Very Special People: continuation …

Before I move on with further introductions, I will backtrack to add a little more about a couple of the people I  introduced in earlier posts:

Professor Hugh Craig FAHA (Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities,) University of Newcastle is the winner of many awards including the prestigious Vice-Chancellors Award for Supervision Excellence from the University of Newcastle, Australia. As well, and very importantly, Hugh was elected to the Academy of Humanities, Australia, in 2014. On the Academy website, Hugh’s discipline is listed as  European Languages & Cultures, English An excerpt from the Academy website, is as follows:

Early modern English literature, computational stylistics Professor Hugh Craig, Director of the Centre for Literary and Linguistic Computing at the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, is one of the few world leaders in the highly skilled development and application of quantitative, statistical and other computing techniques of literary and linguistic computing to early modern English literary studies. The implications of his research, most notably fashioned through analysis of Shakespeare and his dramatic contemporaries, have broadened into author attribution of unsigned articles in the nineteenth-century press, the dating of undated works from their word-frequency patterns, and the analysis of the linguistic characteristics of authors, characters and periods. Professor Craig is also Deputy Head, Faculty of Education and Arts at the University of Newcastle, and has been Head, Department of English; Head, School of Language and Media; and Head, School of Humanities and Social Science. He has held visiting positions at Magdalen College, Oxford; the Istituto di Linguistica Computazionale, Pisa; the University of Canterbury, New Zealand; the University of Victoria, Canada; and the University of Wuerzburg, Germany. He was convenor of Computing Arts 2004@Newcastle and of a series of digital humanities symposia such as Humanities Computing: A Practicable Future (2001), Language Individuation (2011) and Beyond Authorship (2014)…. (Australian Academy of Humanities, accessed 4 May, 2016)


Edward Fenton, publisher, Day Books.

In a recent email to me, Edward wrote: “ is the website of publisher, writer and editor Edward Fenton – that’s me.”

Edward set up Day Books in 1998 to publish a series of “great diaries from around the world.” Later, he broadened its scope to include biography, memoirs and collections of letters, but he remains primarily interested in diaries. Several Day Books titles have featured in the ‘Books of the Year’ lists in the national press, including the Observer, Guardian and Sunday Telegraph.

As well as being a diarist himself, Edward writes on a wide range of subjects, and mentors other writers through the literary consultancy the Writers’ Workshop.

In his email, about Day Books, Edward wrote:

“One of the things that I did around the turn of the year was to get a total redesign of my Day Books website, mainly because I didn’t want it to look as corporate as I intended it to be when I first set it up. It’s now much more personal – the idea being that when aspiring authors come to it, they know that really it’s just me, rather than someone who can help them reach a huge global market and achieve their dreams. The new site was designed by a Charlbury friend of mine, Adrian Lancini, and I’m really comfortable with what he’s produced at  Can you access the website? I love his quirky design style! And the masthead (showing Charlbury’s main street) is from a painting that I commissioned from a Polish artist called Piotr Fafrowicz for a book that I brought out a few years ago.

 “I wanted to use the text of my website to reveal a bit of what I’ve done in the past and also what I do now. A photographer friend of mine, Stephen Woodd (yes, you do spell it like that), took the photos for the new website, and when he got round to seeing the actual site, he said ‘I didn’t know you’d done those things!’ (In fact my daughter  [… ] said the same!) But that’s really how I like it … I’m quite proud of some of the things I’ve done, but they’re not really important to me except as a way of reminding myself that I took part in the race …. [Much of the stuff in my career] was more pressurised than I’m comfortable with. In most ways I prefer what I’m doing now – for instance, the live event we did a couple of years ago at the Woodstock Poetry Festival (I think there’s a poster for it on my website) was much more enjoyable for me than the glitzy West End award ceremony back in 1984 when my first book was published in a fanfare of publicity. I tell myself that that day, 32 years ago this month, was almost the worst night of my life! I hated being in the spotlight, and I think I’m just lucky to have discovered so young that I didn’t like being there.”


Moving on now:

Blog Marguerite JohnsonMeet Associate Professor Marguerite Johnson, School of Humanities and Social Science (Classics). Marguerite Johnson is Associate Professor of Ancient History and Classical Languages (Classics) in the School of Humanities & Social Science, and Asssistant Dean, Teaching & Learning in the Faculty of Education & Arts.

Associate Professor Marguerite Johnson, Senior Lecturer in Classics, is also on the Executive, Australian Society of Classical Studies, Australia, and a member of the Directory of Researchers  for the Australasia Classical Reception Studies Network. A well, Associate Professor Johnson is currently a research collaborator on the ARC Discovery Project, ‘Plato’s Myth Voice: The Identification and Interpretation of Inspired Speech in Plato,’ with colleagues from The University of Newcastle, The University of Sydney and Monash University. On her University staff profile,  Marguerite says,  “This project uses recent discoveries about the language of ancient myths, oracles and allegories to understand similar discourse in Plato and the Platonic tradition. It attempts to render such discourse intelligible to those who may not hear myths in the same context or share the same cultural background as Plato’s listeners.”

