Liam Preston, Bob and Sandy Jessett PhD Scholar

PhD Classics and Ancient History

Firstly, I would just like to state that I hope you and yours are well and that you have managed to stay safe during the strange times in which we currently live.

Research Progress:

During this second year of the project, I have made consistent progress on the thesis which has resulted in three of the four chapters being fully written in draft form. I am currently working on the final chapter which is about halfway finished and so over the rest of August and September (possibly with some of October as well) I will be hoping to finish this. The three chapters written concern Petronius and his use of Epicurean ethical concepts – this was the chapter being written for the ‘upgrade’ as discussed in my previous progress report – and the other two chapters concern the Stoic philosopher Seneca. Originally, one of these chapters was going to be an exploration into all three authors (Lucan, Petronius, and Seneca), but I determined that this comparative analysis would be more suitable in a robust conclusion. The Seneca chapters explore his use of Epicurean ethical teaching models as well as how he creates a power dynamic between his Stoicism and Epicureanism. It is from Seneca’s use that we can begin to see how the idea of the Epicurean was utilised and challenged during this period. I also had the opportunity to discuss my work at a conference in Bristol in March and this was a valuable exercise as the feedback and comments I received were extremely helpful. I intend to speak at more conferences in the coming year.

Milestones Achieved and Experience Gained:

In the last progress report, I stated that I was the co-editor on the next issue of the Pegasus journal. This issue was released, and it was a great experience to edit and produce the issue. The much discussed ‘upgrade’ was also successfully completed prior to Christmas 2019 and this allowed me to move on to the next stage of the PhD. This completion is a recognition from the department that my work was of a suitable level and they were happy for me to continue and finish the thesis. I have also been part of a Shared Learning Project on Ancient Happiness and its application in the Modern Age. This is a discussion group and analysis project in conjunction with the University of the Third Age and one of my supervisors. The project has been an excellent way to increase my knowledge of Ancient philosophy, but also the project has helped me to better articulate Ancient philosophical ideas to those with no prior knowledge. We have hosted a series of workshops and the project is currently being prepared for publication with various journals and websites. I also taught and marked undergraduate essays during this year on a module entitled ‘Roman Laughter’. The experience in not only leading seminars, but also marking essays has reaffirmed to me that I really enjoy both sides of academia: the research and the interaction with students.

Benefits of Funding:

The numerous benefits of the generous funding which you have provided cannot be restated enough. Firstly, this update would be strange without any mention of the current state of the world. The lockdown had a negative impact on my research for a few weeks as I was – as I’m sure everyone was – apprehensive about what was happening. Once I had adjusted however, I managed to get a fair amount of work done and the lockdown, although strange, has been somewhat productive. The funding has been a huge part of this. Whilst others lost income, I was able to continue to focus on my thesis and the relief of this cannot be understated. I consider myself very lucky to be in this position. The funding also helped me to attend conferences before the lockdown and to purchase some texts needed as they were not accessible during the closure of all libraries.

Next Steps:

The major milestone is the completion of a draft of the entire thesis. As stated above, I am currently working on the final chapter and then I will begin a draft for the introduction and conclusion. It is my intention to have a first draft of everything by the end of January/beginning of February 2021. I am not enrolled to teach this year, but I will be attending many conferences (either physically or virtually) and, along with the Ancient Philosophy workshop, I am hoping to have one or two publications in the works by the end of the 2021 academic year. If everything goes well, I will be intending to submit for the viva voce around this time next year and so I am currently on track to finish within the three years.

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 continue to work 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 either face-to-face or virtually at some point in the near future.

Stay safe and well.