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The outgoing co-chairs of the 2017-18 postgraduate work-in-progress seminar reflect on this regular feature of the ICS’s events calendar.

Held at Senate House on Friday afternoons, the PGWiP – Postgraduate Work-in-Progress seminar – is a weekly seminar series organised by postgraduate students in Classics of the University of London and open to everybody who wishes to attend. Usually, speakers are invited to present a paper dealing with any subject connected with the ancient world. During the past year, we have been pleased to attract PhDs from institutions all over the world: the United Kingdom, the EU, North America and Australia, among others. The sessions are moderated by the joint chairs and are followed by a fruitful discussion which continues over wine and nibbles, and then in the more relaxed environment of one of Bloomsbury’s pubs. The PGWiP aims to create a friendly environment in which speakers are able to talk about their research, take part in a stimulating debate over their paper, and extend their social and academic network.

For the past two academic years, the seminars have started with a welcome party in late September/early October, where students and speakers meet up in an informal environment. During the 2017/18 academic year, we scheduled about ten seminars each term. The variety of the subjects has been the guiding principle of the programme, in order to interest the widest possible audience. Philological papers about Greek and Latin Literature or based on ancient historical topics were presented, along with talks on the history of art, epigraphy, numismatics, archaeology and ancient philosophy. We also encouraged speakers to present a panel with two shorter coordinated papers on related subjects. These trigger constructive debates through their comparison, livening up the discussion.

We welcomed talks on the reception of Classics from Late Antiquity to the present day. We appreciated presentations on how Latin and Greek Classical authors were read and re-adapted during the Medieval Ages, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and finally, how the ancient world has been presented in video games. For example, two seminars regarding digital (re)sources for classicists were presented this year; these also involved some practical tasks in order to familiarise classicists with databases and linked open data. We exchanged views on the different approaches to historiography, focusing on the study of paradeigmata in rhetorical speeches, on historical and linguistic analyses of inscriptions and papyri, comparing archaeological data with literary sources. We also had the chance to attend two seminars focused on the Near East: the study of the skin in the Mesopotamian world and the linguistic contacts between Mycenaean and Hittite languages. There have been papers on gender studies and talks concerning anthropological arguments such as the style of the Latin defixiones and the function of the Oracle in Dodona.

The regular seminars end during the first week of June and they are usually followed by more casual activities. Following the path of the previous chairs, this year we focused again on the topic ‘Classics and Reception’, where we decided to create a PGWiP film club. This consisted of a series of three movie screenings, each one followed by a discussion. Last year, the reading group programme provided one movie screening along with several novels on classical reception to read and discuss. Since those discussions were both enjoyable and fruitful, we decided to re-propose the activity this year at the end of the seminars. A poll on our Facebook page where the attendees could vote for their favourite movies gave us the solution. We suggested some titles but we also welcomed suggestions from the public. Thanks to the kind support of Anna Lucia Furlan, (upcoming joint chair for 2018-2019 with William Coles and Dies van der Linde) we have been able to post a synopsis a few days before each screening, providing a short bibliography and information on the movie’s context.

The PGWiP now also even has its own logo, designed by Francesca Bologna (joint chair 2016-2017 with Sara Hale and Francesca Modini) and recently printed on t-shirts. A Facebook page and the Twitter account (@pgwip) help us to keep our followers updated.

The seminars aim to help PhD and MA students to extend their social and academic network but also to stimulate and improve their knowledge and research skills through the exchange of ideas relating to their own work. The environment that the PGWiP fosters is cordial, patient, and focused on the flourishing of future academics. We hope that future PGWiP seminars continue to provide a beneficial space for postgraduate students to explore their own ideas and to enhance their understanding of the ancient world though listening to and discussing the ideas of others.

by Jordan Mitchell, Orestis Mitintzis and Beatrice Pestarino (joint PGWiP seminar chairs 2017-2018)


The call for papers for the PGWiP for the 2018-19 academic year (to be co-chaired by William Coles, Anna Lucia Furlan and Dies van der Linde) is now open. The deadline for the submission of abstracts is 12th August 2018. Postgraduates interested in presenting their work can find further details here.

Images courtesy of Orestis Mitintzis, Anna Lucia Furlan and Beatrice Pestarino.