Five Questions with… Dr Phillippo

Classics Marketing Intern Chloe has been finding out more about our academic staff! Her first interviewee is Dr Phillippo, Senior Lecturer in Classics..

Hello Dr Phillippo! The first question is hopefully an easy one: who is your favourite ancient writer and why?

Homer, because of the Iliad: I love how it’s so even-handed in its sympathies for Trojans as well as Greeks (Hector’s death in Book 22 and the scenes with him, his wife and his son always make me cry); also the wonderful similes that bring in working men and women and even a boy with a sandcastle!

 What are your hobbies outside of classics?

Baking biscuits, decorating cakes, playing violin in the university orchestra, singing, football and writing stories about (and drawing) penguins…. to name just a few!

 Who do you think is one of the most interesting figures of antiquity and why?

One female, one male!  Telesilla of Argos is intriguing: 6th-5th C female poet (sadly only tiny fragments of her work survive) who was said to have orchestrated defence of the city against Spartan attack (in one account arming the women and slaves to ‘man’ (!) the defences!).  Sophocles, who wrote some 120 plays, managed to remain popular with the notoriously fickle Athenians despite having political involvement at several tricky points, and was still writing great tragedies in his 90s (now I’m over 50 I especially appreciate this!)

 What book would you recommend to everyone?

My favourite novelists about the classical world are Mary Renault and Rosemary Sutcliff; I’d recommend almost all their work but since I’m a Hellenist, top of my list would be Renault’s two Theseus novels (The King Must Die and The Bull from the Sea: strong female characters in both as well as interesting male ones), and The Praise Singer (about the life of the poet Simonides, but also a superb evocation of the poetic, political and cultural world of late 6th-century Greece; there’s a great and rather tragic episode set at the Olympic Games).

 What are you researching at the moment?

Three projects at the moment!  I’ve been working on Sir Charles Monck, owner and designer of local NE Belsay Hall and estate: his references to classical literature in the diaries of his travels in Greece and Sicily, and his later life manuscript translation of Homer’s Iliad.  I’m finishing off an article on Rosemary Sutcliff’s Roman Britain novels, looking at how she uses quotations from and allusions to classical literature within her key theme of contrasts and links between cultures.  And this year I’m returning to work on 17th century French tragedy and its complex links to Greek literature, with particular focus on Jean Racine and his privately annotated copies of Homer, Sophocles and Euripides.

Thanks Dr Phillippo! You can find out even more about Dr Phillippo’s teaching and research over on her Academic Profile Page

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