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Report of 2012-2013 Pearson Fellow

As an undergraduate studying Comparative Literature and Classics at Haverford College, I got a jump-start on falling in love with the intellectual life and community at the University of Oxford during my year abroad. I spent my junior year studying Classics and English at Lady Margaret Hall, and during that year, I had the opportunity to take tutorials on a wide range of subjects including literary theory, classical reception, Virgil, Ovid, James Joyce, and even Thomas Pynchon. Reading Ovid in Duke Humphrey’s Library and tackling Joyce in the misty air of the University Parks gave me a year of profound and rigorous intellectual exploration under the supervision of brilliant and inspiring scholars. I knew I had to return to Oxford after my tutor on classical reception introduced me to the Archive for the Performance of Greek and Roman Drama (APGRD): the archive is housed in a beautiful room, lined with volumes and archives concerning performance reception, and it offers a hub of activity for vibrant conversation concerning classical reception, philology, and intellectual history.

The Lionel Pearson Fellowship allowed me to make a place for myself in the intellectual community at Oxford, based in the Classics faculty and the APGRD. I returned to Oxford for my graduate work, excited to embark upon a Master of Studies in Greek and Latin Languages and Literature with a specialization in Reception Studies. During that year, I marveled at the Master’s education I received from the academics based in the APGRD and the Classics faculty. I chose to study Intermediate Greek to consolidate my grasp on the language, and I also studied Theories and Methods of Reception. My Master’s thesis, entitled ‘The Voice of the Siren and its Reception in Opera’ served as the capstone of my academic experience during my year as the Pearson Fellow, and through this research, I had the pleasure of exploring the mutually illuminating worlds of Greek myth and Western opera. I also wrote two other essays on multimedia reception, including ‘Looking Back at Orpheus: Cocteau’s Orphic Trilogy as a Queer Re-reading of Ovid’s Metamorphoses’ and ‘Spectral Presences and Absences in Anne Carson’s Antigonick,’ which went on to publication in last year’s edition of Logeion. Outside of my own research, I attended and participated in a wide range of lectures, seminars, and research networks, including the Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation group and the Race and Resistance network. During my Master’s year, I received outstanding teaching, guidance, and supervision from the world-class faculty at Oxford, all of which compelled me to remain at Oxford to pursue my doctorate.

I now find myself nearly halfway through the third and final year of my DPhil, and although I remain interested in postclassical reception, my current research project focuses on ancient reception. My doctoral dissertation, entitled ‘Monstrous Sounds: Listening to the Voice of the Monster in Greek Epic, Lyric, and Drama,’ aims to rethink the ontological category of the monster through sound. So much of the theoretical orientation and curiosity that drives my doctoral research blossomed during my year as the Pearson Fellow, during which I received an unparalleled education in classical reception as well as the languages and literature of the ancient world more broadly. My research on the figures of the Siren and Orpheus propelled me into a large-scale exploration of monstrous sound, and the remarkable teaching and guidance that I received during that year now informs my own teaching practice. I currently teach a wide range of courses at Oxford, including Latin grammar and composition, Latin prose reading, Greek mythology, classical reception, and Greek tragedy, and I often reflect upon and draw from the impressive education I received during my Pearson year as I develop my own pedagogical philosophy and practice.

The process of applying for the Pearson also prepared me well for my graduate work. The letters of application and the interview process acquainted me with some of the larger questions facing classicists today, including Why does your proposed research matter? and What is the future of Classics as a discipline? I learned a tremendous amount from the application process and from the friendly and stimulating interrogation I received from the Pearson committee at my interview at the SCS Annual Meeting (still called that APA ‘in my day’). From the beginning of my acquaintance with the Pearson Fellowship, to my completion of the Master of Studies, which I completed with Distinction, and even to my final year of research on my DPhil at Oxford, I have learned so much from the Pearson Fellowship, whose influence and impact continues to shape my academic life today.

Hannah Silverblank
December 2015

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