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Dr Laura Swift

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Professional biography

I studied for my undergraduate and graduate degrees at Magdalen College, Oxford. I then taught in Oxford as a Junior Research Fellow (Trinity College, 2006-9) and as a Lecturer in Classics (New College, 2009-10), and subsequently held a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at UCL (2010-12), before coming to the OU in April 2012.

I was awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship in 2012, which I held at the Freie Universität zu Berlin, and in 2015 won a Philip Leverhulme Prize, awarded by the Leverhulme Trust to 'recognise the achievement of outstanding researchers'.

Research interests

My current research focuses on fragmentary texts and how we deal with them as scholars and readers. I have recently published the first complete commentary on the seventh-century BC poet Archilochus (2019), who in antiquity was considered one of the most important poets and rated second only to Homer. I have also published on other lyric authors including Sappho and Stesichorus, and am currently editing a Blackwell Companion to Greek Lyric Poetry.

In recent years I have been working with contemporary theatre-makers on their process and practice, and my research interests have incorporated the psychology of making creative work, especially around the theme of fragmentation, how it acts as a creative stimulus, and how we can represent it artistically.

My other major research interest is Greek tragedy, and in particular on the relationship between the tragic chorus and other types of choral song performed in Greek society. My book The Hidden Chorus (2010) argued for the central importance of choral song as a cultural tool in Greek society, and suggested a reading of tragedy that placed as much weight on the musical contexts of fifth-century Athens as much scholars have traditionally placed on historical or political ones. I have also published more broadly on tragedy, including an introduction to Greek tragedy (2016) and a book on Euripides' Ion (2008).


Teaching interests

I have taught widely on topics covering both Greek and Latin languages and literature. I have am currently Chair of our Latin language and literature course (A276), for which I authored material on Augustan literature, and have produced material on Homer and the early Greek world for our module Exploring the classical World (A229), and am currently authoring a portion of our upcoming module on Greek myth (A350). I have also been involved in the module teams for the previous version of Exploring the Classical World (A219) and Reading Classical Greek: Language and Literature (A275).

Impact and engagement

I am currently collaborating with theatre company Potential Difference to create a piece of modern theatre inspired by fragmentary plays of Euripides, and by the ways we experience fragmentation in our own world. This began life as a showing in 2014 November as part of the Being Human Festival, the UK's first national festival of the Humanities. The second stage of the project involved further creative development and work-in-progress showings at Ovalhouse, London and The Old Fire Station, Oxford in autumn 2017. We are working towards a full production in 2022. For more information, see here.

This collaboration has also led to an exploration of theatre-making and liveness during the pandemic, and what is lost when live events cannot take place. This led to a one-off performance in November 2020, and a self-guided audio-tour, as part of British Academy Summer Showcase, in June 2021. The audio-tour will soon be available in digital version.

I have also participated in a range of other engagement projects which aim to bring Classics to a wider audience. For example, I acted as academic consultant to the National Theatre’s production of Antigone, and have been involved in the Mayor of London’s “Love Latin” scheme, which aims to bring classical topics to children at London state schools. I speak regularly at schools and sixth form conferences, and am happy to be contacted directly by teachers.


Thinking with Brothers in Sappho and Beyond (2018)
Swift, Laura
Mouseion: Journal of the Classical Association of Canada, 15(1) (pp. 71-87)

Negotiating seduction: Archilochus’ Cologne Epode and the transformation of epic (2015-06-08)
Swift, Laura
Philologus, 159(1) (pp. 2-28)

Telephus on Paros: genealogy and myth in the 'new Archilochus' poem (P. Oxy. 4708) (2014-12)
Swift, Laura
Classical Quarterly, 64(2) (pp. 433-447)

Archilochus the ‘anti-hero’? Heroism, flight and values in Homer and the new Archilochus fragment (P.Oxy. LXIX 4708) (2012-11)
Swift, L. A.
Journal of Hellenic Studies, 132 (pp. 139-155)

The symbolism of space in Euripidean choral fantasy (Hipp. 732-85, Med. 824-65, Bacch. 370-433) (2009-12)
Swift, L. A.
Classical Quarterly, 59(2) (pp. 364-382)

How to make a goddess angry: making sense of the Demeter Ode in Euripides' Helen (2009-10)
Swift, Laura
Classical Philology, 104(4) (pp. 418-438)

Sexual and familial distortion in Euripides' Phoenissae (2009-04)
Swift, L. A.
Transactions of the American Philological Association, 139(1) (pp. 53-87)

Mixed choruses and marriage songs: a new interpretation of the third stasimon of the Hippolytos (2006-11)
Swift, L. A.
Journal of Hellenic Studies, 126 (pp. 125-40)

Euripides: Bacchae (2023)
Allan, William and Swift, Laura
ISBN : 9781108844550 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press (In Press) | Published : Cambridge

Archilochus: The Poems: Introduction, Text, Translation, and Commentary (2019-02-19)
Swift, Laura
ISBN : 9780198768074 | Publisher : Oxford University Press

Greek Theatre and Imperial Image: OCR Classical Civilisation AS and A Level Components 21 and 22 (2017-07-13)
Hancock-Jones, Robert; Renshaw, James and Swift, Laura
ISBN : 9781350015111 | Publisher : Bloomsbury Academic