Marguerite Johnson’s field is listed on her staff profile as Latin and Classical Greek Literature, and Comparative Studies Literature. Her research expertise is given as being predominantly in the area of Greek and Latin literary studies, especially lyric poetry: “She is interested in the representations of gender, sexualities and the body in ancient texts with particular attention to the ways in which the ancients write about women. She also works in Platonic studies, particularly in the area of Plato’s myth voice.” In addition, Marguerite works in “Classical Reception Studies, with an emphasis on Australian Indigeneity and Reception, the representations of particular ancient figures and their post-ancient appropriations (particularly Medea, Sappho and Boudicca), and Australian theatre.” If one could pinpoint a moment when Marguerite’s academic journey first began, it is probably correct to say that it was when she was awarded the University Medal in Classics, from the University of Newcastle, Australia. Later, at the University, Marguerite completed a PhD on the Latin poet Catullus and his representations of his lover ‘Lesbia.’ Since then, Marguerite has been the recipient of a number of awards at various Australian universities, and including the Vice-Chancellors Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning from the University of Newcastle, Australia. As a principal supervisor, and also as a co-supervisor, Marguerite has supervised a large number of Research Higher Degree theses (on all levels–Honours, MPhil, PhD) to completion. Marguerite continues to supervise RHD candidates.

Marguerite considers her professional responsibility is to research, preserve and share the great works and ongoing legacies of the ancients. She says: “The myths, legends and historical events of antiquity connect us all as humans, even if it is at times a tenuous thread. These stories touch us and remind us that we are not alone – the same emotions were experienced by people eons back and we may find a deep sense of comfort in reading the works of poets such as Sappho and Catullus, and the dialogues of philosophers such as Plato, all of whom speak with such clarity and beauty about the human condition…. ”

Associate Professor Johnson is driven to inspire others “to engage with ancient lives – with their beliefs, pleasures, pains and passions.” She has written many articles for the print media, has presented at national and international conferences, and has sole authored and co-authored a large number of books. As well, Marguerite has been involved in numerous public lectures and workshops–“including a talk about love and lust in the ancient world (and which she delivered on Valentine’s Day), and evenings where she shares ghost stories of the Greeks and Romans, and holds sessions on myths and legends.” Marguerite said, “Once I wrote a piece on love and framed the piece by retelling the tales from Plato’s Symposium. It was wonderful to receive so many comments about how people enjoyed reading it – it’s a testimony to the power of antiquity and how it can still speak to us.” One of Marguerite’s pet projects, is in doing research on the influence of antiquity on Australia’s colonial period. “You would be surprised by just how many classical interpretations are embedded in the early years of Australia’s white history. The first colonial pictorial accounts of Indigenous peoples, for example, actually resemble Greek sculptures. Why has this been overlooked? Why did this happen? These are important questions that exemplify how recourse to antiquity shaped the colonial past.”

On Marguerite’s calendar, this year, is a trip to Beijing to accept the invitation to speak at a conference on Plato. The Beijing trip is scheduled to immediately follow her hosting of a two-day conference and think-tank on Classical Reception Studies in Australia and New Zealand, to bring together scholars and practitioners to discuss artworks, architecture and literature. “Once again,” says Marguerite, “the ancient world is present everywhere here, and the conference will be the first of its kind to bring together people interested in discussing the ancient legacies in Australasian literature, theatre, film and architecture.”

Marguerite maintains that “There is a yearning for history in society. A hunger to connect. And it is through the literature, the myths, the tales that much of the beauty of antiquity is kept alive. The past is brought into the future and we learn from and connect to it and its people.” She argues that the value of antiquity can be witnessed “everywhere” in the modern world: “How nations were moulded, how the rhetoric of national identities evolved regularly have their beginnings in antiquity – the ideas, ideals, philosophies of the Greeks and Romans were often evoked to articulate nationhood, imperialism, politics, colonialism and by recognising this, we can contribute to current and future debates, pose questions, and look to antiquity for some answers…. Through my research, I always aim to articulate the debt of antiquity in the post-ancient world – particularly the modern world – bridging the gap between the past and the present. Sometimes, you think very little has changed, and in some ways that’s true. We are all still human with the same desires, confusions, hopes and dreams. The ancients are our teachers, reminding us that we too are teachers to future generations, leaving our own legacies behind.”

In her staff profile on the University of Newcastle, Australia, home page, Associate Professor Marguerite Johnson claims that she is a feminist scholar, and notes that she was inspired by certain female Classicists of the 1980s and 90s who opened up antiquity in new and exciting ways by discussing women’s lives and interrogating Greece and Rome through various feminist lenses; and she says, “I’m very grateful to these women. They were, and still are, courageous and brilliant. They have mentored me without really knowing it and have given me a voice as a female Classicist. In many ways, their work shook up Classics because they looked at gender, sexualities, the representations of women and the lives of the dispossessed… I now strive to pass on their significant legacy to my students as well as the general public.”

