Early Career Research Associates

Dr Rhiannon Easterbrook 

My main area of research is in the reception of classical antiquity in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. My PhD (Bristol, 2018) investigated how new theatrical productions in this period staged the intrusion of antiquity into the present. Taking an interdisciplinary approach and conducting extensive archival research, I focused on the ways in which these plays, musicals, ballets and revues dealt with the themes of gender and sexuality, social hierarchies and transactional relationships. When I held the Women in the Humanities Postdoctoral Writing Fellowship at the University of Oxford, I published an article drawn from this work in the Classical Receptions Journal, entitled 'Merrie Arcadia: staging the pastoral in the age of the Clarion socialist movement'. I am currently revising the thesis as a whole for publication.

Building on the findings in my doctorate, I have become increasingly interested in the effect of consumer culture on the classical tradition and in other materialist approaches. I was fortunate enough to explore these new interests in material and visual culture during an Ashmolean Junior Teaching Fellowship. Current related projects include articles on portrayals of the satyr in Edwardian consumer culture and reworkings of the peplos in the light of changes to copyright law. I am also developing a postdoctoral project on Classicism and Fetishism in the nineteenth century.

Dr Elisa Groff

My research interests concern the interaction between medicine, gender and religion in different cultural contexts of health and beyond stereotypes. My research is dedicated to addressing issues of physical, mental and social wellbeing in relation to women’s sexuality, ageing, nutrition and infant mortality through the interpretation of shifting patterns of health conditions and therapies. My doctorate (Exeter, 2019) examined aspects of women’s wellbeing in relation to sexuality and reproduction in sixth-century Byzantine Christianity. The work was experimental, since my methodology was grounded in ancient hagiographical accounts and contemporary medical writings, and in the WHO categories of sexual and reproductive health.

As a research associate at the ICS, I will work on the publication of my doctoral thesis that has been selected for the First ReMeDHe Book Workshop in May 2020 in Chicago. I will also work on a few forthcoming contributions for edited books dealing e.g. with women’s genital surgical procedures in cosmetic treatises, sexual violence in narratives of both ancient and modern female martyrdom, and investigating the linkage between female sexuality and ageing. The focus of my work lies in the divulgation of scientific and religious knowledge from antiquity into later times. As a trained classicist and human osteologist with working experience in funerary excavations and in the morgue, I am committed to bridging the gap between historians and medical professionals. Therefore, I am extremely keen to engage with academic and non-academic groups in higher education and public talks in order to deliver research themes which are relevant to people and patient groups.

Dr Beth Munro 

My research focuses on the architectural design and recycling of late Roman villas – how their conceived design affects function, and how the dismantling and reprocessing of villa architecture became an important feature at the end of antiquity. I completed my DPhil (PhD) at Oxford, and my thesis identified and examined on-site workshops, which were used to recycle glass, metal, and stone taken from 4th-6th century AD villas in Italy. This research demonstrated the technological process of recycling and examined the remains of installations and hoarded materials at villas. In a subsequent one-year Postdoctoral Fellowship, supported by the Canada Research Chair in Roman Archaeology, I expanded the geographical scope of this research by examining villas with recycling facilities in France, Spain, and Portugal, and further exposed the consistency in recycling programmes and technology in late antiquity. This showed that the recuperation and reprocessing of architectural materials was an organised and systematic activity, and challenged the notion of ‘squatters’ at villas in late antiquity. I have published in the Journal of Roman Archaeology and numerous other volumes. I am currently working on a book, which draws together three facets of research on late Roman villas - architectural design, recycling, and landownership – to show that the villa was crucial to the physical construction of the post-Roman landscape.

Dr Polly Stoker 

My work responds to creative engagements with classical literature in modern and contemporary writing, especially women’s receptions of Homeric epic and Greek drama. My doctoral research made the case for the significance of the female reader to classical reception studies, and I suggest the reading and rewriting of Virginia Woolf as an ideal starting point from which to re-orientate the field. Woolf ‘s complicated classicism intimates a new way to conceptualize the female reader beyond the now familiar, and more straightforwardly feminist, models of rescue, rehabilitation, and resistance.
My postdoctoral work takes the emergent female reader as the provocation for revisiting and rethinking classical reception as a set of creative and critical practices, mindful of the irony, ambivalence, and indeterminacy that seems to characterize women writers’ relationships with the classical past. I am currently reworking the key findings of my thesis as a monograph with the working title: ‘“Laughing as she cried”: Reading Homer from the Trenches’. The book I am planning has two main objectives: one is to make the case that a significant number of late modern and contemporary writers continue to look back to Homer via his reception during and in response to the First World War. The second is to model a new practice for classical reception, which I call ‘reading with’. This involves a new look at the idea of a ‘dialogue’ between old and new that dominates current reception studies.