Greek Tragedy: Themes and Contexts (2016-10-06)
Swift, Laura
Classical World
ISBN : 9781474236836 | Publisher : Bloomsbury Academic | Published : London

The hidden chorus: echoes of genre in tragic lyric (2010-01)
Swift, L. A.
Oxford Classical Monographs
ISBN : 9780199577842 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford

Euripides: Ion (2008-05)
Swift, Laura
Duckworth Companions to Greek and Roman Drama
ISBN : 9780715637449 | Publisher : Duckworth | Published : London

Negotiating hegemony in early Greek Poetry (2021-06)
Swift, Laura
In: Zucchetti, Emilio and Cimino, Anna Maria eds. Antonio Gramsci and the Ancient World (pp. 44-62)
ISBN : 9780367193140 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London

Sappho and the Gods (2021-03)
Swift, Laura
In: Finglass, Patrick and Kelly, Adrian eds. The Cambridge Companion to Sappho. Cambridge Companions to Literature (pp. 209-222)
ISBN : 9781316986974 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press | Published : Cambridge

Phoenician Women (2020-09-24)
Swift, Laura
In: Markantonatos, Andreas ed. The Brill Companion to Euripides. Brill's Companions to Classical Studies (pp. 342-358)
ISBN : 978-90-04-26970-5 | Publisher : Brill | Published : Leiden

Ajax the Hero (2019-05-02)
Swift, Laura
In: Stuttard, David ed. Looking at Ajax (pp. 29-41)
ISBN : 9781350072305 | Publisher : Bloomsbury Academic

Competing generic narratives in Aeschylus' Oresteia (2018-02-28)
Swift, Laura
In: Andujar, Rosa; Hadjimichael, Theodora and Coward, Thomas eds. Paths of Song: The Lyric Dimension of Greek Tragedy (pp. 119-136)
ISBN : 978-3-11-057591-0 | Publisher : De Gruyter

Narratorial Authority and its Subversion in Archilochus (2017-03)
Swift, Laura
In: Bakker, Egbert ed. Authorship and Greek Song: Authority, Authenticity, and Performance (pp. 161-177)
ISBN : 9789004339699 | Publisher : Brill

Medea (2016-12-27)
Swift, Laura
In: McClure, Laura ed. A Companion to Euripides. Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World (pp. 80-91)
ISBN : 978-1-119-25750-9 | Publisher : Wiley-Blackwell | Published : Chichester

Visual Imagery in Parthenaic Song (2016-04-26)
Swift, Laura
In: Cazzato, Vanessa and Lardinois, André eds. The Look of Lyric: Greek Song and the Visual. Studies in Archaic and Classical Greek Song (1) (pp. 255-287)
ISBN : 9789004311633 | Publisher : Brill | Published : Leiden

Poetics and precedents in Archilochus’ erotic imagery (2016-02-18)
Swift, Laura
In: Swift, Laura and Carey, Chris eds. Iambus and Elegy: New Approaches (pp. 253-270)
ISBN : 9780199689743 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford

Lyric visions of epic combat: the spectacle of war in archaic personal song (2015-10-22)
Swift, Laura
In: Bakogianni, Anastasia and Hope, Valerie eds. War as Spectacle: Ancient and Modern Perspectives on the Display of Armed Conflict (pp. 93-109)
ISBN : 9781472522290 | Publisher : Bloomsbury Academic | Published : London

Stesichorus on Stage (2015-06)
Swift, Laura
In: Finglass, P. J. and Kelly, A. eds. Stesichorus in Context (pp. 125-144)
ISBN : 9781107069732 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press

The animal fable and Greek iambus: ainoi and half-ainoi in Archilochus (2014-11)
Swift, Laura
In: Werner, C. and Sebastini, B. eds. Gêneros poéticos na Grécia antiga: Confluências e fronteiras (pp. 49-77)
ISBN : 978-85-7732-255-8 | Publisher : Humanitas | Published : São Paulo

Conflicting identities in the Euripidean chorus (2013-05)
Swift, Laura
In: Gagné, Renaud and Hopman, Marianne eds. Choral mediations in Greek tragedy (pp. 130-154)
ISBN : 9781107033283 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press | Published : Cambridge

Paeanic and Epinician healing in Euripides' Alcestis (2012-01)
Swift, Laura
In: Rosenbloom, David and Davidson, John eds. Greek Drama IV: Texts, Contexts, Performance (pp. 149-168)
ISBN : 978-0-85668-870-6 | Publisher : Oxbow Books | Published : Oxford

Epinician and tragic worlds: the case of Sophocles' Trachiniae (2011)
Swift, Laura A.
In: Athanassaki, Lucia and Bowie, Ewen eds. Archaic and Classical Choral Song: Performance, Politics and Dissemination. Trends in Classics: Supplementary Volumes (10) (pp. 391-413)
ISBN : 9783110254013 | Publisher : Walter de Gruyter | Published : Berlin

A Companion to Greek Lyric (2022-05)
Swift, Laura ed.
Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World
ISBN : 978-1-119-12262-3 | Publisher : Wiley-Blackwell (In Press)

Moralizing Strategies in Early Greek Poetry (2018-03-19)
Allan, William and Swift, Laura eds.
Publisher : University of Toronto Press | Published : Toronto

Iambus and Elegy: New Approaches (2016-02-18)
Swift, Laura and Carey, Chris eds.
ISBN : 978-0199689743 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford