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Research Cluster on classical reception

The Classical Studies Department is home to the innovative and pioneering Classical Receptions research group, which is dedicated to exploring the ways in which Greek and Roman texts, ideas and material culture have been interpreted, used and reworked by later cultures and societies. The OU has led the way in both Classics-oriented research, and in developing connections with related disciplines such as English, History, Theatre and Film Studies, and Modern Languages. Through a wide range of activities (outlined below), we focus on publishing high-quality research, developing new ways of accessing information on Classical Receptions (such as databases and online journals), and engaging directly with those people involved in exploring the classical world, from practitioners to the general public.


We host the Classical Reception Studies Network (CRSN), bringing together individuals and academic departments, both in the UK and overseas, who share our interests in researching and teaching classical receptions. The co-convenors of the CRSN are Professor Helen King (OU) and Professor Maria Wyke (UCL). The CRSN coordinates events ranging from conferences to graduate workshops; please see the website or twitter feed (@CRSN_UK) for further details.

Two peer-reviewed e-journals on Classical Reception topics are also based in the department: New Voices in Classical Reception Studies showcases the work of early career researchers and scholars new to this field, and its companion publication, Practitioners’ Voices in Classical Reception Studies, provides a forum for anyone involved in creative practices to discuss the relationship between their work and the classical texts, themes and contexts on which they draw.

The Classical Receptions Research Cluster regularly organises conferences and colloquia on reception topics. Recent events include:

  • War as Spectacle – Milton Keynes, June 2012. (Organiser: Anastasia Bakogianni).
  • Masks, Echoes, Shadows: Locating Classical Receptions in the Cinema – May 2012. (Organisers: Anastasia Bakogianni and Joanna Paul).
  • Classics in the Modern World: A Democratic Turn? – Milton Keynes, July 2010. (Organiser: Lorna Hardwick). A collection of essays edited by Lorna Hardwick and Stephen Harrison has recently been published by Oxford University Press (2013), including contributions by Joanna Paul, Anastasia Bakogianni, and Elton Barker.

A major research project led by Emeritus Professor Lorna Hardwick, Classical Receptions in Drama and Poetry in English  from c.1970 to the Present has resulted in the creation of two databases: one on modern performances of ancient drama, and one on the use of classical material by leading contemporary poets.

We are also engaged in a variety of activities which bring our research into classical receptions to the broadest possible audiences. For example, the Ancient Olympics project, led by Dr Aarón Alzola Romero, enabled people to explore the links between the ancient games and the modern Olympics through a variety of platforms, including podcasts, iPhone apps, school visits, and an interactive OpenLearn unit. Much of our teaching material that concerns classical reception is also available to everyone through iTunesU (or OU podcasts, if you don't use iTunes). These include Paula James’s podcasts on ‘Pygmalion Meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ [get this through iTunes or from OU podcasts], Helen King's short film the healing power of Greek and Roman tales and one of our most recent podcasts on ‘Greek Heroes in Popular Culture’ [get this through iTunes or from OU podcasts]. Classics Confidential, an outreach website established by Jessica Hughes and Elton Barker, hosts many video interviews with scholars and practitioners working in the field of classical reception, and aims to give a behind-the-scenes view of research, or artistic creation, for a general audience.

Neapolitan presepe with classical ruins - photo

Modern Neapolitan presepe (nativity scene) with Classical ruins.

Members of the research cluster:

Dr Elton Barker is interested in the reception of Homer and the epic cycle in later Greek literature. He also runs the Classics Confidential website, with Jessica Hughes.

Dr Emma Bridges works on the reception of classical texts and themes from antiquity to the modern day. She has a particular interest in the ways in which literary and artistic responses to armed conflict in the ancient world have been adapted and transformed in different cultural settings. Her recent monograph, Imagining Xerxes: Ancient Perspectives on a Persian King (Bloomsbury 2014), looks at ways in which the figure of Xerxes was reimagined in a variety of literary and historical contexts in antiquity; she has also worked on the wider traditions relating to the Persian Wars in ancient and modern thought. Her current research focuses on the ways in which the experiences of soldiers’ wives in ancient myth - as seen particularly in the Homeric poems and Athenian tragedy - relate to those of modern day ‘military wives’.

Dr Trevor Fear is interested in the reception of the ancient world in contemporary popular culture, especially films and TV. He is the editor of New Voices in Classical Reception Studies, an electronic journal aimed at promoting work by early career researchers and those new to the field of Classical reception. He organised the Popularising the Past conference in 2007, has contributed a unit on the reception of Cleopatra to the OU AA100 module, The Arts Past and Present, and has given several papers on the reception of Cleopatra in film and on TV.

