Student Spotlight: Kathleen Kidder
Myth, literature, foreign language—these are the things that have always interested Kathleen Kidder. The coalition of these concepts have guided her to become a student of classics, the study of Greek and Roman Antiquity (classical philology, ancient history, archaeology, and Greek prehistory). After acquiring her undergrad degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Kathleen made her way to the University of Cincinnati to study Hellenistic poetry with Dr. Kathryn Gutzwiller, UC professor of Greek and Latin poetry and author of The Guide to Hellenistic Literature.
Now a PhD candidate and Graduate School Dean’s Fellow, Kathleen’s passions include Rohs Street Café coffee, traveling, literary theory, the interaction between text and image (especially internet memes), and rewriting her rewrites.
Her research is both abstract and technical. She analyzes poetry from the Hellenistic period (3rd-1st centuries BCE). More specifically, she examines the ways in which poets question the fundamentals of truth and falsehood—how is the poetry self-aware, self-conscious? How does the poetry intersect with visual culture? Her favorite aspect, however, is when she intercepts new languages. “Classics seemed like the perfect way to study everything. I love learning obscure vocabulary words.”
Beyond this, she believes her research has a certain relevance, a connectivity with current events.
“While much of the analysis in my work is very technical and dependent on a specialist’s knowledge of Ancient Greek, the overall questions are very pertinent to our current political context,” says Kathleen. “What are the best ways for reaching toward some kind of truth? Science? Logic? Personal experience? Being president? How can poetry embody these ambiguities?”
She spends most of her time, as one would expect of a PhD humanities student, writing and editing and rewriting. She goes to Rohs to do her reading and writing alongside the comfort of a coffee and pastry. She likes to leave her cellphone behind in her office so she can work without distraction. “Sometimes, I’ll write text by hand, and then type it later at the computer in the office,” says Kathleen. “On the computer, I tend to write the same sentence six or seven times. Writing by hand helps me produce a preliminary string of thoughts, which I revise later.”
Although she usually works in the local bounds of Rohs and campus and Clifton, Kathleen’s studies take her all over the globe. She’s spent a semester in Rome studying Greek and Latin, and will be attending two upcoming professional conferences, one in France and the other in Boston.
When she’s not focusing on such things as her dissertation writing, she’s focusing on other forms of creating—uniquely unconventional yet still inherently academic mediums, combining retro imagery, literary theory, and Japanese culture. “I am very interested in internet culture and memes, specifically a type of internet visual art called vaporwave. Its aesthetic combines Classical sculptures, video games, Japanese text, and 80’s and 90’s pop culture and consumerism. I like how it simultaneously critiques capitalism while adopting its imagery, and I think the juxtaposition of antiquity and modernity, and high and low culture, has many parallels in the poetry I study.
“I recently started using Adobe Photoshop as a way to alleviate stress and I made some surrealist collages based on one the poems I study—the Alexandra of Lycophron. This poem's language is very obscuring and riddling, so I try to make the images follow the text as literally as possible.”
The poem, which is thought to have been written by the Greek poet, Lycrophron (born around 320 BC), describes mythical events and consists almost entirely of riddles and animal metaphors, resulting in some strange images.
“For instance,” Kathleen explains, “Helen of Troy is called a 'female dog' and 'dove' in the same line. So I juxtaposed a dove and a puppy with a princess crown. And Lycophron also describes how a 'water-roaming vulture' gave birth to her in an egg. This water-roaming vulture is a periphrasis for swan and alludes to Zeus who transformed into a swan to sleep with Leda and produce Helen. In my collage, however, I keep the literal meaning and depict a vulture floating on a pool noodle, next to an image of an egg.”
I see the winged firebrand rushing to seize the dove, the hound of Pephnos,
whom the water-roaming vulture brought to birth, husked in a rounded shell.
—Lycrophron, Alexandra, 86-89.
As for her near-future goals, she hopes to soon finish her dissertation and begin applying to academic jobs, as well as continuing to research and publish academic papers in the classics realm. This Dean’s Fellow, whether it be in her reading and writing, traveling and conference attending, or coffee drinking and internet meme researching, is just on the brink of her journey.
You can check out more of Kathleen’s dreamy artwork at her website, kkidder.com.
Written by Danniah Daher, Graduate Assistant to the Graduate School Office.