The Classics Department at the University of Reading has been a resident of the Edith Morley building (previously HumSS) for decades. Today we look back at how the Department has changed over the years as we mark the retirement of recent Co-Head of Department, Professor Barbara Goff.
Barbara has worked in the Classics Department since 2001 and has held a number of positions within the Department during her time here – from Director of Teaching and Learning, to Co-Head of Department with Professor Amy Smith.
Having taught around 50-70 students each year, over her 22 years here, Barbara has been involved in many of our alumni’s classical education, and so CONNECTED asked her to share her memories of the Department before she heads off.
Barbara said: “I loved teaching all my students over the years. They’ve always been interesting and committed to doing their best and succeeding. The best of them have been energetic, throwing themselves into their studies and the other opportunities that the Department offers. I have happy memories of many seminars, of organising Minimus classes – readings for the European Festival of Latin and Greek – and even once a film festival celebrating Greek Tragedy on TV.
“I’ve been fortunate to remain in touch with many of our graduates and have enjoyed working on the Department alumni newsletters to share all of our news with our past students.”
Changes over the years
The Department has gone through some changes over the last two decades. From their home being renamed the Edith Morley building – in honour of Britain’s first female professor – to a move to online learning during the pandemic, Barbara shares the most notable change for her.
She said: “The discipline of Classics has changed over the years. The Department teaches many more modules on reception topics [the study of how the classics world has been received since antiquity] than used to be the case. For example, modules such as ‘Pioneers of Classical Archaeology’ and ‘My Mother’s Sins’.
“The Department also teaches a much wider and more diverse version of the ancient world than used to be available; for instance, this year students can take ‘“Race” in the Ancient Greek and Roman Worlds’, ‘Ancient Ethiopia: The Aksumite Kingdom’ and ‘The Romans and the Natural World’.
“At the same time, the Department still teaches Ancient Greek and Latin and covers all the more familiar aspects of antiquity such as ancient rhetoric, art, different literary genres, history, and gender. I’m proud of the range and diversity of classical topics the Department now offers.”
Barbara is also proud to share that one important aspect of the Department remains unchanged. She said:
“One thing that has never changed is the friendliness and progressive nature of the staff. The Department’s staff has always been younger than might be traditional in Classics departments, and there is a strong female presence with many women in leadership positions.
“The Department has always been very welcoming to students and colleagues of all backgrounds, including students who haven’t had a chance to study Classics before. I’m very proud to have been part of such a welcoming and forward-thinking community.”
A few of my favourite things
Barbara shares that with so much to love about the Department and the University she’s having a hard time pinpointing what she will miss the most.
She said: “I have lots of favourite things about the University. I’m quite fond of the Edith Morley building and how central it is, and of the green space around it. I’m extremely fond, and proud, of the Ure Museum.
“The whole University and campus is wonderful. From the incredibly helpful staff in the Library, to the cuteness of Foxhill House and Blandford Lodge [the latter being my favourite spot to teach], the autumn colours of the trees on Whiteknights campus, and of course the Harris Garden, which I never visited often enough.
“The Department is full of wonderful staff, students and alumni who make up our Classics community. We also had a huge blow-up Father Christmas as a fixture in the Department for a while, after the owner of a Chinese restaurant gifted him to us during a staff Christmas dinner!”
Barbara said goodbye to the Classics Department with a one-day conference held in her honour. She said: “The conference included papers from students and colleagues. My colleagues also performed Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’, my students put on a performance of part of Euripides’ Trojan Women, and I was given a ritual presentation of a real live wreath made out of bay leaves.
Were you taught by Prof. Goff or studied in the Classics Department? We’d love to hear your memories – please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.