an evening of classics-inspired theatre followed by a Q&A chaired by Professor James Robson: https://classicalassociation.org/events/ca-annual-conference-2021/