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Dr Christine Plastow

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Professional biography

I fell in love with Classics during A Levels, coming to the subject completely by accident: I didn't know Greek and Latin were still a thing, but when I was offered the chance of something 'like history but better' for my fourth unchosen course, I took it. One of the first texts I read was Lysias 1, which I've returned to often ever since. I studied English Literature and Classical Studies as an undergraduate at Royal Holloway, University of London, then moved to the University of Bristol for a Masters in Classics and Ancient History. I ended up at University College London, where I wrote my PhD thesis on ‘Athenian Homicide Rhetoric in Context’ under the supervision of Chris Carey, and also undertook an exchange placement at Yale University to work with Victor Bers. While at UCL, I worked as a teaching assistant in Greek and Latin, and a tutor in the UCL Writing Lab. I completed my PhD in February 2017, and joined the Open University in September 2017 as a Lecturer in Classical Studies.

Research interests

My research focuses primarily on Athenian forensic oratory and law, as well as Athenian oratory more broadly. My PhD thesis examined the distinctive role of homicide in Athenian law and culture, and explored how this distinctiveness played out in rhetoric in four pertinent areas: Athenian ideology, religious pollution, relevance, and the twin issues of motivation and intent. The revised version of this research appeared in Homicide in the Attic Orators: Rhetoric, Ideology, and Context, published by Routledge in January 2020.

One aspect that arose from this study was the importance of location in defining appropriate content for rhetoric; interesting distinctions could be seen between homicide rhetoric delivered in the homicide courts, and that delivered in the popular courts. This observation informed my current project, which looks at space and place in Attic forensic oratory, combining a social historical approach with methodologies from the spatial turn in the humanities, cognitive science, and human geography. The project is ongoing in the form of a number of conference papers and publications. A case study on space, place, and identity in Antiphon 5 appeared in the collected volume The Making of Identities in Athenian Oratory in 2019. I am currently working on a chapter on citizenship and place in the orators, part of a companion volume on Citizenship in Antiquity that I am also co-editing; as well as papers on political space after the rule of the Thirty in the speeches of Lysias and Isocrates, and spatialised behaviour as a means of portraying character in Athenian rhetoric.

In my approach to the subjects of law and forensic oratory, I endeavour to view the two as symbiotic. I believe that we cannot examine aspects of law which appear in the forensic speeches without considering the rhetorical factors which may influence them; similarly, we should not attempt to read forensic speeches without some knowledge of the laws which underpinned their delivery. More generally, I am interested in the importance of viewing works of Athenian oratory not as texts but as speeches, with an emphasis on the act, moment, and location of delivery, and the influence these can have on the original audience’s and our own understanding of their content. For me, the speeches are most interesting for what they say about Athenian cultural beliefs and social history; I am particularly interested in cultural norms and deviations from them, ideals vs reality, and questions of how Athenians perceived themselves and were perceived by others.

Besides these primary research interests, I am interested in classical reception, and particularly receptions of Greek drama in the 20th and 21st centuries; I focus on how aspects of the ancient theatrical experience can be echoed in modern performance. I have also published on Classical pedagogy.

Teaching interests

I teach on several module teams in Classical Studies: A275 Reading Classical Greek: Language and Literature, A276 Classical Latin: the Language of Ancient Rome, A229 Exploring the Classical World, and A864 MA Classical Studies part 2. I wrote the OpenLearn unit Introducing Homer's Iliad, and am currently finishing up authoring materials on Athens for the Classical Studies section of the new interdisciplinary module A112 Cultures. I particularly enjoy teaching Greek language, and have done so many times in the past, both at university and privately, as well as teaching Latin. I have also really enjoyed teaching seminars on Athenian Law and Homer, and lectures on Greek history and literature more broadly.

Impact and engagement

I am an Associate Director of By Jove Theatre Company, a London-based collective producing new work from old stories. We are currently developing a project looking at the myths surrounding Orestes, Electra, Iphigenia, and Pylades, and exploring how storytelling and historical representation provide legitimacy and shared history for queer communities. Research and development for the project has been generously funded by the Institute of Classical Studies Public Engagement Grant, the Hellenic Society, and the Arts Council England. I have also previous organised poetry events around women in the Homeric poems and the motif of weaving in women's stories with By Jove.


[Book Review] N. Morley, Classics: Why it Matters. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2018. Pp. 143. (2020-11)
Plastow, Christine
Journal of Hellenic Studies, 140 (pp. 308-309)

Use and Abuse of Law in the Athenian Courts. Mnemosyne supplements. History and archaeology of classical antiquity, 419 (2019-10)
Plastow, Christine
Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2019, Article 10(10)

Doctors in Attic Forensic Oratory (2019)
Plastow, Christine
Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies, 59(4) (pp. 575-595)

Ancient Greek Law in the 21st Century. Ashley and Peter Larkin Endowment in Greek and Roman Culture (2018-10)
Plastow, Christine
Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2018, Article 49(10)

Conversations with Iphigenia: two roundtable discussions with the playwrights of 'The Iphigenia Quartet' (2018)
Plastow, Christine
Practitioners' Voices in Classical Reception Studies, 9

Homicide in the Attic Orators: Rhetoric, Ideology, and Context (2020-02-03)
Plastow, Christine
ISBN : 9780429027031 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London

The Devil's in the Detail: Including 'irrelevant' details in homicide narratives. (2019-08-01)
Plastow, Christine
In: Edwards, Mike and Spatharas, Dimos eds. Forensic Narratives in Athenian Courts (pp. 40-54)
ISBN : 9781315104461 | Publisher : Routledge

Space, place, and identity in Antiphon 'On the Murder of Herodes' (2019)
Plastow, Christine
In: Filonik, Jakub; Griffith-Williams, Brenda and Kucharski, Janek eds. The Making of Identities in Athenian Oratory (pp. 191-205)
ISBN : 9780367228200 | Publisher : Routledge

Staff-Student partnerships in pedagogy and research-based education: lessons for Classics (2018)
Plastow, Christine
Council of University Classical Departments Bulletin 47