In the Company of Monsters: New Visions, Ancient Myths

This project uses contemporary visual art to investigate the power of ancient mythology to engage modern audiences and to explore contemporary themes of identity and diversity. The student will research and create inclusive text to accompany a research-led exhibition at Reading Museum.

Department: Classics

Supervised by: Emma Aston and Andrew Mangham

The Placement Project

In the Company of Monsters (ITCOM) is a research project undertaken by Profs. Emma Aston (Classics) and Andrew Mangham (English Literature), under the aegis of the Health Humanities IDRC. Aston has published on monsters in ancient Greek culture, and Mangham on their role in 19th century literature and science. (See Aston 2011 and forthcoming; Mangham 2023). ITCOM is also a potential REF Impact case-study. ITCOM begins with an exhibition in Reading Museum's Madejski Gallery, September 2023 to January 2024, of work by painter Paul Reid and sculptor Eleanor Crook, artists inspired by Classical mythology whose work tests the concepts of monster and self. This exhibition requires exposition to make the myths accessible and powerful for non-specialist visitors. This will take three basic forms: 1) text on the walls; 2) text on the exhibition website; 3) audio recordings of mythic retellings, available to visitors via QR codes. These (esp. 2 and 3) will not be purely factual, but will introduce audiences to the way in which myths of monsters were always, since antiquity, open to radical revision, often making the monster an object of sympathy rather than rejection. This will help the exhibition to generate reflection on what Classical monsters mean for us today, and their potential role in encouraging diversity and tolerance. It will support the University's commitment to fostering social justice and the expression of marginalised voices (e.g. related to disabilities and to LGBTQI+ communities). Museums have a crucial role to play in this within the local community.


Week 1: Discuss different content options with supervisors; visit museums to view comparable examples; visit Reading Museum to view the gallery; draw up a detailed work plan at the end of the week, with the supervisors. Weeks 2 and 3: academic research into the relevant myths and their ancient retallings/representations. Meet with primary supervisor at the end of the week to discuss progress. Week 4: if desired, discuss the myths with Reid and Crook to gain insight into their artistic re-imagining. Make a second visit to Reading Museum. Begin drafting the text. Meet with primary supervisor at the end of the week to discuss text created to date and identify any adjustments required. Week 5: drafting text; implement any necessary corrections on previous week's text. Meet with primary supervisor at the end of the week to discuss second instalment of text created. Week 6: complete the writing process; record audio if relevant. Final meeting with both supervisors to reflect on the work and identify any adjustments to be made to the text created. Implement those.

Skills, knowledge and experience required

The key skill will be that of clear and effective communication (in writing, but with reading/video skills potentially included as outlined above). This must be geared towards the needs of the general public. However, discipline-specific research skills will also be required: finding and analysing ancient texts and images representing a particular myth, and considering their ancient context so as to understand their interaction: which may have influenced which, how ancient authors created non-canonical versions of old stories, and how ancient authors/artists were responding to the social and cultural conditions of their own day. The student must have a very strong interest in ancient myths.

Skills which will be developed during the placement

The student will gain skills and experience in presenting the past to diverse audiences, and in assessing modern reworkings of ancient myths. Academic research skills will be enhanced. N.b. - Dr Rhi Smith has kindly agreed to provide the student with resources relevant to writing for Museum displays, and one-to-one guidance if they require it. The Curator of the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, Prof. Amy Smith, will also be able to assist in this regard, as required.

Place of Work

Chiefly on campus; however, the student could work from home if circumstances dictated. Approx. 2-3 visits to the gallery in town would be needed, to view the physical space and liaise with Museum staff. Visits to other museums would also be desirable (see below).

Hours of Work

Full time over the 6-week period. However, we certainly will not require them to keep to a 9-5 schedule; if they needed (for example) to take a week-day off and make up for it at the weekend, that would be perfectly acceptable

Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Monday 12 June 2023 - Friday 21 July 2023

How to Apply

The deadline to apply for this opportunity is Monday 3rd April 2023. Students should submit their CV and Cover Letter directly to the Project Supervisor (click on supervisor name at the top of the page for email). Successful candidates will be invited for an interview.

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