Faculty Reflections (2020-21)

Jed Atkins

Atkins and others

"This past year saw the publication of a chapter on the historian Polybius’ account of sovereignty for a Bloomsbury Volume, Reading Texts on Sovereignty. The chapter was cowritten with my former doctoral student Tripp Young, now thriving as an assistant professor of Classics at Hillsdale College. An essay previously published on the topic of liberty and Cicero’s republicanism was reprinted as a chapter in a book by Routledge, edited by Valentina Arena, Liberty: Ancient Ideas and Modern Perspectives. I am also happy to report that I have just finished checking the proofs for the Cambridge Companion to Cicero’s Philosophy, which I am coediting with Thomas Bénatouïl. Look for that to appear in the months ahead. While COVID put a damper on conferences and lectures, I did speak by Zoom at the St. John’s University School of Law. It was a real treat—and a new experience for me—to connect my historical work on tolerance and religious liberty to the case law these students were learning.

"Despite, or perhaps because of, the challenges posed by COVID, teaching this year was extremely meaningful. Last Fall I once again directed the Visions of Freedom Focus Cluster, which meant that I spent much time trying to figure out how to build community and implement co-curricular programming when many of the typical methods for doing so were unavailable. In addition to the usual guest lectures (now over Zoom), we focused more than usual on our local city of Durham. Instead of our usual field trip to Washington, DC, faculty and students (and my 8-year old son) went on a walking tour of Durham, in which guides from the local historical society explained the city’s significance for the Civil Rights movement (see photo). I tried out a hybrid-approach for my large Democracy: Ancient and Modern Class. I was pleased to be able to bring my students a wonderful line-up of guest lecturers over Zoom who addressed the course’s topics, including Jim Ceaser, Melissa Lane, Paul Cartledge, and Linda Monk."

Tolly Boatwright

Tolly Boatwright biking in the Piazza di Spagna of Rome, 4/21

"Retiring has not been like stepping through the door into Narnia, but a more gradual and evolving passage. Despite big events – spending lots of time with our new grandson, and my entire family contracting and surviving Covid –my life has not changed much. I have continued to work with students though no longer in the classroom. The last two grads writing under my supervision have now finished, Courtney Monahan (“Matrona Visa: Women’s Public Visibility and Civic Identity in Hispania Tarraconensis”) and Adrian Linden-High (“Enslaved and Freed Persons in Roman Military Communities Under the Principate (27 BCE–284 CE)”). Also keeping me fresh with new material and questions were Olivia Merli, whose Graduate of Liberal Studies capstone paper, “The Emperor’s Two Bodies” (on Elagabalus), I supervised, and Lindsay Holman, on whose UNC-CH dissertation, “Herzog’s Roman Tesserae: Their Nature and Purpose Reconsidered,” I served. All four young scholars finished admirably.

"My own research continues to give me joy. The seemingly endless tasks of completing a book – permissions, proofs, indexes – finally culminated in the appearance this June of Imperial Women of Rome: Power, Gender, Context (Oxford UP; fun, quick views of the book are accessible through the Pg 99 section of the Campaign for the American Reader blog). TAPA published a final version of “What Would Agrippina Do?” my SCS Presidential Address of 2020. I reviewed for Classical Review a collection of epigraphic material from Lazio antico that happily coincided with an actual visit to Sessa Aurunca, one of the towns providing inscriptions (more below). Via Zoom or the like I took part in various academic discussions that include “Hadrian’s Wall: A History” for NewsTalk of the Irish Radio, “Colonial Cities and Imperial Citizens” in the Conversazioni series of the American Academy in Rome (with Mia Fuller, who spoke about Mussolini’s colonies), and “Empires Then & Now: Why Did the Roman Empire Last So Long?”, for Krasno Global Affairs & Business Council at UNC-Chapel Hill.

