Liam Preston, Bob and Sandy Jessett PhD Scholar

PhD Classics and Ancient History


As a local student, who has grown up in Exeter, being able to achieve both my BA and MA at the University of Exeter meant a lot to both me and my family; also, having the ability to tackle the PhD and the next stage in my professional development at Exeter has only increased this happiness and has allowed me to continue to develop the relationships I had already built at the university. I specifically decided upon Exeter as the university to continue my studies as the department of Classics and Ancient History has the perfect environment and research community to enable my project flourish. To be able to be close to family whilst also studying the subject I love at one of the country’s top universities has made the process of learning an exciting one.

Research Progress:

I began my first academic year on the PhD by continuing the work I had started over the summer; this involved (re)familiarising myself with, not only the works of my three chosen authors (those being Lucan, Petronius, and Seneca), but also the surrounding texts from the Neronian Period and before, which engage in the same sort of conversations concerning Epicurean ethics. During this time I discovered the usage of a key Latin word – securus – which these authors use to signpost an engagement with Epicureanism, and continued to pursue this word until the beginning of the second term. The culmination of this investigation was the realisation that the word does have a potential philosophical edge to it and I now intend to include an appendix within my final thesis which showcases how this usage began and continues into the Neronian period.

The first academic term tackled this word through a literary lens, looking specifically at how Lucan builds upon its use from a previous Epicurean author written nearly one hundred years before: Lucretius. The outcomes of this were extremely exciting as it allowed me to carve a new area previously unexplored within the scholarship. The second academic term started by continuing to look at securus, but now with a philosophical lens; this combines both disciplines which are key to my thesis. In doing this I have been able to begin to narrow down exactly how my authors are engaging with the key philosophical doctrines that encompass the word. Towards the end of the academic term I also began to look closely at different methodologies and literary theories which may help to illuminate certain aspects of my authors handling of Epicureanism. A theory such as New Historicism, which aims to analyse how we can build a view of the social history of a period by looking at what was said and written about subjects in various genres and forms, is one potential theory I am considering using at certain points throughout the project. Part of the aim of my project is to trace how Epicureanism has developed and is used in a period such as the Neronian which is dominated by the other philosophical school Stoicism. New Historicism can allow me to analyse if my chosen authors’ engagement with Epicureanism is indicative of the period as a whole. This is the research I am currently pursuing.

Milestones Achieved and Experience Gained:

In both academic terms I led the seminars for an undergraduate module in the department entitled Greek and Roman Narrative, as well as participating in the marking process for the essays of this module. Being able to do this has helped me to achieve the milestone of gaining teaching experience, something which I intend to continue to develop throughout my time at Exeter. I am also the current co-editor of the Classics and Ancient History Journal: Pegasus. This is a nationally recognised journal which publishes articles and reviews from the world of classical scholarship. We are currently building for the October 2019 release of Issue 61. I have also been part of the planning process for a workshop which one of my supervisors, Gabriele Galluzzo, is running entitled ‘Ancient Recipes for Wellbeing’. This is due to take place on the 30th of April, and should be an exciting and informative workshop.

Benefits of Funding:

The funding which you have generously provided has resulted in numerous benefits, all of which have, I believe, helped the project to begin smoothly and effectively. Firstly, a benefit which cannot be overstated is the ability to focus purely on my research and professional development which would not have been possible without your funding. I cannot stress enough impact that it has had in this regard. To know that I can come into the university every day and work solely on my thesis is invaluable, so I thank you for this. The funding will also allow me to attend conferences and other workshops which are relevant to my project. There are numerous conferences happening over the course of the summer which I plan to attend and there are some in the next academic year that I will hopefully be speaking at. To be able to sign up for these events without any financial worry will continue to help both my development and the projects. Finally, the ability to access resources from other libraries or through the purchasing of books would also not have been possible without the funding.

Next Steps:

The next major milestone that is approaching for the project is what is called the ‘upgrade’. This is where I have to produce 15,000 words, which includes a sample of a thesis chapter and a 5,000 word extended proposal on the outline of the rest of the project. If I am successful in meeting the required standard of work I will be officially upgraded from my current status as an MPhil student to PhD. My aim is to complete the upgrade process by October/November 2019 and doing this will allow me to continue on to complete the rest of the project. Aside from this, I also have a goal to continue to teach and visit conferences relevant to project.

Thank You:

I would once again like to thank you for the support you have given me and to reiterate that I would not have been able to embark on this project without your support. I look forward to keeping you updated on my progress and I hope that we are able to meet face to face at some point in the near future.