Weekend Reading: Stumbling out of 2020

This will be my last weekend post for a couple of weeks, since even my workaholic brain has to accept that blogging on Christmas Day would not be reasonable! So I’ll wish you all a very merry Christmas now, and hope that you have a proper break over the next week or so. I certainly intend to! In fact, I plan to set up an out-of-office autoreply for emails. I don’t think I’ve ever actually done that before, so I’ll probably get carried away and end up writing poetry or including an album of cat photos as an apology to anyone who tries to email me…

Usually at this time of the year I look back at what the year has brought me. That seemed a bit hazardous this year, and I admit that I wasn’t looking forward to it! But I took a deep breath, braced myself… and looked back at my Weekend Reading post from this time last year.

Strangely enough, it made me feel better. 2019 certainly wasn’t an easy year for me, so I went into 2020 already in disaster-management mode. It’s turned out to be a disaster of a year on an “unprecedented” scale and in ways we never expected, sure enough – but when I think about it, I have a lot to be grateful for, besides my (touch wood) health.

Here are a few things on my personal ‘Good Things From 2020’ list…

Comfort Classics. When I started the Comfort Classics interview series in March, everything was falling apart around us and people were scared and desperately worried. I was just trying to give my students something to hold onto: a consistent, positive thing to read every day until we found a way through this situation. But it turned into something I didn’t expect – a chance to meet people, encounter new ideas, make connections and share stories. It gave me an opportunity to talk to scholars I’d only encountered in the pages of journals, and to hear from people whom I might never have run into in the normal course of events. It’s been a joy – and I hope it will continue into the new year (do contact me if you’d like to get involved!).

The series also gained more attention than I bargained for. I wrote a piece about it for the Royal Society of Arts; I was asked to record a video for the OU’s YouTube channel (a logistical nightmare under full lockdown!); I was invited to write about it for the OU’s ‘Arts and Humanities in the time of Covid-19‘ blog series; and I was included in lots of internal OU newsletters and interview series, as well as blogposts from people around the world. It’s been a bit crazy, really – but in a good way!

So this is my chance to say thank you, to everyone who’s contributed, and to everyone who’s been reading the series. You’ve brightened up a really gloomy year – for me and for lots of other people too!

What else? Let’s see…

Smol Dragon. I bought myself a sketchbook when lockdown started, thinking that I needed a hobby to distract me in the times (few and far between this year!) when I wasn’t working or doing things for this website. I didn’t get very far with that – until I spotted an online initiative in October which gave a drawing prompt for every day of the month. I appreciate a schedule: the OU has trained me well! So I started doodling little dragons and posting my drawings online – and people seemed to like them.

That gave me a push to keep going, and even to open an online shop, and my sketchbook has since become a big part of my life. It’s been useful too, over the last couple of months: I raised money in November for Sportula Europe, donated a bespoke bookplate design to the WCC/SCS Covid Relief Auction, created a design for the Sportula Europe shop, and was featured in the Eidolon Gift Guide. My little dragon was even given his own Latin story by Anthony Gibbins of Legonium!

Now I’m looking forward to spending at least a bit of my two-week holiday drawing whatever pops into my head. Who knows where that will take me next year?!

Last week’s drawing – a response to the online row about women and doctorates.

Autism Diagnosis. Back in August I wrote about the process of being diagnosed with autism. It was a tough post to write: the diagnosis was very new to me, and while it felt like a positive thing in my head, I wasn’t sure how people would respond. I was taken aback by how kind and supportive people were: I received so many messages and encouraging comments, both here and on Twitter, that I spent days reading them and trying to reply to them all. For weeks afterwards I received emails from people thanking me for the post, because it connected in some way to their own experiences or to things they’d observed in a loved one. I started to see myself as part of a community of ‘neurodivergent’ people – who might not all be autistic, but who recognise in themselves a different way of thinking and of seeing the world.

As a result of all that, I’ve made some interesting connections within Classics and Education, and learned a lot. I was profiled by the organisation CripAntiquity, which represents disabled academics studying the ancient world; and I was invited recently to write a post about online teaching and neurodiversity for the CUCD Education blog. I’m now a member of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the Council of University Classics Departments – and I hope that will lead to some positive things for the recognition of neurodiversity in Classics.

