What caught my eye this week
This week I’ve been talking to a number of people who’ve just completed their degree (congratulations, folks!). For many it’s their first degree; for some it’s their second, or even their third. It set me to remembering my first degree, and what mattered most to me at the time. Oddly enough, it wasn’t the fancy certificate, or the graduation ceremony with friends and family. No, for me it was the award of letters after my name.
I was brought up at a time and in a town where going to university wasn’t common. So it wasn’t until after I started university that I realised a degree would change my name; I would be Cora Beth Fraser BA (Hons). To me that was a profound and startling revelation.
Growing up as the only ‘Cora Beth’ (due to my mother’s enthusiasm for The Waltons) in a class which included four Christophers, three Davids and five Emmas, names had always held great significance for me. Names can set you apart or mark you as one of a group; they can proclaim your marital or social status; they can be a source of cultural distress or a statement of identity. Names have the facility to communicate family, status and culture today, much as the tria nomina did for the Romans. So the idea of earning an addition to my name fascinated me.
Most of us, even within academia, would agree that post-nominal letters (BA, BSc, MA etc.) are useless in a practical sense; it’s often considered pompous to use them, and debates rage about when and how you should do so. I accept this, and these days I only use my letters when writing references on behalf of students: but still, I collect them. When I see unfamiliar letters after somebody’s name, I look them up and investigate whether I could get them too. Last week I picked up another letter after my name (Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy – SFHEA), and I’m as delighted as I was when I got my first BA.
So to those who are about to graduate, or who have graduated recently, I’d like to say this: celebrate your letters! Write out your name in full, with your post-nominal letters added on, somewhere conspicuous – in fact, feel free to do so in the ‘Comments’ box below! Tell me about your letters: do you use them?
Education changes people. Sometimes we lose sight of that. The letters after our names are there to remind us of how we’ve changed. [Also they’re fun to collect: like the letters you used to find on the lids of Smarties tubes – or is that just me?!]
From Classical Studies Support
On dealing with failure – Classical Studies Support
Attending the Classics MA Day at The Open University – Classical Studies Support
Postgraduate study and learning from mistakes – Classical Studies Support
Recipe for the world’s oldest bread? – BBC
New art in Pompeii and Herculaneum – Guardian
Using subatomic physics to read scrolls – Smithsonian
Comment and opinion
Ancient storytelling and new versions of the Iliad – Guardian
An unusual visit to Greece – Edithorial
The complexity of Thucydides – Sphinx
Metamorphoses and transgender experience – Eidolon
On Ovid, Iphis and being a gay Power Ranger – Eidolon
Celebrating the working lives of classicists – Society for Classical Studies
Boundaries and guided tours – Society for Classical Studies
Emily Wilson on translating Homer – Irish Times
Disability in the ancient world – Classical Fix
The attraction of ancient disaster sites – A Don’s Life
Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra [one for the sci-fi fans!] – Historiai
Best ancient world novels? – Guardian
… and best elegies? [at least there’s one Roman in there!] – Guardian
Movies about Rome through sound and soundtracks – Classical Reception Studies Network
Children’s literature and myth – Antipodean Odyssey
Resources and opportunities
Contribute to a crazy project – Ars Longa
Podcasts and videos
Roman mosaic on display – Leicestershire Live
Still looking for curses and the body of Alexander the Great – Fox News
The legacies of ancient Greece – BBC
Good luck to all those heading to the Greek and Latin Summer School in Durham! I’ll try to get there one evening next week, to see you all…