I am a lecturer in Classics and Ancient History and a freelance writer. I have a PhD in Classics from the University of Birmingham, an MA in Myth from the University of Bristol and a BA (Hons) in Ancient History from the University of Birmingham. I work for Newman University and the Open University.
I've always been interested in studying popular culture academically, though I also work on ancient myth and religion (mostly from the Roman period).
I'm a huge geek, who proudly self-indentifies as a Trekkie, and I spend way too much time watching TV or at the cinema. The things I cover on the blog are a big mixture of things I love, things I've watched or read because I want to study their use of classical material, and things I've randomly happened to catch that turned out to have some classical stuff in them.
I was partly inspired to start the blog by Television Without Pity and the now sadly defunct Cranky Recaps (which covered ER). I liked their detailed, affectionately snarky re-caps/reviews of the shows they covered and I thought that format might be a fun way to reproduce online the way I watch Classics-based shows and films with my friends. A lot of my friends (not all of them, but quite a few!) are historians and we like to watch these things together, laughing at the really dubious bits and appreciating some of the more obscure references (Aeneas, take this sword!) My historian-ex-housemate and I spent many happy hours when we lived together watching Rome and snarking it while appreciating it's absorbing and entertaining account of Roman history. So my blog posts on Rome, I, Claudius, Spartacus: Blood and Sand, certain episodes of Star Trek and some others are based on this model, aiming to recreate the fun of watching and snarking something together online.
Other posts are a bit less detailed, picking up on the classics-related things I find most interesting. I've done a few film re-caps, but they really do take too long, and although Xena might lend itself to a snarky re-cap, there's just too much of it to do that for every episode. Sometimes I look at things with only a tiny classical element in them, but offer a short review anyway, just because I think it's interesting!
Sometimes I get comments on the blog telling me to stop complaining, because it's only a TV programme. So I want to make it clear here that I really do enjoy the things I watch (well, except maybe Bonekickers) and I don't think TV, films and books should all be required to be absolutely historically accurate at the cost of being entertaining. I have no problem at all with authors taking historical licence with history, and when it comes to mythology, the whole point is to re-write the myth for a new audience. I've tried to explain this a bit more at my Troy post. But I point out historical inaccuracies because I hope people find it interesting to know the 'real' history behind the story. I know when I watch other period dramas, I'm often curious to know what historians think really happened and what the evidence is. I note all these things on the blog so that anyone who's interested can find out the real evidence behind the popular story.
I am also a freelance writer, specialising in film and television, and Science Fiction and Fantasy in particular. I'm a regular contributor to Den of Geek and I review Star Trek: Voyager and The West Wing for Doux Reviews, as well as other occasional bits 'n' bobs (like my you've-clearly-given-this-far-too-much-thought post on who will live or die in A Song of Ice and Fire).
My e-mail address is J.G.Harrisson AT open.ac.uk, and I can also be contacted via Twitter, under ClassicalJG. For a terrifying glimpse of my real obsessions outside of Classics, check out my Pinterest page.
Some dramatis personae:
Since this is primarily a semi-academic, reviews-based blog, details of my life are kept to a minimum, but a few of my friends and family who are particularly fond of Classics-y TV do come up with some regularity!
Mum Fellow devotee of Sex and the City, co-viewer of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, was quite enjoying True Blood until I broke it to her that Bill and Sookie were going to break up.
Dad Not quite so keen on any of the above, but a man of sound taste (likes Star Trek) and geologist, so my go-to person for volcano-related questions.
Brother My cinema buddy, as long as the film in question isn't a rom-com. Fellow SFF geek.
OldHousemate(theTunisia/camelridingone) One of my oldest friends, who took the same undergraduate course as me and lived with me for a year. As well as seeing Rome on a study tour together, in 2008 I dragged her to Tunisia and persuaded her to rise a camel with me. And I haven't shut up about how wonderful it was since.
OldHousemate(theRomeone) Another of my oldest friends, who lived with me while I was doing my MA. We watched the first series of Rome on TV together, and together bestowed the names 'Boring' and 'Dodgy' on Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, to denote our lack of interest in either of them.
OldestMaleFriend Married to OldHousemate(theRomeone), fellow survivor of a teen-years Saturday job we all shared and fellow SFF fan.
The Artist Formerly Known as CurrentHousemate Another of my oldest friends. Provider of wine, doughnuts and Swedish films. Fan and DVD provider of MASH and Quantum Leap.
My other three oldest friends The ones I haven't lived with. Yet. The school trip to Greece that first made me love the ancient world included OldHousemate(theRomeone) and another of these. Everyone suspects that I am basically working my way around the group until I've lived with everyone else at some time or another.
OtherOldHousemate Put up with me for a year and a half while we were graduate students together, including during the last stages of the PhD (when I was, shall we say, not the best company). Fellow Classicist.