History, politics and philosophy students got to find out what Aristotle has in common with the Fast and the Furious franchise or EastEnders in a talk by writer and broadcaster Natalie Haynes. Natalie is best known for her BBC series “Stand up for the Classics” which combines her background in stand-up comedy with her passion for the ancient world. Perhaps the most eye-opening aspect of Natalie’s visit was the students’ realisation that there is plenty of comic material to be had in ancient tragedy.
In a wide ranging exploration of the key features of ancient Greek tragedy Natalie introduced the students to Oedipus, who married his mother and Medea, who killed her children for revenge upon their father. They were surprised to learn just how much modern screenwriters on soaps still refer back to these ancient stories for inspiration. QMC’s ancient history students, who study the Persian Wars of the fifth century BC had the chance to diver deeper into the Greeks’ portrayal of these battles through the play, The Persians, which explores the Greek victory from the point of view of the defeated Persians.
Natalie has a background as a stand-up comedian and is a regular presenter with the BBC. As well as “Stand up for the Classics” she made a 2015 documentary on the ideals of beauty and ancient Greece and writes regularly for the Guardian and the Independent. Currently much of her focus is spent on her writing; her most recent work “The children of Jocasta” explores the Oedipus myth from the point of view of the female characters, who are important but often side-lined in the ancient accounts.
Students were keen to explain how much they enjoyed the talk, with Natalie’s witty delivery and sharp wit being the most popular elements. Josh Pavey, year 13 commented that “it was the best kind of talk you could have, the subject could have been boring with someone else – it really opened my eyes”. “She talks at a hundred miles an hour, it was really funny” observed James Burn, year 12, whilst Tom Barnes, year 13 thought Natalie had “a really interesting way of looking at things”.
Tom Featherstone, Head of History, Politics and Philosophy at QMC commented “we were delighted to welcome Natalie to QMC as part of our tutorial program in the History, Politics and Philosophy Department. We are working hard to provide our students with a range of thought provoking and challenging experiences in order to develop their cultural awareness outside of the confines of the classroom. Natalie’s high energy, clever and witty take on the ancient world was the perfect way to encourage them to explore it further.”