Dr Jessica Hughes is interested in the reception of ancient material culture in later eras, particularly in religious contexts. Recently she has written about the restoration of sculptures in 18th century Italy, and she is currently working on the models of classical ruins that appear in contemporary Neapolitan models of Christ’s nativity. She also edits the online journal Practitioners’ Voices in Classical Reception Studies. Much of her OU teaching focuses on the transmission and reception of ancient art: she has written material for A330 dealing with the reception of classical myth in the medieval and Renaissance periods, and sections of A151 on the modern collecting and display of ancient Greek vases.

Dr Paula James enjoys tracing the cultural trajectory of myth and classical literary motifs through late antiquity up to the present day. She is the author of Ovid's Myth of Pygmalion on Screen: In Pursuit of the Perfect Woman (Bloomsbury, 2011), and has also published on, amongst other topics, the myth of Pandora and Prometheus in Kiss Me Deadly (1955), Roman sacrificial rites in the 1973 movieThe Wicker Man, and classical myths in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She is well known for and continues to work on Apuleius and also on Ovid’s epic poem, Metamorphoses. She has also written wrap around and contextual chapters (focusing on the use of Greco-Roman symbols and figures in Labour movement banners and certificates) for a substantial volume of essays authored by art historian Annie Ravenhill-Johnson and entitled The Art and Ideology of the Trade Union Emblem, 1850-1925 (Anthem Press, 2013).

Prof Helen King works on the reception of ancient medicine, especially Hippocratic texts, in medical writing from the sixteenth to the early twentieth century. She is particularly interested in gynaecology and in the construction of Hippocrates as ‘father of gynaecology’ and even ‘father of midwifery’. She has recently worked with Dr Jo Brown on a funded project on the uses of 'Hippocrates' on the internet and other media, and with Dr Gabriella Zuccolin on a funded project on the construction of gender in medieval and early modern medicine. Her publications include The One-Sex Body on Trial: The Classical and Early Modern Evidence (Ashgate, 2013), which uses the reception of the Hippocratic case history of Phaethousa and the story of Agnodice 'the first midwife' to reassess the construction of gender and of healing roles in western medicine. (You can access Prof. King’s Classics Confidential interview about Agnodice here.) Prof. King is currently co-convener of the Classical Reception Studies Network.

Dr Joanna Paul works on a wide variety of modern receptions of the classical past, with a particular focus on popular culture from the 19th century to the present day. Her monograph on Film and the Classical Epic Tradition was published in 2013, and she is currently working on a book on receptions of Pompeii, to be published by I.B. Tauris, as well as co-editing a volume with Dr Bakogianni on classical receptions in film and TV. Dr Paul has a particular interest in classical reception studies and pedagogy, and as a member of the  Classical Reception Studies Network’s executive committee, co-ordinates their Teaching Classical Receptions initiative. She co-writes the ‘Reception’ subject reviews for Greece & Rome (with Dr Katherine Harloe of the University of Reading).

Dr James Robson is interested in the translation of Aristophanes into English. He has written specifically on the translation of his humour and lyrical passages as well as more broadly on the adaptation and staging of his plays for modern audiences. He hopes to develop this work into a major research project in the future. James is also a member of the Greek and Latin Texts research cluster.

Dr Laura Swift is interested in working with practitioners on modern performances of Greek tragedy, and in 2012 she was academic consultant to the National Theatre production of Antigone. She also works on the reception of ancient authors within antiquity, and has published on the reception of choral lyric in Greek tragedy and of epic in Greek lyric

Dr Naoko Yamagata is interested in the reception of ancient authors within antiquity. Her current projects include Plato's use of Homer and Hesiod and comparative study of Homer and Virgil.


Research students working on Classical Receptions

John Harrison - Myth in reception: Stourhead House and Gardens, 1740-1800

Tori McKee - Reception of Euripides’ Hippolytus from 1700 to the present

Amanda Potter - Amazons and Furies on the screen

Iarla Manny - The reception of ancient drama in the work of Oscar Wilde, with particular reference to his tragedy Salomé

Ovid’s Myth of Pygmalion on Screen: In Pursuit of the Perfect Woman

Classics in the Modern World: A ‘Democratic Turn’?

Pompeii in the public imagination - book cover

A Companion to Classical Receptions cover

Imagining Xerxes - cover