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Δευτέρα, 25 Δεκεμβρίου 2017

Holiday Reading: Best of 2017, Neville Morley

Once again, I’ve remembered to keep track of the blogs I’ve especially enjoyed over the last year (with the curious exception of April – I don’t know, at this remove, whether I was too busy to read anything, or not much was published, or I was feeling hyper-sniffy at the time so didn’t think there was anything worth recommending. Very happy to get suggestions in the comments of great things that I’ve missed). This doesn’t claim to be a definitive list, just the stuff I came across – often via the Twitter, which continues to be a great way of keeping up with what’s going on in different regions and fields, despite all the management’s efforts to ruin it and drive everyone away – that deserves a more than ephemeral readership…


January: I disagree with a lot of what Joy Connolly has to say about Trump and Roman rhetoric, but it’s the pick of the discussions that seek to extract something politically useful from classical analogies in this context. Roberta Mazza offers a robust case for seeing most such attempts as trite at best, focusing on the specific example of the Grauniad‘s Jonathan Jones. Turning to a different field of politics, Rachel Moss’ Choosing Not To Give is required reading on academic work-life balance and getting one’s priorities right; I can’t claim for a moment that I manage this, ever, which means this piece is a necessary reproach…
February: Llewelyn Morgan’s Talking to God, about the languages that are felt to be appropriate for addressing the divine, is light years away from anything I do professionally, and all the more fascinating for it; the same can be said for Leen van Broeck’s account of text mining, and the emotional and technical limits to its current use within classics. Dan-el Padilla Peralta’s writings on the plight of the ‘undocumented’ are probably familiar to many readers of this blog, but his piece in Eidolon on immigration and the US classical profession broadens the perspective to an institutional critique. Finally, SpottedToad’s analysis of Harry Potter’s fantasies of institutional legitimacy is both hilarious and spot on.
March: another book seminar at Crooked Timber, this time on Ada Palmer’s baroque, high-brow and provocative Terra Ignota series, which you all ought to be reading by now since they’ve started to be published in the UK at last. Okay, it’s a podcast (or recorded lecture) rather than a blog post, but Laurie Johnson talks a lot of sense about Thucydides and democratic citizenship – and elsewhere on the blog, her shorter clips about growing winter indoor food are also well worth exploring. Finally, there’s Shawn Graham’s thoughtful discussion of Slow Archaeology and whom it would actually benefit, followed by a parallel discussion cum response from Bill Caraher.
April: as I said, I’m not sure what happened in April…
May: a good survey of different issues in history teaching, albeit US-centred, from The Tattooed Prof – especially the remark that “Most of us think we’re scintillating, interesting, witty lecturers. Most of us are also wrong”. Fascinating discussion of the role of language and ‘fake Latin’ in The Handmaid’s Tale from Yung In Chae. One of the best accounts of the appropriation of antiquity by the far right, Konstantinos Poulis on Golden Dawn.
June: yes, Eidolon again – maybe I should just stop bothering to recommend these articles individually, as I imagine the number of people who enjoy this blog but don’t read Eidolon regularly must be vanishingly small – but Mathura Umachandran’s essay on White Fragility is powerful and thought-provoking.
July: why did it take so long for anyone to think of creating Bromans? More importantly, when are they going to confirm the commissioning of the next series? Emma Southon offered an essential primer to the series, while Yung In Chae’s regular updates over the next few months were a joy. More seriously, an excellent book forum on Duncan Bell’s Reordering the World at thedisorderofthings.com – annoyingly, there doesn’t seem to be a single link to all the posts, but if you go to Inder Marwah‘s discussion (the pick of the bunch, I think) you should be able to find the others. Finally, Eleanor Scott’s piece on cooking for archaeological digsbrought back lots of memories – and subsequent posts in the ‘Dig Food Blog’ series offer some great recipes…
August: oh yes, the big ‘ethnic diversity in Roman Britain’ controversy. Well, if nothing else, it introduced me to Howard Williams’ excellent blog, via his discussion of the role of archaeological illustration in creating our impressions of the past. A niche interest, probably, but I loved Nicole Deufel on Winnetou and I – though my knowledge of the films is filtered entirely through Der Schuh des Manitu, which remains the funniest Western parody ever. The ever-fascinating SententiaeAntiquae offered an essential guide to the question of how one says ‘sharknado’ in ancient Greek.
September: obviously all academics feel guilty most of the time about everything they haven’t done (yet, honestly…), but Pat Thomson delves deeper into the phenomenon of academic guilt – why don’t we feel equally guilty about everything? Howard Williams (again; how does he write so much?) offered five (!) insightful commentaries on the media response to the ‘Viking Warrior Woman’story – link is to 5 of 5, which contains links to the first four. Audra Mitchell’s writings on extinction have been almost too painful to read, but I hold on to her argument in an earlier blog that we have an ethical duty to think about the future, even nightmarish futures, rather than turn away.
October: not familiar with Firefly? Go away and educate yourself, so you can then appreciate angrystaffofficer’s analysis of the characters in US military terms. Alex Acks takes apart the very silly geography of Middle Earth via its rivers. And maybe I should have put these in a curated order rather than following the chronology of when I came across them, as my final choice is Maria Farrell’s heartbreaking account of her feelings as an EU migrant – even as a privileged EU migrant – in Brexit Britain.
November: a powerful piece on sexual harassment and silencing in the academy, read via Christa Wolf and her take on Agamemnon, from L.D. Burnett. Provocative argument about whether Rome could have had an industrial revolution from the always-interesting Mark Koyama; I disagree with much of this, but it’s worth disagreeing with.
December: this is much more of a mainstream publication than I’d usual bother to recommend, but Stephen Bush has been brilliant about politics in the New Statesman all year, and his piece on not talking to the father he’d never met is superb, and remarkably heart-warming. That’s something we could all do with, as it’s been the sort of year when I start re-reading The Dark Is Rising and find that I’m getting disturbed by its Brexitty fantasies of plucky Britain as the sole bastion of the Light, threatened by invading hordes of darkness – it’s a relief to learn that I’m not the only person wondering about the role of classic children’s literature in creating a culture of aggressive nostalgia…

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