Robin Diver – PhD Classics

Midlands 4 Cities funded PhD student, Robin Diver, tells us more about her experience researching Classics at the University of Birmingham. 


Why did you choose the University of Birmingham as your lead M4C partner institution? Do you receive support from any other university within the consortium?

“The University of Birmingham has a lot of expertise in classical reception and, as I’d already taken my undergraduate here, I knew it was a great environment! I also love Birmingham as a city and wanted it to be the place where I did my PhD.

My secondary supervisor is based at University of Nottingham, so I work cross-institution"

Tell us a little bit more about your research project and why you choose to study a PhD in this area?

"My PhD looks at children’s anthologies of Greek myth from 1850 to the present, and how they adapt myths of sexual violence. Anthologies of children’s Greek myths are published regularly, receive reviews stressing their importance to children’s education and are sometimes taught in schools. Their creation, however, necessitates reconciliation between the sexual violence prevalent in myth and the didactic aim of children’s tales.

I wanted to look at this subject because I’m fascinated by the way these texts are so unique among the corpus of children’s literature with regards to their adaptation of sex and violence. I was also concerned by the idea some of these texts might have the ability to encourage rape-supportive attitudes in young people.”

What are the best things about your course? 

“I absolutely love being completely responsible for my own research project and developing it from end-to-end. Being part of the wider academic community, and getting to discuss research with so many fascinating people has also been great. I’ve really enjoyed presenting my research at conferences in particular.”

What is life like as an M4C researcher at the University of Birmingham?

“I primarily worked from home, even before the Covid-19 pandemic. I like the freedom of being able to blast music loudly whilst I write my thesis! However, during first and second year I would go in several times a week on average to attend talks, supervisions, student forums and meetings for the student committees I was on. The postgraduate UoB community is a very friendly and inclusive place and there’s an overwhelming amount of opportunities to be involved with!"

What support, from M4C or the University of Birmingham, have you received during your PhD?

“As well as monthly supervisions, I’ve undertaken so many types of training and workshops I wouldn’t be able to list them all! This has covered everything from careers talks to publishing workshops to PG skills lunches where a speaker talks about a relevant topic over a free lunch.

As part of my PhD with M4C, I also got to complete a one month editorial placement with Newgen Publishing, which allowed me to learn about the day-to-day life of working in publishing, as well as explore temporarily living in a new area, Stroud in Gloucestershire. Also as part of M4C, I attended a two week writing retreat on the topic of race, gender and sexuality in the beautiful area of Matlock.”

Outside of your research, what experience have you gained and how will it help you in the future?

“I’ve learned that I really love public speaking, including public speaking over video conference which will be useful as we recover from the pandemic! Doing a PhD has also helped develop my skills in project management, applying for funding, and communicating ideas in multiple ways. The academic committees with which I have been involved have given me additional experience in events management, budgeting, marketing and teamwork.”

What advice would you give someone planning on making an M4C application?

“Talk everything through with your prospective supervisors as soon as possible. Be very aware of the deadlines, which are often very early in the year! Get as many people as possible to read your drafts, and remember that M4C wants to hear why you, the city, the project and the supervisory team are all a good match together, not just a general research pitch.”

Find out more about our PhD Classics and Ancient History programme over on our course pages.