March Update! Reading, Writing & Odds and Sods

Well, another month has flown by! I started March in London following the Senses of Place conference organised by Sensory Studies in Antiquity at the University of Roehampton (see my paper here). I picked up a great 1992/3 Eddy Merckx bike at the end of that trip and it’s been fun building the bike up (more below). I had no presentations in March, but a few applications for jobs were turned in last month. So, without any further comments, here is my monthly write-up of writings, readings, and odds and sods.


Much of March, I have been focused on my book manuscript for Acoustics in Roman Ostia. In particular, I have written the introduction and divided up my thesis work into the appropriate chapters. As parts of the thesis have already been published (or will be soon…), I had to cut out some sections. If you read my Mithraic Noise paper (here), I used Truax’s functional definition of noise, as negative response, obstruction to auditory clarity, and unrecognised or unknown sound, to outline ways in which the concept of noise works in approaching acoustics, social interactions and spatial analysis. While the specifics of mithraea in Ostia will be published in a different volume, Truax’s three definitions of noise are the primary approaches used in this book and set out the framework for noise as an urban concept (and are not used in the publication of the mithraic acoustic analysis).

I have also been working on chapter five, which will focus on the literary urban image of noise. In that chapter, the Latin terms for noise are discussed in relation to movement, flow and natural occurrences, barrowing some aspects of Delueze and Guattari’s social theory (mostly from A Thousand Plateaus, originally published in 1980, translated in 1987). I push the metaphorical usage of intensity, resonance, and movement to describe social interactions in Delueze and Guattari, although I know that they reject the use of metaphors in conceptualising social interactions (which is one of the problems I have with them is their reliance on metaphors and self-defined terms to break out of ‘common sense’ interpretations of the same terms). What I find useful is the conception of social interactions in terms of intensity, movement and open to human and non-human involvement.

Latin terms for noise were also associated with movement, natural occurrences (experienced phenomenon in nature) and degrees of intensity in etymology and word associations. Deleuze and Guattari provide a descriptive language, although it is somewhat wrapped up in the postmodern/modern debates of the 1980s and 1990s. Subjectivity (or identity) as movement and degrees of intensity adds social importance to the physics of sound (which is based on mathematical movement and intensity). In this way, and this is my argument, we can analyse the language of noise as a politics of metaphors. Sensory metaphors were, and are, political. This was a politics draw from auditory experiences (as well as other sensory experiences), not a politics of thought.

I also received reviewer comments on a Handbook chapter that I will revise later in April. The comments were helpful, although one point made by the reviewer was a point I struggled with writing the chapter, namely there is only a limited number of publications that address the topic of the chapter, Cities and Urbanism, from sensory archaeological approaches. Even with the wealth of data from sites like Pompeii, there are very few publications that focus specifically on archaeology. So, in the chapter, I relied on my own work, much of which is forthcoming (the reviewer noted that reliance, as well as noting that there are almost no publications approaching the topic from sensory archaeology). Overall, I am happy with the way the chapter is shaping up and glad to have an introductory handbook chapter that I can use to introduce my approach (and make students read…).


I finished Martin Jay’s Downcast Eyes, which was really good and really long. It sets out the implicit critique of vision in twentieth century French thought across a diverse group of French intellectuals. I also read Michel de Certeau’s Culture in the Plural (may have been in Feb) and Shannon Mattern’s Code and Clay, Dirt and Data.

I have picked of few books, especially looking forward to reading Steven Ellis’ The Roman Retail Revolution and William Fitzgerald and Efrossini Spentzou’s (eds.) The Production of Space in Latin Literature (both I ordered over Christmas when OUP had them half-off). I have a series of books for review, which I need to start working through and writing as well.

Odds and Sods

As I mentioned at the start, I picked up a 1992/3 Team Motorola Eddy Merckx bicycle. It was a team bike so, was ridden by a team member from the Team Motorola. It was not a complete bike, but only the frame, fork and headset. I brought it back with me from London and have been building it up into a complete bike. I set it up as a 1×11 (one gear up front, 11 speeds in the back), which is a new gear set up for a road bike but has been popular in cyclocross and mountain biking for several years. I pulled some parts off my commuter bike from London and brought those back with me as well. I have finished building the bike and it’s been fun to ride! It is definitely a racing frame with a long top-tube (so you are stretched out and sit lower on the bike) and weights less than my one-year old road bike.

At the end of April, I will be riding in the Chico Wildflowers Century (100 mile). I will likely ride my Ritchey road bike, as for that distance and length of time (5-6 hours of riding) the Ritchey will be easier on my back and bum. I am excited to be back up in Chico, where I did my undergraduate degree, and to see some friends in the area. So, along with reading and writing, I will also be putting in more miles on the bikes to get ready for a beautiful ride in Chico, as wildflowers blossom on Table Mountain!

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