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Ancient Literature and Thought

Current Research in Ancient Literature and Thought

  • Emmanuela Bakola works primarily on Greek theatre (tragedy, comedy and satyr plays). She is the author of Cratinus and the art of comedy (Oxford, 2010) and co-editor of Greek comedy and the Discourse of Genres (Cambridge, 2013), both of which explore the relationship between ancient comedy and other literary genres, and pursue methodological questions of working with fragments. More recently, she has focused her attention on space in Greek tragedy, and has worked on Greek religion and on the intersection of classics and anthropology. Dr Bakola is currently working on a monograph entitled The Erinyes and the Wealth of the Earth: Cosmos, Nature and Resources in Aeschylean Tragedy, which seeks to demonstrate that Aeschylean tragedy is profoundly preoccupied with humanity’s relationship to the earth and its resources. The book offers a close (re-)reading of five plays that is informed by theoretical work on space, cultural anthropology and classical scholarship. In parallel with this project, she has organised two major symposia, namely Greek Theatre, Landscape and Environment (KCL, Feb 2014), and Locating the Daimonic: Daimones, Spaces and Places in the Greek World (KCL, March 2015) and one workshop, Craft Process and Cultural Response: Making, and thinking about making, in Greco-Roman antiquity (KCL, Oct 2015).
  • Alison Cooley's research has recently explored literary approaches to epigraphy, analysing how Genette's theory of paratexts can be applied to the Res Gestae and the Senatus Consultum de Cn Pisone Patre. She has interests in bilingualism and translation theory, as presented in her work on the Res Gestae, which tackles the fundamental problem of how the text translated into Greek makes sense within its provincial contexts. She studies the interaction of literature and epigraphy as part of an exploration of the emergence of early imperial ideologies, and is intending to pursue in more detail her work on the SCPP over the next couple of years, which will include detailed analysis of the inscription and Tacitus' response to the trial of Piso in Annales 3. She is also interested in Roman historiography and the construction of the past via monumenta, both literary and epigraphic. She has supervised MAs on Suetonius and the Representation of barbarians in Roman historiography.
  • David Fearn works on the politics and aesthetics of archaic and classical Greek literature, with a principal interest in the cultural challenges posed by Greek lyric poetry. He is also interested in contemporary approaches to Herodotean historiography and to classical rhetoric. His publication history in lyric, and victory odes in particular, means that he is particularly interested in the ways literary texts project their voices and raise basic questions about their contextualizability within historical temporalities and social frameworks. He has spent a number of years working on a broad comparativist approach to Pindar’s aesthetics, incorporating recent trends in critical theory, art history, and word and image in classical thought. This culminates in a major book, Pindar’s Eyes: Visual and Material Culture in Epinician Poetry, published by OUP in 2017, which includes the first ever treatment of the interconnectedness of ecphrasis, deixis, and the modalities of the lyric voice in Pindar. This work also includes a reassessment of the fundamental position of Simonides within the study of classical art and text. David has also recently published on the textualization of political factioneering in Alcaeus, and has forthcoming papers on the allure of narrative in Greek lyric and on the relation between sophistic rhetoric and the lyric of Timotheus. He has published articles not only on Pindar and Bacchylides, but also on reception studies and papyrology, and on Herodotus. He edited the 2010 volume Aegina: Contexts for Choral Lyric Poetry (OUP); his first monograph was published in 2007: Bacchylides: Politics, Performance, Poetic Tradition (also OUP). His current project is a new comparativist close reading of the aesthetics and cultural significance of Gorgias’ Encomium of Helen, incorporating insights from among other things contemporary comparative work on lyric, modernist prose fiction, and photography, as well as rhetorical theory. He is also hard at work on a long review essay on critical trends in the study of Greek lyric commissioned for publication in the new Brill Research Perspectives in Classical Poetry journal. David collaborates with a group of colleagues in the UK and North America to work to foster comparativist approaches to the poetics of ancient Greek literature, in ways that engage directly with contemporary trends in critical theory and aim to transcend the kinds of historicist approaches often prioritized in the 1990s and 2000s. He has recently performed as an expert respondent at the KCL graduate conference 'Lyric Beyond Lyric’, and has accepted invitations to deliver papers in coming months both in Warwick (the interdisciplinary Centre for Research in Philosophy, Literature, and the Arts seminar) and Oxford (the Corpus Christi Classical seminar).
  • Elena Giusti works on Augustan and imperial Latin literature, and is interested in exploring the junctures between traditional philology, cultural and intellectual history and literary theory. She has published a number of substantial articles and chapters, and her first book, Carthage in Virgil’s Aeneid. Staging the Enemy under Augustus (CUP 2018) explores the ideological use of Carthage in Virgil’s Aeneid, investigating ways in which the poem constructs, exploits and subverts notions of Romans and Barbarians, and hides memories of both Punic and Civil Wars behind a mythical but cautionary tale. She is currently working on a book on Virgil's Dido and her reception (Dido of Carthage: A Classical and Literary Life, London: I.B. Tauris) and on a second monograph (The Great Unmentioned in the Augustan Age: Augustan Poetry and its Conspiracies) on how notable characters and events passed over in silence by the Augustan poets turn the poetry itself into a site for conspiratorial readings. Also in the pipeline is a commentary on Virgil's Aeneid Book 5 for the Fondazione Lorenzo Valla. As collaborative projects, she is currently co-editing with Dr Tom Geue (St Andrews) a volume on Absence in Latin literature and its Reception (Unspoken Rome: Absence in Latin Literature and its Reception) originated from a conference held in St Andrews. Elena is interested in literary theory and interpretative methodologies in Classics and has organised two experimental workshops, in Cambridge (The Fixed Handout Workshop, with Dr Siobhan Chomse and Prof. William Fitzgerald and at Penn State University (Homo bene figuratus inter disciplinas: Methodological Variations on a Single Passage, with Dr Mathias Hanses and Dr Giovanna Laterza. She is also organising the 2019 Symposium Cumanum on Virgil and the Feminine together with Prof. Victoria Rimell.
