The world is in a state of upheaval at the moment, and we’re all looking for things to make us feel less anxious. Maybe Classics can help.
Today’s interview is with Gina May
Is there a source from the ancient world that you find yourself coming back to when you want to feel better?
‘Tell me Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven far journeys, after he had sacked Troy’s sacred citadel….’
When did you first come across this?
I first met Homer at school when I was doing my O Levels.
Can you tell me a bit about these words and their context?
These are the opening words of Homer’s Odyssey where the narrator is calling on the Muse to tell the story of Odysseus and his wondrous voyage. It was a voyage that should only have been a total distance of about 450 (724km) miles from Troy to Ithaca but he ended up sailing somewhere in the region of 8,083 miles (13,008km). Monsters and Mayhem is probably the best way to describe it!
What is it about this that appeals to you most?
It’s the beginning of an adventure like never before. The words draw me in and want me to hear the story, just as those who would have sat around a fire and listened to the magnetic voice of the bard. The story is old as time, but one that is alive and exciting, and thought-provoking, and one that no matter how old it is, will always be one that people want to hear.
And finally… what do you do, outside of Classics, to cheer yourself up?
I read – so technically that is within Classics – but there are so many books about the ancient world! There are fiction and non-fiction, but no matter which one I read, I learn something new. I feel like there is a huge unfinished jigsaw of information about the ancient world in my mind. It already has lots of pieces put in, and I can see parts of the picture, but there are still lots of pieces that need to be found, or made. I learn all the time, from books, from colleagues and from my students.
Dr Gina May works at The Open University – and does many other things too!
“I have wanted to be a Classicist for as long as I can remember. I didn’t finish my A levels at school but as the years went by, I did lot of OU courses that made me love Classics even more. Finally, when our youngest child was doing her GCSEs, I gave up work and did a full time Classics Degree at the University of Kent, Canterbury. I loved every minute of it and it was there that I learned Greek and more Latin, and Hieroglyphs and so, so many other things! I did well in my degree and was offered teaching jobs at the OU and The University of Kent that same year. I was lucky enough to be awarded funding for my PhD, and so hot on the heels of finishing my BA, I started working on my thesis which was an extension of an essay question I had been set in my final year. Three years later, I had the PhD. I was still working for the OU and taught at Kent for another 8 years.
18 months ago I left my job at Kent to start a business developing and teaching my own courses which include languages, literature, archaeology, numismatics, academic practice and lots more besides. I knew that there were people out there that loved Classics as much as me and wanted to know more, either to enhance their BA, MA or PhD studies, or just for pleasure. Since then, I have taught Ancient Greek and Latin to almost a hundred people. My six week short courses have been extremely popular as have my Saturday Afternoon Seminars. I recently advertised a 16 week Ancient Greek and Roman Comedy course and it filled very quickly, as has my 10 week Research Seminar course. The demand is such that I am running the Research Seminars course again starting in the middle of April during the day. If there is enough demand, the course will also run in the evenings. My new 10 week Roman Values, Authority and Self course is also proving to be very popular.
I am so fortunate. I love my job because I get to talk to students almost all day most days. Being able to share my knowledge with such motivated, inspiring and inspired people is an absolute pleasure. And in these days of lock down, and lock in, I hope that I can bring just a little bit of comfort to people by taking them away into another world for a few hours each week.
To bring more people together, I am running a ‘coffee morning’ at 10am each Wednesday which has been attended by students, staff, professors and lots of other people. For details, please email me at email@example.com. There is also a new (free) reading group starting on Mondays at 2pm where we will get together and read a book out loud together. In the ancient world the stories would have been listened to, not read alone, so my aim is that we join together to recreate that feeling. To register for the reading group, and for details of all my courses, please go to https://www.ginamay.co.uk/events/.”
For details of all Gina’s courses and how to register for the reading group, please go to her website, or email her: firstname.lastname@example.org. The coffee morning is hosted through the OU in an Adobe Connect room: email Gina for the link. G.May@open.ac.uk