"Now into my new biography of Agrippina the Younger, I had a particularly exciting jump-start on the project in Rome as a Resident at the American Academy in March and April. Pandemic restrictions curtailed earlier plans for detailed site visits and study in museum storerooms in Italy. But I made do, exploring (for “exercise”) with my fearless husband Paul parts of Rome I had never seen. The AAR Fellows and Directors opened my thinking to many issues impinging on Agrippina; they also wrangled special visits up the Column of Marcus Aurelius and to other unusual places. Friends at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome, including our own Jake Butera (PhD 2010), accompanied us elsewhere, including to Sessa Aurunca. One extraordinary experience of that wonderful time was when Paul and I rented electric bikes over Easter Weekend and saw every quarter of a heartbreakingly empty but marvelous Rome. Stay in touch!"

Rex Crews

"During this pandemic year my focus has been on adapting our elementary Latin program to ever-changing circumstances and on mentoring our graduate instructors in Latin as we navigated the transfer of instruction from an in-person mode to a mix of hybrid instruction and then to online delivery this past spring. Our excellent graduate instructors, Sinja Kuppers, Michael Freeman, Erickon Bridges and Antonio Lopiano, did a first-rate job of teaching in our elementary Latin program during a time of utmost stress, as the situation changed from one day to the next. While we are hopeful and happy to return to an in-person schedule in the fall, we have all gained some invaluable pedagogical experience during this time and have innovated our instruction in ways that will, no doubt, become permanent, positive features of our program. Thanks to you all for sending a good group of undergraduate Latinists forward!"

Lauren Ginsberg tries on Neronian masks

Lauren Ginsberg

"I had a great first year at Duke, both in the (often virtual) classroom and as the Director of Graduate Studies. A particular highlight was teaching a new undergrad course on the Age of Nero which happened to coincide with the emperor’s meteoric rise to media stardom in many major news outlets thanks to the British Museum’s controversial new exhibit. Inspired by my students and this exhibit, I recorded a podcast with HistoryHit, a UK‐based media conglomerate, on Nero’s wives (Divorced, Murdered, Survived: the Wives of Nero) which I’m told should reach some 300k listeners. Neat! I am also currently working with composer Michael Hersch (Peabody Institute, Johns Hopkins University) to write the historical essay to accompany the premier of his new opera, “Poppaea,” in Basel and Vienna this fall. For me outreach and collaborations outside academia have always been a passion and I have been delighted to continue this sort of work at Duke."

Alicia Jiménez

"Teaching and doing research has been difficult this year due to the pandemic, but I am grateful for the engagement of the students taking my classes and Duke University’s support of my research projects. I was able to find ways to discuss on zoom with the students a selection of anti‐racist readings and visit virtually different museums and sites all over the world.

"This year I completed two grant projects. The first, funded by the Gerda Henkel Stiftung allowed our team to create a new model of the Roman camps near Numantia (Renieblas, Spain, 2nd‐1st c. BCE) using drones and terrestrial scanners. With these techniques we were able to discover an analyze structures covered by dense vegetation that are not visible on the ground. The plan of Renieblas Camp III (49 hectares) is key for our current understanding of the basic structure of the Roman Republican army as it is usually assumed that its archaeological remains clearly correspond to the description of the arrangement of a manipular army by Polybius (book 6). Thanks to the funds granted by Trinity College we were able to create a 3D virtual reconstruction of the camp based on the new information recovered in the field. We plan to include this virtual reconstruction in an article currently in preparation as well as publish it online in the near future.

Viewshed analysis from Renieblas to Numantia. The viewshed layer (in purple) shows areas visible across the landscape from Renieblas Camp III. Proyecto Arqueológico Renieblas (PAR), with viewshed by P. Valdés

"Despite the impossibility of traveling for conferences, I was invited by the Archaeological Institute of America to chair a session on Punic and Iberian Cities and Landscapes at the Virtual Annual Meeting in January of 2021. I also gave a paper on zoom at Columbia University about the state of the field of the archaeology of Roman Spain and another at Exeter University to discuss our findings at Renieblas. In June of 2021 our team presented a paper at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC, Madrid) about the application of remote sensing techniques to the study of Roman camps.

