The Classical Studies Department is home to the innovative and pioneering Classical Receptions research group. 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 in 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 departments both in the UK and overseas where classical reception is a particularly strong research and teaching theme. The co-convenors of the CRSN are currently Professor Helen King (OU) and Professor Stephen Harrison (Oxford University), and the administrator is Dr Anastasia Bakogianni (OU). The CRSN puts on and coordinates events ranging from conferences to graduate workshops; please see the website for further details.
Two peer-reviewed e-journals on Classical Reception topics are also based in the department: New Voices in Classical Reception Studies provides a showcase for scholars new to this field who have reached the stage where they wish to publish the results of their research on any and all aspects of the reception of Greco-Roman antiquity. Its companion publication, Practitioners’ Voices in Classical Reception Studies, aims to provide a forum in which anyone involved in creative practices can 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. Upcoming events include:
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] 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.
Modern Neapolitan presepe (nativity scene) with Classical ruins.
Dr Anastasia Bakogianni works on the reception of Greek literature in the modern world. Her first monograph entitled Electra Ancient and Modern: Aspects of the Reception of the Tragic Heroine will be published by The Institute of Classical Studies (November 2011). She has also published articles exploring reception in the mediums of opera, the visual arts and film. She is an associate editor for New Voices in Classical Reception Studies as well as being the administrator of the CRSN. Since 2005 she has also been responsible for organising a series of annual graduate reception studies on behalf of the network.
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 Jo Brown
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. Past publications include an exploration of the Shield of Achilles in Ovid and its resonances in Thomas Hardy’s poem ‘Breaking of the Nations’, comparing narrative strategies in Apuleius’ Latin novel Metamorphoses (The Golden Ass) and Luis Bunuel’s film The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Roman sacrificial rites in the 1973 movie The Wicker Man, and in 2003 and 2011 conjuring with the identity of Pygmalion's ivory statue on screen. She is well known for and continues to work on Apuleius and also on Ovid’s epic poem, Metamorphoses. At present she is writing 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 Emblems of Hope: the art and ideology of Trades Union Imagery 1850-1925.
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 is currently working 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. 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 film; her monograph on Film and the Classical Epic Tradition will be published in early 2013. She is also interested in receptions of Pompeii, and the relationship between classical receptions and pedagogy. Dr Paul is currently the coordinator of the Classical Reception Studies Network’s initiative on Teaching Classical Receptions.
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 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.
Dr Gabriella Zuccolin joined the department in September 2012, and is currently involved in the “Negotiating Gender in Renaissance Medicine” research project run by Prof. Helen King. Her research deals with late medieval and early modern medical culture, with a special focus on issues of medical patronage and the figure of the court physician, and she is currently exploring a new interdisciplinary approach within the historical-medical field by trying to combine linguistic, cultural and historical analysis with the strictly philosophical.
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