Juliette is senior lecturer in ancient history at Newman. She has taught at Newman as well as the University of Birmingham.
Tell us about your role at Newman.
I am Senior Lecturer in Ancient History. As Newman’s Ancient History specialist, I do all teaching and supervising relating to Ancient History, including Ancient History modules, extra-curricular Latin and Ancient Greek teaching, and supervision of Ancient History dissertations, both undergraduate and at Masters level. Like all lecturers, I also write books and book contributions about ancient history and research the ancient world. My specialist areas are Roman myth and religion, and the reception of the ancient world in film, television and novels – my latest publication is a chapter on the television series I, Claudius in Wiley-Blackwell’s Companion to Ancient Greece and Rome On Screen.
Give us an insight into a typical day for you. What do you spend most of your time doing?
That depends on the day! In term-time, I might spend a lot of my day teaching – anything between two to seven hours. In term-time, depending on the week, I also have to fit in staff meetings, Student Staff Consultative Committee meetings, Learning and Teaching Committee meetings, supervision meetings, essay feedback meetings and field trips, as well as marking students’ work, moderating work for other modules and planning my teaching sessions. Outside of term-time, I try to focus on writing books, book chapters and journal articles, but these usually spill into term-time as well! So on the days I’m not teaching so much, I will be collecting chapters for a book I’m editing, sending them out to reviewers, editing them myself, collecting them back in, sending out comments to the authors, and probably still trying to finish writing my own chapter as well. I also review books for journals, so I might be reading a book or writing up a review. And of course, each day starts with answering e-mails, responding to reference requests, answering student queries and so on, which can take a very long time!
How did you get interested in History? What pushed you to pursuing it at a higher level?
History and English were always my favourite subjects at school, and I was going to do an English degree, until I studied a text I really didn’t like at A-Level and realised I didn’t want to have to read a lot of books I didn’t like! I had always loved History, but it was the TV series I, Claudius, the film Gladiator, and an open day presentation from a lecturer on Ancient History that got me interested in that area in particular (he explained to everybody that the world was obviously flat!).
What do you remember of your first year at university? What stands out?
At first I hated the library – it was huge and confusing and I didn’t understand how to find what I needed! But then I got used to it, and found I loved exploring the reading lists in my modules and finding interesting articles to read that would sum up the topic quickly. I also made a lot of friends on my course, and I lived in university accommodation, so I really enjoyed moving away from home and living independently for the first time.
Tell us about one thing that you found tough as a first-year student. What did you do about it?
It took me a while to get used to how academic research works. My first essay was on a topic we didn’t cover until right before the deadline and I didn’t understand how I could be expected to write about something I hadn’t been taught yet. I didn’t understand that lectures and seminars are a basis for work, but that most of the work needed to come from my own research and I needed to come up with my own ideas, and not follow an essay plan set out by a teacher (my A-Level History teacher was quite strict about essay plans!). But I got used to it over time, and realised that if I did reading in advance and then discussed what I’d read in the seminars, that would give me the ideas I needed to write effective essays.
If you could give just one piece of advice to incoming Freshers, what would it be?
Read! Read everything you can get your hands on. And watch TV shows and films about the period, because even if they’re inaccurate, they’ll at least help you to work out what’s going on and who’s who. And make friends on your course if you can, then you can suffer. So that’s three pieces of advice. It’s not a maths PhD that I have!
What careers did you and friends consider when studying History at University?
Law, journalism, general graduate degree programmes (e.g. in banks). After leaving, some friends went to work in the civil service and several in university administration. Some wanted to work in museums, but that is very difficult to get into and badly paid. Others wanted to be archaeologists because they liked Indiana Jones!
What do you think makes studying History at Newman distinctive?
How close everyone is – students and staff. You really get to know everyone on your course and all your tutors, you never get lost in a crowd, and everyone is always really friendly and supportive of one another.
Find out more about Juliette’s work on our website.