Prepping a Paper
On April 9th, 2016 I had the privilege of giving my first academic talk at the UNC Undergraduate Classics Conference. I knew I wanted to do more than simply read aloud a paper composed primarily to be taken in visually: I wanted to give what was genuinely a talk, to align my argument and my delivery with the medium. This entailed making a slideshow presentation, something that often seems to me needlessly time-consuming and potentially obstructive to audience engagement. What would anyone need to see during a philology talk, except perhaps the texts I was working from? Not surprisingly, I actually found constructing a Powerpoint quite helpful in organizing my material for optimal oral presentation to an audience of mixed academic background.
I was examining the rhetorical function of σχέτλιος (often translated as “obstinate”) in the Iliad, arguing that in its various contexts the adjective is consistently used to indicate a person’s frustrating resistance to change. I knew I would be doing this before a group in which some had little or no Greek, little familiarity with the Iliad, or limited exposure to Classics at all. And I was right: one of my friends, a Linguistics major, was present, and I was determined to make the presentation as accessible to her as to anyone else. She had an advantage in having enthusiastically listened to me practicing the talk the day before, but even she was surprised by the reconfiguration that some elements of my argument saw in light of her feedback. I have been blessed with helpful friends: I benefited from the input of two incisive commentators, one a Classics major and one not, on two separate practice performances. Prof. Downie, for whose Iliad class the original paper was composed, aided me substantially by pointing out what my paper was really about and suggesting refinements to draw out the argument I hadn’t quite realized I was making. And of course there’s the Greek-studying friend of mine who picked up the nickname σχέτλιος in Fall 2015 and started the whole thing.
I am grateful to Eta Sigma Phi for encouraging submissions from post-baccalaureate students, and to those who helped me to recognize future opportunities to workshop my ideas in a formal setting, ideally in an environment as comfortable as Murphey Hall.