  • Caroline Petit's research is focused on the textual transmission, translation and interpretation of ancient medical texts (in particular Galen and Pseudo-Galenic texts) and on medical rhetoric and pharmacology. Her doctoral thesis was dedicated to the pseudo-Galenic Introductio sive medicus (published in 2009 as Galien. Oeuvres, Volume III: Introduction, ou Médecin, Collection des Universités de France, Les Belles Lettres: Paris) and won two national awards in France (Prix Lantier 2010; Prix Raymond Weil 2010). Following a number of substantial articles on the textual transmission of Galen (particularly his major work on simple medicines, De fac. ac temp. simpl. med.), Galenic pharmacology, Galen’s rhetoric, and late antique medicine, she is now completing several new books: a monograph on Galen’s rhetoric (Galien ou la rhétorique de la Providence: médecine, littérature et pouvoir à Rome, under contract with Brill, Mnemosyne Supplements); a shorter essay on medicine ancient and modern (Medicine: Antiquity and its Legacy. Ancients and Moderns. London: I. B. Tauris); and two edited collections, one on Galen’s newly discovered De indolentia (under contract with Brill, Studies in Ancient Medicine) and one on the formation of the Galenic corpus, focusing on pseudo-Galenic texts (with S. C. R. Swain and K. D. Fischer). As a Wellcome Trust University Award Holder (2013-2018), Dr Petit runs a project on ‘Medical Prognosis in Late Antiquity’. This involves producing the first critical edition of five texts from the Galenic corpus devoted to various aspects of diagnostic and prognostic, together with a monograph on medical prognosis in late antiquity. Dr. Petit’s research interests include the reception of ancient medical authors, especially Galen, in the Renaissance, with special interest in Symphorien Champier, Prospero Alpini, and the “Paris Hippocratics” such as Guillaume de Baillou.
  • Victoria Rimell's research, which spans many different authors and genres, engages critically with major themes in Roman literature and culture and aims to promote dialogue between classical philology and modern philosophical and political thought. Her main focus is Latin literature from the first century BCE to the second century CE, and she has published books (all with CUP) on Petronius’ Satyricon, Martial’s Epigrams and Ovid’s erotic poetry. Her latest book, The Closure of Space in Roman Poetics (Cambridge, 2015), which won an Honorable Mention in the 2016 Prose Awards, investigates the relationship in the Roman imagination between retreat, enclosure or compressed space and the idea of a vast, expanding empire. She explores how a spectrum of Roman authors – from Horace, Virgil, Ovid and Statius to Vitruvius, Seneca, Tacitus and Suetonius – explore the trade-off between safe refuge and the intensity of creative and philosophical interaction with the imperial world. More broadly, the book explores the role Rome continues to play in the Western history of ideas to do with dwelling and the uncanny, and includes comparative readings of modern conceptual artworks, as well as of a French novel (Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s Salle de Bain). Victoria has also edited volumes on the ancient novel, and (Winter Press 2018) on imagining imperial space in Greek and Latin texts. She is currently working on a commentary in English and Italian of Ovid’s Remedia Amoris. Also in the pipeline is a project that aims to reassess Senecan philosophical texts in the light of recent work in the emerging field of vulnerability studies, and to explore potential interactions between Senecan texts and the work of continental philosophers. The first research product related to this project, an article entitled ‘Philosophy’s folds: Seneca, Cavarero and the history of rectitude’ was published in 2017 in the feminist philosophy journal Hypatia. She gave papers related to this project in 2018-19 at the Cambridge Philological Society, Johns Hopkins, Columbia, and NYU. She organised the 2019 Symposium Cumanum on Virgil and the Feminine together with Dr Elena Giusti, papers from which will be published in a special forthcoming volume of Vergilius.
  • Maude VanHaelen works on the reception of Antiquity in Renaissance Italy, with a specific focus on the revival of Greek texts through Latin translation and the interaction between paganism and Christianity in the Renaissance. She is particularly interested in the various ways in which Renaissance intellectuals and artists have used imitation as a creative principle to produce new works that imitate Antiquity and at the same time seek to go beyond classical models. She also works on the revival of Greek astrology and magic in the Renaissance, and more specifically on the way in which Renaissance intellectuals negotiated their fascination for esoteric doctrines with their need to conform to Christian dogmas. She is also interested in the process of translation from Latin into vernacular languages, issues of readership, and the role Renaissance women played in the cultural production of the time. Dr Vanhaelen’s latest project, Plato and His Readers, 1400-1600, seeks to provide the first complete census of all Platonic works produced in Italy between 1400 and 1600, and to explore who commissioned Platonic works, who read them, and which Platonic doctrines were of interest. By adopting a new perspective—that of textual circulation and readership—the project demonstrates that a direct transmission of Plato occurred in the 16th century around a new set of cultural, religious and political ideas, (such as the reform of university teaching, Counter-reformation, political/ideological appropriation of culture).

Postgraduate Training

As well as our PhD and MA by Research programmes, we will offer a new Taught MA in Ancient Literature and Thought for entry in October 2019.