Just to be clear I enjoyed this year’s Classical Association Conference – this post is not about why the conference is a terrible thing. It is also not about why am sad that it is all over for me for another year (though I am) – actually I want to explain my experience of the conference and why that makes me sad.
This year was my 4th CA conference, my 3rd as a speaker and my 2nd in Reading. It was a surprisingly different experience for me and yet evoked some clear memories of conferences past.
Firstly, I think I am getting better as a speaker. I stutter less and maintain more momentum although I still have a tendency to ramble on and try to fit too much in. Despite all the recommendations for ad libbing/memorising a presentation, I have to acknowledge that I am more coherent with a script and make more of my points clearly. Need to master not finishing up the notes the night before though (which I did last year too).
Secondly, I feel more like I am able to engage and interact on an intellectual level with the papers. Partly, this is the confidence of having my PhD (in all but certificate) and therefore feeling like less of a fraud and partly it is because now I am not focusing on my doctorate I am more able to see ways that all sorts of topics can feed into potential research (and aren’t just merely interesting concepts). I feel more like I have done some of this stuff but also that I could use it.
Thirdly, I am getting a little better at talking to people. Not a lot better- I still stand around like a lost sheep looking at faces I recognise but who wouldn’t know me from Eve desparately hunting for an opening comment, I still don’t have the nerve to include myself in existing conversations or to sit down next to people. On the other hand I directly engaged in several discussions without the aid of alcohol and only had one meltdown. In some ways this was rather helped by the fact that due to my work commitments I could not/did not have to spend lengthy evenings milling around which allowed for less time feeling awkward.
That brings me to my key personal issue.. I had to work. Well, I guess technically I could have taken the week off, but since I wasn’t funded and want to go to another conference later in the year that would have been a very expensive choice. Like the first CA conference I ever went to (also in Reading) whilst I was doing my MA I dashed back and forth between campus and the pub where I work brain buzzing with thoughts. Unlike the previous one, where as a student helper I often found myself doing photocopying or stranded at a desk, I was able to attend nearly all the sessions (although I only managed 1 keynote) and even to cherry-pick the speakers I wanted to hear.
It was physically and mentally exhausting and yet it focused my mind and forced me to make choices. It stopped me from networking effectively but it made me feel more positive about the connections I did make.
So why a lament?
Two reasons: firstly, without a full-time job and generally outside of academia, despite the fact I finally feel like I am getting the hang of this conference malarky this may well be the last CA I can justify going to; secondly, I have realised just how much I have missed out on by being on the fringes..
I want to open this blog with some belated thoughts about key ideas and interesting facts that I took away from the Classical Association Conference this year.
Rejecting the Classics – I really liked the concept of this panel. It is well worth acknowledging that the places where we don’t use classics or aim to subvert them can tell scholars a lot about our preconceptions of what they represent. Where we draw boundaries between disciplines and topics is in itself significant as is whether we have a concept of doing the Classics the right way.
Ovid meets Titian – I didn’t really follow the cultural olympiad last year but I now need to go out and take more of a look at how contemporary poets have addressed Metamorphoses using Titian as a visual clue. The idea of a specific and explicit interaction between ancient, intermediate and modern interests me (it reminds me of how so many people only access texts through translation).
Roueché & Digital Classics – A big hit at the conference and a key area of growth. It was really good to listen to someone inspirational on the topic of collaboration and getting involved. There are so many fascinating projects that help make classics more accessible and allow us to interpret information in new ways – it makes me even more determined to learn some more technical skills.
Tony Keen – I was enthused by Keen’s discussion of Nesbit’s Amulet and its depiction of Roman Britain. Its going to help my paper later this year. I was particularly interested in the role of Nesbit in the development of children’s lit and the difference between active involvement in the past and passive reception of it.
Lisa Maurice – This paper also had some really interesting points to make for my upcoming paper, notably on the temporal distribution of books relating to Roman Britain and the possible connection of the topics in the National Curriculum to eras commonly travelled to in time-travel literature.
Other Children’s Lit – There was a notable focus on Caroline Lawrence’s work (I think its got to the point where I really have to go and read some) but there were also a few insightful thoughts about how educational aims are represented and the ways tales from Homer were tailored for post-war Germany.
Goff on the WEA – it is always good to see projects that look at grassroots interest in the Classics. This was both unexpected and interesting.
Heather Ellis – Easily the most exciting paper of the conference for me. Dr Ellis was examining the way that the British Academy talked about and utilised Classical material, imagery and learning in their development of a scientific community. This has clear links to my thesis – the way that social groups and men-of-learning constructed identity by using the Classics even where such cross-over was a stretch of the imagination fits with the way antiquarians in Cornwall made use of multiple types of evidence and helps explain why they were so keen on Classical texts.
And because its just one of those things, I am sad I missed: Sommerstein on Translation, the papers about the Ure Museum, Robin Osborne’s address and the panel on Digital Classics.