The Chalcenterics

The Chalcenterics is the name of the College's Classics society, who bring renowned speakers to talk on topics 'somewhat unrelated to the syllabus' but hopefully of interest to classicists and non-classicists alike.


What a fantastic year it has been for the Chalcenterics! We started off well with the annual subject tea, which was a fantastic opportunity to welcome not only the new crop of Classics freshers to the College community of undergraduates, graduate students and tutors, but also the students from St Benet’s joining our third year. It was equally enjoyable for the freshers and tutors to assemble at the study skills workshop, which proved a valuable experience to dive into the intricacies and quirks of the Classics degree (and its associated joint schools) at Oxford.

Our first talk of the year was in Michaelmas, and was given by Krishnan Ram-Prasad, who had newly joined Merton as a Julia de Lacy Mann Fellow in Classics and Linguistics. Hearing about the ‘age’ in ‘language’ and the ‘gist’ in ‘philologist’ gave us a fascinating insight into the world of language, linguistics and philology, and into the role of the classicist, and was a fitting testament to Krishnan’s dual appointment at the College. The talk was followed by a drinks reception in the TS Eliot Theatre. Michaelmas was home also to the first of our Classics Formals – ironically, a more informal dinner setting for classicists of all degrees, years and appointments to bond in Hall. It has since become a highlight of term for many.

The highlights of Hilary term were numerous. The annual Chalcenterics black-tie dinner, held in the Savile Room, was well attended and the catering was incredible. It was a pleasure for the presidents to give a speech, and above all to wish the Mods students the best for their exams, as well as have the new tutors and JRFs see the full Classics community assembled. The visit from Simon Pulleyn was a standout event. His talk, ‘Talking to the gods in Ancient Greece: Language and tactics’, was a broad yet deep survey of a wide range of ancient material, ranging from Plato to magical papyri, which intellectually stretched and intrigued us all. Now emeritus at UCL, Simon was a lecturer in Classics at Merton in the 1990s, which led to much entertaining anecdotal conversation before and after the talk. It was a privilege for us to meet in the flesh the man who had penned two of the most astounding commentaries that had helped us get to grips with Homer over the course of our degrees. Dinner at High Table concluded a wonderful evening.

Trinity’s garden party on Sundial Lawn, in all its sun-and-Pimm’s drenched glamour, was a delight as we charged steadily on to the end of the year. The 7th Week Classics Formal was another much-needed opportunity to reflect on the year past, and to catch up with tutors and fellow students once more. We three presidents have very much enjoyed organising all the Chalcenterics events this year, and are grateful to our speakers for delivering such engaging talks and to everyone who attended the events. We wish the incoming committee – Gabby Murray (2021), Maia Pereira (2021) and Benjamin Atkinson (2018) – all the best for the success of the Chalcenterics next year.

Kiana Rezakhanlou (2020), Jana Nedelkoska (2020) and Fran Geldard (2019)

Chalcenterics Co-Presidents 2022-23


The year for the Chalcenterics started with the first in-person Freshers’ Tea since we ourselves were freshers in 2019. It was a great opportunity for students of all years to meet, some for the first time, without screens in the way. We were really excited to meet the new first years and it was a very enjoyable afternoon. The start of Michaelmas also marked the return of Professor Rhiannon Ash from her sabbatical. The students were certainly happy to have her back!

A few weeks into Michaelmas, we took part in a study skills workshop with the freshers, passing on advice about lectures and essays. It was a valuable experience for freshers, postgrads and third years alike, providing a chance to answer any questions as everyone settled into the routines of the new year.

We also organised and held the first Classics Society dinner in Hilary. Thank you very much to everyone who came. It was a wonderful evening and great to see everyone together after so long. It’s always fun to hear some of Professor Jonathan Prag’s anecdotes about his time at Corpus. Soon after the dinner, it was time for the Mods Tea, an opportunity to wish good luck to the second years who were preparing to sit their Honour Moderations in 7th and 8th Weeks. Over tea and biscuits, the older years passed on the best advice they could. Congratulations to all the second years for all their hard work this year!

Trinity came and brought the sunshine with it. We spent a lovely Friday afternoon in 3rd Week on the Sundial Lawn for the Chalcenterics Garden Party. Although the wind meant that cups of Pimm’s kept flying away, everyone had a great time and it was really nice to be able to bring everyone together once more. Our last event of the term was a Challenging Classics talk hosted in the JCR on the theme of sexuality and emotion across disciplines. It was nice to bring together students from a range of humanities subjects, alongside the tutors, for an informal discussion and sharing of ideas.

With the end of the academic year also comes the time to say some goodbyes. We’d like to say goodbye to Dr Henry Spelman and wish him good luck for everything he goes on to do next.

Rachel Lo and Rachel Jung (both 2019)
Chalcenterics Co-Presidents 2021-22


The Chalcenterics started off Michaelmas term 2020 with the virtual Freshers’ Tea as we gave a warm welcome to our new students and three new tutors: Dr Olivia Elder, Dr Henry Tang and Dr Henry Spelman. It was a lovely chance to get to know the new students and tutors, as well as catch up with the other undergraduates and enjoy delicious snacks. For this, we must especially thank my Co-President Guy Smith (2018) who delivered the snacks to each household in the autumnal wet and windy weather.

The term also saw the launch of the Merton Classics Access Instagram and Facebook pages, through which Classics student ambassadors provided information about the different courses available and insight into studying Classics at Oxford in a series of engaging posts.

In Hilary term, we held a study skills session, in which students from different years shared their tips and experiences, discussing everything from note-taking and essays to exams. It was especially valuable to hear about what strategies students were using for remote studying and immensely heartening as we encouraged each other. The students also showed their support for our second-year students undertaking their Honour Moderations in the annual Mods tea which took place in fifth week.

Trinity term featured a fascinating talk by Dr Tang on ‘The study of Greece and Rome in China’. It was very well attended, with members of the Christian Cole Society and Oxford students and tutors coming to listen. The engaging discussion that followed the talk highlighted the importance of inclusivity and diversity in Classics, and I am very grateful to Dr Tang for his contribution to this. Sadly, we must say farewell to Dr Tang as he leaves Merton at the end of this year, and so I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his hard work and wish him all the best for the future.

In the final term of the year, we held a Classics and Poetry evening, co-hosted with the Merton College Poetry Society. It was a relaxing and informal event, with students sharing poems inspired by Classics. It was particularly amazing to listen to the poems written by our own Classics students and the co-presidents of the Merton College Poetry Society, Rachel Jung and Luke Bateman.

We also welcomed back four Merton Classics alumni for our Classics and Careers panel event. In this event, we heard from Fergus McIntosh (The New Yorker), Alex Walsh (HM Treasury), Jane Chan (Royal Society of Chemistry) and David Hunt (Boies Schiller Flexner) as they discussed their career journeys since leaving Merton. It was wonderful to hear their experiences, and I’m very grateful to the panellists for giving up their time and speaking to us.

In all, it was a very successful year for the Chalcenterics, and I look forward to seeing what next year holds for the Society.

Cristina Chui and Guy Smith (both 2018)
Chalcenterics Co-President 2020-21