"In the Fall of 2020, the Journal of Roman Archaeology published our paper detailing the most important results of Duke's new fieldwork project at the Roman camps at Renieblas, set up in 2015, including the study of artifacts in archaeological context, radiocarbon dates, faunal and viewshed analyses, as well as a new proposal about the relative chronology of the camps. Another piece I wrote, discussing new approaches to Roman imperialism and material culture, was published by Antiquity also in the Fall. In addition, my team and I submitted a dissemination article about Renieblas for a Spanish guide to the archaeology of Soria, the region where the site is located.

"I am particularly thrilled to be part of a new research team lead by Adam Rosenblatt and funded by Duke University through the program Reckoning with Race, Racism, and the History of the American South. Our project Reckoning with the Dead: The Durham Black Burial Grounds Collaboratory, was selected for funding in 2021 and will allow us to study African American burial grounds in Durham using the tools from different disciplines (anthropology, public history and archaeology) and share their histories with students and the public. By mapping and documenting the cemeteries our project intends to contribute to our knowledge about the entrenchment of inequality from life into death and the erasure of much of our history.

"Finally, in January of 2021, I was honored to be invited to serve as an Editorial Board member of the Journal of Roman Archaeology by the new Editor‐in‐Chief, Prof. Jennifer Trimble."

Kathryn Morgan

Excavating at Zincirli Höyük, Turkey, with assistant Bilgehan Usta (R)

"I write from rural Gaziantep province in southeastern Turkey, where we are in the midst of the end‐of‐season madness of excavations at Zincirli Höyük, a site that flourished from at least the third to the middle of the first millennium BCE. We were thrilled to get back in the field after our eighteen‐month COVID hiatus, and despite the challenges of masks in the field, social distancing on site, and a poorly timed heat wave, we've had an incredibly productive season! Finds have included everything from a spindle whorl made of modern rubber (from a modern house built atop ancient foundations) to a coin minted under Alexander the Great to dozens of complete vessels preserved in situ on the floors of a building destroyed ca. 1650 BCE. It's an excellent training ground for stratigraphic excavations, with thousands of years of history just a few meters (sometimes only centimeters!) beneath the modern surface.

"I've been most excited to add to our assemblage of globular flasks, like the one I'm excavating here, which seem to have been made to transport our local wine to such far‐flung places as central Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. We're beginning a collaborative research campaign with Turkish scholars to conduct organic residue analysis on these vessels, to confirm their identification as wine jars and see what local flavorants (herbs and resins) might have been added to make their contents as distinctive as their appearance. But the room where this flask was excavated contained about fifty other vessels, ranging from tiny cups to human‐sized storage jars, as well as two bronze daggers and a cache of stone and shell beads, making it a thrilling place to work for our international excavation team of Turkish, Italian, and American students!

"Our crazy‐intensive dig season was a fitting end to a truly (hopefully) unique academic year. While I hope the next one won't feature quite as much Zooming, I was really astonished at how many opportunities remote learning opened up‐‐ my freshman seminar, "Troy: Excavating an Epic" featured a virtual Q&A with Troy excavation director Brian Rose, as well as an interactive Zoom performance by modern bard Joe Goodkin of his "Blues of Achilles." In the spring, I was able to troubleshoot a Bronze Age Trade simulation game I created for the Zoom environment with colleagues across the country before inflicting it on the students in my "Seven Wonders: Monuments and Cultures of the Ancient Mediterranean" course. A colleague at Dartmouth enjoyed it enough that he invited me to play it again with his students! Unfortunately, the outcome that round had Egypt declaring war on Cyprus due to disagreements over diplomatic protocols... Nothing so untoward happened among my Duke students, naturally. Finally, making our annual Certamen trivia tournament virtual allowed for a far more inclusive event than usual, with the participation of over 200 students from 14 states. This was only possible, of course, thanks to the enthusiastic support of the entire Duke Classics community, including faculty, staff, and students. I shudder to predict what surprises the next year has in store for us all, but I look forward to the creative responses they will prompt in our vibrant Classics community."

