Thursday 9 May 2013

On Influences and Beginnings

While I'm still finding my feet in this blogging experiment, I feel it's important for me to recognise some of the influences that led me to begin it in the first place. I've already listed a handful of blogs over in the sidebar under "Links", but I think it's valuable to briefly highlight the reason why I've included them, and to consider the role they've played in guiding me to this stage of my academic life. It's a story
that begins, as so many good stories do, with Doctor Who.

Specifically, I'm referring to the episode "The End of Time", which marked the final appearance to date of David Tennant in the title role. The episode premiered in two parts over the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010, but it wasn't until my second viewing in early 2011 that I really paused to reflect on the last few minutes of the episode. (And if you've not seen it, this is the point at which you should stop reading). As the dying Doctor struggles back to his TARDIS to regenerate, he's accompanied by the sweeping orchestral score of Murray Gold, along with strains of Latin sung in a haunting countertenor.

It was the Latin that grabbed me, since I was studying it as part of my English BA. A quick bit of googling led me to this entry on Penelope's Weavings and Unpickings, which I soon learned was the blog of Penelope Goodman of the University of Leeds. At the time, I couldn't have known the significance of this discovery – I was simply indulging a moment of geeky curiosity. Now, though, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see it as a watershed: this was my first real encounter with a scholar's perspective on the reception of classics in popular culture.

I had no inkling that in only a few short years I'd be working on that exact kind of research, but looking back, that's indeed when it all began. Within a few months I'd contacted Goodman via Twitter, thanking her for the entry, and seeking her advice on other resources I should investigate. It was subsequently through her and her blog that I was led to Juliette Harrisson's Pop Classics and Liz Gloyn's Classically Inclined. Crucially, all of this occurred at the same time I was both considering what course to pursue in graduate school, and becoming an avowed fan of a TV show absolutely steeped in references to antiquity. It's that combination of factors, that perfect timing, that's resulted in me doing the work I'm currently pursuing.

It's a testament to the power of social media that I was able to interact online with these scholars and explore some of their work long before I ever met them in person. Indeed, were it not for their blogs and their twitter accounts, and the communication and opportunity for learning these facilitated, I likely would never have found myself meeting them at all. I probably wouldn't have chosen to pursue a Classics MA, and even if I had, I wouldn't have dared choose to do it on receptions in popular culture. In short, I'd have missed out on much of what I've learned and enjoyed over the past few years, and I'm truly grateful to these individuals for saving me from such a dull fate.

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