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Biography

I come from South Shields, an ex-mining and shipbuilding town in the North East of England that boasts its very own Roman fort. I stayed close to home to study Classics (BA) and Ancient Epic (MA) at Durham University, and was awarded my PhD in Classics in October 2012. I then spent a year in Heidelberg, Germany, as Alexander von Humboldt Post-Doctoral Fellow, and came to Edinburgh as Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in autumn 2013. In autumn 2018 I will be taking up a Lectureship in Greek in Edinburgh.

My research centres on archaic Greek poetry, epic and didactic in particular. I am interested in the modes of reading which ancient poetry invites, and try in my research to track such readings from the invitation (through close reading of the poems themselves) to the response to it (the reception of the poems).

In much of my research I make connections between Greek literature and other cultures and time periods, a particular interest being Victorian poetry and art. I draw on comparative and reception methodologies, and am starting to explore ways in which the cognitive sciences can be brought to bear on archaic Greek poetry.

My current project explores the relationship between women and objects in Homeric epic, drawing on the theoretical framework of New Materialisms. Through ‘attentiveness to things’ (term from Vital Materialist Jane Bennett), this project provides a new way in to archaic texts, revealing that Homer’s women are not only objectified but are also well-versed in objects and their potential as devices for memory, for communication, for symbolism, for empowerment. Female strategies of agency may not be placed centre-stage, but they are nevertheless a creation of the archaic poet, and an impressively subtle and nuanced one at that. The ostensible masculinity of the Iliad, for example, belies a sensitivity to the female viewpoint.

In my first monograph, Hesiod’s Works and Days: How to Teach Self-Sufficiency (OUP 2015), I argue that the poem’s structure and the modes of reading it invites reflect the interplay between self-sufficiency as the Iron-Age ideal and the very point of didactic literature, which necessarily involves at least some reliance on a teacher. My work on the Works and Days has led to articles on gender, genre and addressees in the poem, and a comparative piece on the Old Norse didactic poem Hávamál. I am now working on Hesiod’s poetry from the perspective of the cognitive sciences, applying tenets from cognitive psychology to the Works and Days to reveal the sophistication already present in the archaic wisdom tradition.

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