Erika Weiberg

"This last year, it’s safe to say, was unlike any other. Like many, I spent much of it plopped in front of the computer in my home office. Although I wouldn’t wish a year like this one on anyone, I am happy that I got to do it as part of the Duke Classical Studies family. And despite the constraints that virtual teaching and learning imposed on us, the virtual setting also brought new possibilities. In the fall semester, I was able to bring a virtual production of Theater of War’s Antigone in Ferguson to Duke for my students in Drama of Greece and Rome. After the performance, my students got to talk with the director, Bryan Doerries, and the composer, Philip Woodmore, about their experiences creating this powerful production. I also managed to make progress on my book manuscript, which is about women’s trauma in homecoming plays. The Franklin Humanities Institute hosted a virtual book manuscript workshop for me in the Spring, Zooming in scholars from California and Massachusetts, as well as Duke and UNC, to talk about my work. It was an incredible and enriching experience. Finally, I presented some of my book research virtually to an audience in Cologne, Germany in December. I’m happy to have had these moments of virtual connection in this year of isolation. And I hope that all of you have managed to find creative ways of connecting this year too!"

Shirley Werner

"My work in the American office of l’Année philologique continued steadily despite the pandemic, thanks to the increasing availability of journals in digital form; Lisa Carson and I also made big strides in the excerpting of edited volumes. We both (virtually) participated in the annual APh Editorial Board meeting in Granada, Spain, in November 2020; and in the APh Advisory Board meeting at the SCS in December 2020 and the roundtable discussion at the SCS in January 2021. In particular, we brainstormed on ways in which we might expand the coverage of APh, in digital form, to include works on classical reception (following the recommendation of the report of the joint SCS/AIA Taskforce on the Future of Bibliography). Aside from my APh work, my article “The Rules of the Game: Imitation and Mimesis in Horace, Epist. 1.19” was accepted by HSCP and is forthcoming in vol. 112 (2022), and my annual contribution to Vergilian bibliography was published in vol. 66 of Vergilius. Finally, life at home during the pandemic has been both bewildering and crazy (everything happened on Zoom; and what month is it, anyway?) and peaceful (the cat was usually competing with the computer for space on my lap; and not much worth reporting took place in any given day, with our daughter in her first year of college at Oberlin). We are all grateful that we managed to stay safe and healthy."

Clare Woods

"2020/21 was my last year as Director of the Thompson Writing Program. I'm now officially back full time in Classical Studies ‐ although in many ways, I didn't really leave! Planning for Fall semester 2020 was tricky in the Writing Program: would we be in‐person or not? Would international students be able to get to Durham? Would students decide to defer matriculation because of the pandemic? In the end, with my colleague Prof. Denise Comer (now Director of the TWP), I developed and co‐taught a travel‐themed Writing 101 class that was mostly asynchronous, and much larger than the small‐class format usual for Duke. Teaching asynchronously has its challenges, as does preparing modules that engage students, and create opportunities for online interaction, but I think we all had fun with the course and learned a lot.

"Having explored and experimented with a range of ideas for teaching asynchronously in the Fall, I was excited to build an online course for Spring 2021's graduate seminar in Latin Paleography. It seemed the perfect moment to dip into the wealth of digitized western manuscripts now available online. We missed the kind of hands‐on experience with our own Duke manuscripts that is usually a signature component of learning Latin Paleography, but the Rubenstein Library worked with me to digitize some fragmentary manuscripts that we could focus on for term projects. My enthusiastic group of students got to decipher and describe materials that have had little to no attention until this point. I also now have a set of online modules for teaching Latin Paleography that I'd love to develop further!

"My own research projects are progressing. I've been splitting time between my work on Duke's heavily annotated incunable edition of Pliny the Elder's Natural History, and my (born‐digital) early medieval networks project. Following the paper I gave in January 2020 to a joint AIA/SCS panel ("Books on the Road: Exploring Material Evidence for Social Networks in the Early Middle Ages"), I was approached by an editor interested in publishing the project as a monograph. I'm currently putting together the book proposal and working on a sample chapter. I'm happy to say that I started a sabbatical on July 1, and it's been wonderful to get back to scholarship full time. My best wishes to everyone ‐ stay well!"