Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The Manchester CA Schools' Scheme

by Sam Fernes

In May 2014, the then Chair of the Manchester and District branch of the Classical Association, David Langslow, called an extraordinary meeting, asking members and interested parties to address a single, fundamental question: “What kind of organisation do we want to be?”   A desire to support Classics in an outward-facing and meaningful way was immediately obvious, and this energetic response would prove to have a galvanising effect …

With kind support from the national charity Classics for All, the branch went into partnership with the University of Manchester, together with a number of brave schools which were willing to listen to the exciting opportunities held out by this small band of classicists.  The premise of the project was that branch members, academics, students, and other volunteers would take Latin classes into state schools which had no previous experience of the language, thereby offering pupils the linguistic skills that result from learning Latin.  Tutors would receive training before their placements and full support from an experienced mentor throughout.  From the first, the watchword of the project was to be Sustainability: the aim was to introduce Latin in such a way that, by the start of year three, participating schools would have assumed responsibility for its provision, with ongoing support from the project. Teachers would be taught enough Latin over the course of two years to ensure that they could take Latin classes themselves the following year.  And everybody involved would have fun!

Taking the project from concept to sustainable reality remains the most challenging aspect.  Enrolling schools which were prepared to take the step of offering Latin to their students, a subject that most had never considered an option, was a relatively easy first step. The project attracted immediate interest from nine local schools, including Mauldeth Road Primary School, Burnage Academy for Boys and Levenshulme High School, all of which embraced the opportunity whole-heartedly. The range and breadth of interested and engaged tutors was also a real boon. Many of the tutors were students from the University of Manchester, some of whom have since gone on to pursue careers in teaching Classics, but the project has also been fortunate enough to attract capable enthusiasts from outside the university.

In September 2016 the project reached the crucial halfway point of its initial two-year grant. At that stage, ten schools were involved, five primary and five secondary. With one partner school now entering its pupils for Latin GCSE, and with new schools still seeking to become involved, this is an exciting time for Classics in the North West.  The groundwork is also being laid to meet a long-term ambition, that of introducing the North’s first ever PGCE in Classics, even if much work remains before that goal can be accomplished.

If you would like to contribute to these efforts as a tutor, or if you are a teacher who would like to know more about the MCfA project, please see our video ‘Classics for All at the University of Manchester', or contact the project co-ordinator, Jessica Coatesworth, by email at jessica.coatesworth@manchester.ac.uk.   You can also visit the project’s website here.

The branch would like to thank all tutors for their generosity of time and spirit, all teachers and pupils involved for their willing engagement, and of course the project’s benefactors, Classics for All.

Sam Fernes is a PhD student in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Manchester, and is Secretary of the CA’s Manchester and District branch.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Spring Books 2017

by Philip Hooker

This is based on the latest Bookseller’s Buyer’s Guide which lists the new books which publishers think will be of interest to the general reader (plus some others called in by your editor).

We start with three major works of literary fiction.  Natalie Haynes won acclaim for The Amber Fury and follows this with The Children of Jocasta, the Oedipus stories as seen by Jocasta and Ismene, out in May.   Colm Toibin has House of Names, a version of the Oresteia, as seen by Clytemnestra, due here in May.   Emily Hauser, who made a notable debut with For the Most Beautiful, the Trojan War as seen by Briseis and Chryseis, follows this with For the Winner, the story of Jason and the Argonauts, as seen by Atalanta, out in June.

Elsewhere, we note the latest Lindsey DavisThe Third Nero (April), Margaret GeorgeThe Confessions of Young Nero (March), Robert FabbriArminius: the Limits of Empire, Adrian GoldsworthyVindolanda (starting a new series, due June), Anthony RichesBetrayal: The Centurions I (Galba 68AD), Ian Ross The Mask of Command (Aurelius Castus at the time of Constantine).   And a re-issue of a rarity – Kenneth Benton’s Death on the Appian Way, from 1974.
The highlighted work of non-fiction is Praetorian: The Rise and Fall of Rome’s Imperial Bodyguard by Guy de la Bédoyère, not an academic, but long a member of Time Team and more recently a school-teacher. It has been widely (and favourably) reviewed. Two successes of 2016 – Tim Whitmarsh’s Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World and Daisy Dunn’s Catullus’ Bedspread: The Life of Rome’s Most Erotic Poet – are now out in paperback.

Other scholarly works include Tacitus by Victoria Emma Pagán in the Understanding Classics series, Science Writing in Greco-Roman Antiquity by Liba Taub, Politics in the Roman Republic by Henrik Mouritsen, The Ancient Greek Farmstead by Maeve McHugh, Athens Burning (the Persian invasion) by Robert Garland, Hypatia by Edward J Watts in the Women in Antiquity series, The Last Pagan Emperor (Julian) by H C Teitler, and The Classical Art of Command by Joseph Roisman.

New texts and translations include Searching for Sappho – biography and translation – by Philip Freeman, in paperback in May, a new version of Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days by Kimberley Johnson, Plutarch’s The Age of Caesar: Five Roman Lives, edited by James Romm, and a new commentary on Aeneid Book 3 by Stephen Heyworth and James Morwood.   There is also a new Pocket Museum series from Thames and Hudson – Ancient Greece by David Michael Smith, Ancient Rome by Virginia Campbell – each with 200 illustrated artefacts in one place, with full historical context and notes.    For its part, the British Museum offers Treasures of Ancient Greece - 20 colourful postcards to pull out and send.

In the category “erudite entertainment”, we note The Book of Greek and Roman Folktales, Legends and Myths, edited by William Hansen, nearly 400 stories, lavishly illustrated, A Cabinet of Ancient Medical Curiosities by J C McKeown, strange tales, surprising facts, ancient medical texts rarely translated – and, something really populist, You Win or You Die: The Ancient World of Game of Thrones by Ayelet Haimson Lushkov, the ancient history behind the George R Martin novels.

Among works for children, we see Who Let the Gods Out? By Maz Evans, Death in the Arena by Caroline Lawrence, The Hidden Oracle and The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan, The Adventures of Hermes (and other works) by Murielle Szac (a big seller in France) and The Mark of the Cyclops, adventure in Ancient Greece, by Saviour Pirotta.

And 28 October 2017 is the date for the next Heffers Classics Forum.

Philip Hooker is the Hon. Treasurer of the Classical Association, and writes regularly for the CA Blog on Classics in the Media.