Marguerite’s work “is inspired by certain cultural facets of antiquity, particularly the gender dynamics and sexualities of the Greeks and Romans. She is also fascinated by the ways in which the ancients told stories via their folktales, fairy-tales and myth-making processes. How these stories have been transmitted by composers and authors – from Sappho to Plato, Catullus and Ovid – inform the basis of some of her research and teaching.” Marguerite is also interested in “interdisciplinary research incorporating and extending Classically-informed paradigms. Theory, modern retellings of tales, reinventions of myths, legends and various belief systems underlie some of her enquiries and her practice-based research.” Currently, Marguerite is writing a book on the Latin poet Ovid and his work Medicamina Faciei Feminae, or ‘Cosmetics for the Female Face.’ “It’s an odd project actually … I am providing a new translation on the piece, a commentary and also looking at ancient as well as modern ideas and ideals of female beauty.”

A highlight in Marguerite’s academic career was when a new complete poem by Sappho was discovered only a few years ago. Except for one other complete poem, Sappho’s literary genius remains fragmented. “The American Philological Society organized two panels of experts to discuss this precious discovery and I was invited to present a paper. The poem is about growing old and the organizers thought it would be appropriate to invite me as I was one of the youngest scholars in the world working on Sappho at that time.” In 2012, Marguerite  was also invited to present a paper on Sappho and Reception Studies at Oxford University, an invitation that brought together two of her research passions – the Greek poet and research that focuses on retellings and reuses of ancient icons and literature: “I spoke about female playwrights, beginning in the 1800s through to contemporary times, who structure works around Sappho, reinventing Sappho, breathing new life into her and claiming her for their own.”

In one of her recent emails to me, in speaking about her career, Marguerite disclosed that she was also  a book reviewer for the Newcastle Herald for years during the 1990s, and she said, “I learnt a good deal about writing from the wonderful Denis Butler – an amazing journalist and books review editor at the time.” I didn’t know Marguerite back then, and didn’t meet her when I returned the University to do my MPhil–we both worked in the Humanities, but in different areas. At that time, Associate Professor (then Dr) Marguerite Johnson was a Senior Lecturer in Classics (no School administration). Now, Marguerite is Assistant Dean, Teaching and Learning.

I first met Marguerite when I began my PhD. By that stage she was Deputy Head of School, Research Training, and when the Head of School was away on University business, Marguerite took the role of Acting Head of School.  While Marguerite was Deputy head of School, Hugh and I, together with a small team of enthusiastic postgraduate students, RhD candidates, resurrected and re-vamped the NewMac conferences, and which I have mentioned in my post introducing Helen Moffatt.  Certain criteria of new NewMac conferences in the University of Newcastle, kept to the same tradition as that which had been set up by the originators, Professor Marea Mitchell, and Dr Dianne Osland: one of the traditions, out of respect for the staff and the RHD candidates, was to hold the conferences on single day, a Saturday, when the University rooms and theatres and parking spaces would be available free of charge, and when the NewMac post-graduate conferences would not interfere with lectures and the academic working week. Another of the traditions was  to invite academics in the School of Humanities and Social Science, to fill the role of judging the student presentations; and another was to hold a post-graduate post-lunch meeting for all attendees to attend talks given by academics about various aspects of professional life, and about what realities they would face as new PhD graduates, and what to expect, when continuing in their chosen careers after gaining their degrees.  As student secretary to the NewMac project, I contacted some of the academics with an invitation to act as academic judges to the conferences. Marguerite was one of the academics who accepted the invitation immediately. She willingly gave up her Saturday, a day which is especially precious to all academics, to work as a judge in the conferences, and helped to make the conferences a great success.

During the time I was a post-graduate student also, Marguerite encouraged and supported IMG_1803me in my efforts to present at national and international conferences, and then, almost immediately immediately after I had been presented with my PhD, Marguerite helped in encouraging me to follow my dream, attend a major international conference in Canada, and present my paper to the world. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the support and encouragement of my now colleagues–of course, I was never in the same class as these people–Associate Professor Marguerite, and Professor Hugh, and Associate Professor Jo May, it is quite probable that I would never have attempted that conference, and missed out on a pivotal moment in my life. Marguerite’s enthusiasm for learning and her drive to impart knowledge  has inspired me to keep plodding along a straight path towards my goal to achieve, not forgetting to stop and smell the roses on the way. I also have to thank Marguerite for coming to my PhD graduation, and helping to make my day a very happy one.  Marguerite is always working, always cheery, always laughing, and has a great sense of humour. She has this uncanny knack of making the sun shine even on a grey day.

 To be continued again …

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