Application deadline for British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowships at the School of Classics

The School welcomes enquiries about applications to the British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship scheme. Anyone interested in applying should contact the Director of Research (Dr Emma Buckley, eb221@st-andrews.ac.uk) or Head of School (Professor Jason König, jpk3@st-andrews.ac.uk) as soon as possible with an outline of the proposed research project.

Please submit draft full applications by Friday 8 September.

An Inclusive Approach to Organising Conferences: ‘Visualising War’ with a blind participant

By Dr Alice König

The School of Classics recently hosted a two-day conference on ‘Visualising War: Interplay between Battle narratives across Antiquity’. As its title suggests, discussion revolved around images as well as texts. In fact, speakers had been specifically asked to explore interplay between different media and genres, so papers looked at Classical inscriptions, Hellenistic sculpture, Roman mosaics, engraved sarcophagi, triumphal columns and arches, Renaissance-era paintings and even modern photographs, alongside historical narratives, epic poetry and a host of ancient technical treatises – many of which included detailed diagrams showing battle formations and camp layouts. This was a conference with a heavy emphasis on sight, in other words.

I’ll be honest: my first reaction on discovering that we had a blind attendee was to gulp. How could we make this image-focused conference inclusive enough? Happily, I found several key sources of advice and support from around the University, in particular Paresh Raval, who manages the University’s Alternative Format Suite. His advice helped me liaise with our blind attendee to identify the best way of sharing handouts and presentation materials ahead of the conference: not via braille, it turned out, but via searchable pdfs and screen-reading technology. He also helped me put together a useful list of “do”s and “don’t”s for our conference speakers: e.g,, do announce and identify any foreign language material before it crops up; do offer detailed descriptions of images, diagrams, tables, etc; don’t say ‘as you can see here…’.

Also key was funding. One of our postgraduate students (whose mother is visually impaired) kindly offered to act as a sighted assistant during the conference. The Classics Head of School found some surplus in the School budget so that we could pay her for this work. That formalised the arrangement, making it easier for us and our attendee to discuss the support he would need, without worrying about imposing on our PG’s good nature. Having a paid sighted assistant made a huge difference to me as conference organiser: I was able to delegate many of the additional logistics (route-finding, food-guidance, care of the incredible guide dog, etc) and concentrate on the more routine aspects of conference management (missing speakers, IT malfunctions, the supply of biscuits…). Crucially, our postgraduate assistant was already experienced in this work; it was her expertise above all which made things work so well.

Of course, our blind attendee played a major (and very good-humoured) role in advising us, and he was generous in his praise for the efforts we went to: it sounds as if few conferences try as hard as we did to be inclusive. While some speakers struggled to provide handouts and powerpoints as early as requested, the majority made it; and all speakers took pains during delivery to embrace non-sighted as well as sighted listeners. In fact, many said that they had learnt a lot from the experience. I certainly confronted paper-giving habits of mine (e.g., the flashing-up of large chunks of text on screen, to be absorbed while I race on with the talk itself) which I would do well to overcome, whether or not my auditors are sighted!

What else did I learn? That there’s no advice like expert advice (having people like Paresh and our PG to turn to makes all the difference); that your first and last port of call for guidance should be the attendee him/herself; and that Universities should routinely make funding available for the kind of logistical support we were able to provide. It was a steep learning curve, as we evolved new procedures to make our conference more inclusive, but an important and rewarding one. It was also very much a team effort, involving administrators and School managers, as well as AV experts and academic staff. We did pretty well, I think; but we could always do better.

Hallvard Indgjerd wins Fitch Bursary Award

HallvardHallvard Indgjerd has been awarded the Fitch Bursary Award for 2017-18 from the British School at Athens. Hallvard is working on a study of Late Roman and Byzantine pottery from Naxos and the Lesser Cyclades in Greece, and the award will help fund his petrographic analysis at the Fitch Laboratory in Athens. By looking at thin-sections of ceramic samples through a polarising microscope, we can gain knowledge about clay composition, provenance, production technology, and intended use of the pottery.

Congratulations Hallvard!

‘Hamartia’: a triumphant collaboration with the Byre Youth Theatre.

SONY DSCLast night, the Byre Youth Theatre’s Adult Collaborative Performance Group put on a wonderful performance of Hamartia, an original short play inspired by the themes and conventions of classical Greek Tragedy. The play was performed at the Barron Theatre in St Andrews before an invited audience. A group of four young actors from the local community devised the piece themselves, under the direction of BYT’s Stephen Jones. The piece was developed through discussions, talks and workshops on Greek drama and ritual led by Jon Hesk and Ralph Anderson from the School of Classics. The performance was part of a project funded by the University of St Andrews’ Knowledge Exchange and Impact Fund. For more information, blog posts, footage and stills on this element of our ‘Greek Drama in the Community’ initiative, keep checking our webpage.

Commenting on the production, Jon Hesk said: ‘Huge congratulations to the performers, Alice Linton, Cameron Melville, Gillian Campbell and Mirte Timmermans – you did a superb job! It has been a pleasure working with Stephen Jones and the group and we hope to continue collaborating with the Byre Youth Theatre in the future on other projects. We have learned a lot from each other. Thanks also to Lillias Chisholm for prop, costume, make-up and set design, BYT manager Ashley Foster and Lottie Haswell-West, the student manager of the Barron Theatre.’

Four new appointments in the School of Classics

We are excited to announce the appointment of four new members of staff, all of whom will be joining the School from next academic year.

Michael Carroll has been appointed as Lecturer in Greek Literature. Michael completed his PhD in Cambridge in 2014. He works broadly on classical Greek literature, especially on Aeschylus and Pindar, and has a particular interest in cognitive approaches to ancient culture.

Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis has been appointed as Lecturer in Classics. Alexia works broadly on the Greek literature and material culture of the Hellenistic and Roman periods, with a particular interest in ancient religion. She also works on classical reception in the Ottoman empire in the nineteenth century. She is the author of Truly Beyond Wonders: Aelius Aristides and the Cult of Asklepios (OUP, 2010).

Rebecca Usherwood will be joining the School for two years as Lecturer in Ancient History. Rebecca completed her PhD in Nottingham in 2015. Her work focuses on the political and cultural history of the Roman Empire, especially late antiquity, with a particular interest in the history of political disgrace in the reigns of Constantine and his sons.

Dawn Hollis will join the School from July 2017 for three years as Leverhulme postdoctoral research fellow on the project ‘Mountains in ancient literature and culture and their postclassical reception’. Dawn has recently completed a PhD in the School of History in St Andrews entitled ‘Re-thinking Mountains: Ascents, Aesthetics, and Environment in Early Modern Europe’.

Premio Cultori di Roma for Christopher Smith

Christopher SmithCongratulations to Christopher Smith on the award of the 2017 Premio Cultori di Roma. The prize is awarded by the Istituto Nazionale di Studi Romani, representatives of the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, the Comune di Roma, the Unione Accademica Nazionale and the Unione Internazionale degli Istituti di Archeologia, Storia e Storia dell’Arte in Roma.  It has been given only to three British scholars since the inauguration in 1955, Sir Ronald Syme and Sir Fergus Millar, both Camden Chairs of Roman History at Oxford, and J. B. Ward-Perkins, BSR Director from 1945 to 1974.  Christopher was presented with the prize on the Capitol on Rome’s 2770th birthday, 21 April.