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 Laura Jenkinson-Brown
Is there a source from the ancient world that you find yourself coming back to when you want to feel better?
When I want a bit of escapism, I dive into myths. I have a gorgeous double-volume Folio edition set of ‘The Greek Myths’ by Robert Graves, who includes all the different versions of every story.
When did you first come across this book?
My dad found it for me, in a skip in London. Apparently. He’s rather good at finding slightly obscure (to me, anyway) Classics-themed books with lots of pictures as inspiration for my comics.
Can you tell me a bit about the book and its context?
Robert Graves was a novelist and Classicist and a poet and rather an inspiration – he also had Irish parents, and grew up in London. I think I saw ‘I, Claudius’ very early on and was mystified, then further mystified when I discovered it was a book and he’d written quite seriously about myths. ‘The Greek Myths’ is a mythography, a compendium of Greek mythology but with the author’s comments and analyses. I want to be a mythographer when I grow up. I’ve had a copy of ‘The White Goddess’ on the shelf, another of his that examines poetic myth, for when I finish ‘The Greek Myths’, but as I tend to get distracted and start making comics of the myth I’m reading, that’s not going to be any time soon.
What is it about this book that appeals to you most?
It’s more a piece of research than a totally entertaining read, but that’s what entertains me – the twistier and rabbit-holier the better! I tend to end up making frantic notes as I read. It also comes in a rather beautiful slipcase, with a black-figure-style Leda and the Swan illustration across it. Proper book porn.
And finally… what do you do, outside of Classics, to cheer yourself up?
The year before I met my husband, I bought a tiny maisonette in Southsea, Portsmouth. I’m from London and was amazed that I could a) actually afford to buy somewhere, especially that b) had a garden, with an actual tree in it! Since then, we’ve built a summerhouse and a shed with a green roof and planted vegetables and pink and blue plants everywhere, and it’s my absolute saviour right now. I also like to make things, and am currently working on felt animals for a mobile for the baby arriving in July. And I love to read, or at least listen to someone reading to me.
Laura Jenkinson-Brown is a secondary school Classics teacher, and illustrator of Greek Myth Comix, living in Southsea, Portsmouth. Before that she taught English, and before that was a bookseller in Oxford. Her educational comix include several books of the Odyssey, the life of Heracles, the Classical meanings behind names in Harry Potter, and an infographic on Deaths in the Iliad. She has most recently been collaborating with CSCP, Dr Sophie Hay and Caroline Lawrence on a new Pompeii-based Classics/Ancient History course as illustrator – the Amarantus project – launching later this year. You can see an overview of her projects and links to all her GCSE Classical Civilisation resources at laurajenkinsonbrown.co.uk and greekmythcomix.com.