The final thing I’m thankful for, as 2020 lurches towards its end, is community. The Classics community I’ve found on Twitter has kept me going through the really bad days of school closures and lockdowns. I’ve become friends with some amazing people, purely because we were all reaching out and trying to make connections. I’ve learned (reluctantly!) to use Zoom and Teams, and have attended all kinds of lectures and workshops that I could never have gone to under normal circumstances. And most of all, I have the very best blog readers in the whole entire world, who put up with my cartoons, my assortment of strange interests and my peculiar sense of humour. Thank you all for sticking around!

I hope you all have a quiet, distanced and safe Christmas, full of hope for a better year to come.

This week from around the Classical Internet


The latest controversial book review – BMCR [some people love this; others hate it. Check it out and decide for yourself!]

French detectorist accused of looting – The Guardian

Ian Jenkins obituary – The Guardian


Comfort Classics: Christian Cameron

Quaestiones in magica: E-J Graham – Roman Magic

Comment and opinion

The history of word processing – CREWS Project

Extreme social distancing – Curiosulus [new blog]

Funding guide for BIPOC students – Notes from the Apotheke [new blog]

Rethinking Nero – History Extra

Olive oil as a weapon – Haaretz

Reviving Roman treasures – The Scotsman

Returning looted artefacts – British Museum Blog

The last speakers of ancient Sparta – BBC Travel

The trial of Socrates – Ancient World Magazine

Podcasts, video and other media

The Year of the Four Emperors, with Rob Cromarty – The Partial Historians

Cicero – Teagle Foundation

Medusa – Mythology Short Stories

Thucydides thoughts – The Ancients

Classics in Communities – APGRD

Scotland’s ancient structures – The Ancients

And finally: Io, Saturnalia!

Since we’re in the middle of the Roman festival of Saturnalia right now, here are some Saturnalia links – old and new – for your entertainment. Put on your pointy hat, light some candles, grab a plate of food, and enjoy!

The debauched Roman ‘Christmas’ – History Extra

Celebrating Saturnalia – Following Hadrian

The dark side of Saturnalia – Roman Times

The Saturnalia – Ancient History Hound

Io, Saturnalia! – Historia Civilis

Buy ‘Print Your Own’ Saturnalia cards – Greek Myth Comix

Festivals – BGS Classics Podcast

Martial’s gift tags – Tertullian.org

Dressing for Saturnalia – Lugubelinus

Sol Invictus – Ataraxia Alpha

The History of Saturnalia I – Sententiae Antiquae

The History of Saturnalia II – Sententiae Antiquae

Saturnalia and Christmas – VoxPop

What to bring to a Saturnalia feast – The History Girls

So much more than Christmas – Ancient History Fangirl

From Classical Studies Memes for Hellenistic Teens

8 thoughts on “Weekend Reading: Stumbling out of 2020

  1. Thanks for keeping up with the classical studies blog throughout the year and for bringing us comfort classics. Us regular readers greatly appreciate it and we appreciate you! 🙂

    Merry xmas 🎄 and a happy new year🍾 to you and yours Cora Beth 🙂


  2. Hats off to you for all you’ve achieved and been rightly accorded attention for doing so. Comfort Classics, your Weekend posts, and the applaudably awesome Smol have immeasurably ameliorated this otherwise cov(h)ideous year. Thank you 🙏 😊


  3. I think I discovered your blog about this time last year and it’s been lovely reading your posts every week and being reminded about my love for classics.
    When all the craziness has died down it would be great to catch up in person for a walk by the sea sometime 🙂


  4. Yes, looking back over the year reminds me of one of my favourite Shelley quotes ( from The Revolt of Islam ) ” I wandered through the wrecks of days departed”!..but what a lovely idea from that teeming brain of yours was the Comfort Classics; it’s been fascinating looking at the breadth of choices from such different people and I hope it continues (not least because Plato is massively under-represented and perhaps somebody else will choose Pindar!). I do hope you have a good rest over the Xmas period and wish you All The Best!

    Liked by 1 person

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