Last week a group of intrepid graduate students gathered their courage and dared to step outside the Cambridge Bubble. Our mission: to attend the Classical Association conference, hosted this year by the University of Reading, and involving around 400 Classics students, lecturers, and teachers from all over the UK and abroad.
After braving such perils as the Reading station upgrades, the incredibly long walk of a whole block from the station to the hotel, and the trials of registration (hint: never try to register a Judson and a Jackson simultaneously; it causes no end of confusion), we were ready to face the conference’s main challenge: to answer the question of how many cups of tea and coffee it’s physically possible to drink in three days. (The answer proved to be an almost infinite quantity, or at least one far too large to count.)
Amidst this epic caffeine consumption, however, we also managed to fit in a surprisingly large amount of more academically valuable activity. Papers being given by Cantabrigians ranged from Platonic philosophy to Mycenaean pottery by way of rhetoric, Nazi philhellenism, and Frederic Leighton, to name but a few; and the full range of panels on offer was even broader. There aren’t many conferences where, in the space of two and a half days, you could go to panels on epigraphy, philosophy, literature, archaeology, linguistics, history, biography, reception, teaching, e-learning, digitisation, museums, children’s literature, and more. (The downside, of course, being that there were always two panels you wanted to go to scheduled at the same time; we had to spend most of our free first afternoon just reading the programme and working out what to go to when.)
Other highlights included Charlotte Roueché‘s inspiring lecture on ‘Rediscovering Classics in a Digital World’; Robin Osborne‘s impressive feat of covering the restoration of Laocoon’s right arm, Athenian meat storage practices, and a comparison of red-figure pottery to the Daily Mail, all in the space of an hour; a visit to the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology; spending far too long (and far too much) at the publishers’ book stalls; and, of course, the conference dinner in Reading’s Town Hall, at which Mary Beard, on being awarded the CA Prize, proceeded to lead what must have been the first toast in human history (but hopefully not the last) to mention translating the particle γε.
But just as important as all of this was the opportunity to meet and talk to an incredibly wide range of classicists. It’s always interesting to discuss your work with people who might have a very different perspective; before last week, for instance, I’d never have suspected that early-Roman-imperial-period glass perfume jars from Campania could in any way be a point of comparison to the Linear B inscribed stirrup jars I was talking about. It was equally nice just to be able to talk to people working on completely different topics — a good antidote to spending all term focusing on your own very specific topic/chapter/paper. I found the whole thing a great experience, and I’d really encourage people to go to the next one — Nottingham 2014, here we come!
Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce our new mascot, who comes to us courtesy of the Classical Association, and who will be taking up residence in the Grad Common Room from now on. Meet Artemidorus Ursus (his full name is Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus Artemidorus Ursus, but that’s far too long for everyday):
Update: a much more detailed report (with more pictures!) can be found at http://classicscollective.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/classical-association-annual-conference-2013-reading-our-full-report/
Update 2: another report at http://irisonline.org.uk/index.php/reviews/review-archive/119-the-classical-association-conference-2013