Liam Preston, Bob and Sandy Jessett PhD Scholar

PhD Classics and Ancient History

Research Progress:

The end of the first year was spent writing up a draft of a substantial chapter of the thesis and this has continued into the beginning of the second year. This chapter, as well as an extended research proposal, will form the submission criteria for the process of upgrading from MPhil to PhD. The ‘upgrade’ is a requirement of the second year in which I submit a sample piece of work and a proposal and then defend my work, being internally examined by members of the University of Exeter Classics department. It is still my intent – as it was during the first year – to submit for the ‘upgrade’ at the end of October or the beginning of November 2019.

The chapter I have written focuses on one of the three chosen authors Petronius and the way in which he engages and uses Epicurean ethical concepts in his novel the Satyricon – specifically the cena Trimalchionis (the dinner at Trimalchio’s) episode. The chapter explores this investigation through a variety of angles, including: how the character of Trimalchio is characterised as an Epicurean ‘clichéd image’; how key Epicurean themes on society, happiness, and death are tackled; and how the other freedmen of the dinner are mocked in an Epicurean way, in order to further mock them societally.

Writing the extended proposal for the ‘upgrade’ also helped to clarify the rest of the project and as part of the research progress made in doing this, I now know how each chapter of the thesis will be structured. Chapter one will be focused on Lucan and Lucretius, looking specifically at the word securus, as well as others as symbols of the Epicurean ideal life. The investigation into this word, some of which has already been done during the first year, will form part of an appendix to be attached to the project. The hope with this is that readers of the work will have a source to which they can refer. Chapter two will be the chapter discussed above; chapter three will concern the third author Seneca and the various ways in which he uses Epicureanism to reinforce his practical method of practicing philosophy. This chapter will also consider how he tackles ideas of advocating or reforming philosophical thought of the Epicurean, given his Stoic preference. The final chapter will analyse how all three of the authors (Lucan, Seneca, and Petronius) explore pain and the method of adopting clear Epicurean vocabulary for this exploration.

Milestones Achieved and Experience Gained:

At the start of this second year I am leading the seminars for a module entitled ‘Roman Laughter’, as well as being the marker for the first year undergraduate essays when they are submitted. Being able to continue to teach has reaffirmed it as a passion of mine and helped me to formulate and articulate ideas more clearly to people. 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. Issue 61 is due for publication at the beginning of November and so I have been editing and creating this. I have also been part of the planning process for a workshop which one of my supervisors is organising in connection with the University of the Third Age The workshop is due to take place at the beginning of November, with more workshops scheduled for after the New Year.

Benefits of Funding:

The ability to focus purely on my research and professional development would not be possible without your funding and the impact this has on the project is immense. To know that I can come into the university every day and work solely on my thesis is invaluable and the funding will also allow me to attend conferences and other workshops which are relevant to my project. There are many conferences happening over the course of this year which I intend to attend and there are some that I will be hopefully speaking at. To be able to sign up for these events without a worry will continue to help both my development and that of my research project.

Next Steps:

The next major milestone is the ‘upgrade’, but once this has been completed it is my intent to continue to work on the research – some of which has already begun – for chapter one. I will then being writing a draft for this chapter. I also have to goal to continue to teach whilst conducting my research as it is something I really enjoy and is greatly helping my professional development. I would like to look into teaching some Latin or beginners Greek to students as well as I believe that teaching a language is not only a great way to solidify your own knowledge, but also to successfully teach it to others will benefit my practice of teaching.

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.