The Department at Royal Holloway is a small, full-range Classics Department. It offers a range of sub-disciplines, approaches and methodologies, and periods. Classics at Royal Holloway is distinctive in its ambitious coverage (literature, history, archaeology, reception). Core strengths include oratory, law and rhetoric (currently mainly Greek), theoretically-driven approaches to Classical literature and Classical reception. Activity in these area is focused by The Centre for Oratory and Rhetoric (COR) and the Centre for the Reception of Greece and Rome (CRGR). The Department prides itself on Classics research engaged with the contemporary world. Classics is both part of contemporary culture and offers a critical distance from which we can reflect on and critically engage with global challenges. These range from gender inequalities to global displacement to political extremism. We think using the cultural resources we derive from the past, and the Classical world has informed past cultures as it informs our cultures.
In addition to and overlapping with the work of our research centres (COR; CRGR), we group our engaged Classics into three main themes: Contemporary Classics; Spaces of Belonging; The Fantastic. These operate alongside our research centres, overlapping with and supporting their work.
This work group focuses on the political. By the political, we cover the scale from the politics of the body to global politics. These within this work include:
- The Voice and Empowerment
- Rhetoric and Oratory: Ancient and Modern
- Gender and Feminism
- Intersectional Issues
- Social Engagement, Vulnerability and Well-Being
Spaces of Belonging
This work group looks at spatial representations and how the way in which space is ordered affects everyday lives. Research ranges from the literary-theoretical through theories of urbanism to displacement and the refugee crisis and include:
- The Literary Construction of Space
- Mobility and Displacement
- The Political and Spatial Unit: Houses, Communities, Cities, States and Empires
This work group looks at the stories provided by the Classical and how they made, remade, and reimagined from antiquity to the contemporary. These include:
- The Sublime
- The Comic
- The Mythic
- The Monstrous
Interdiscipinarity is a central element of our research work, whether interpreted conservatively (links between literature and philosophy and history; archaeology and history), or in new science-arts crossovers (Lowe, Kremmydas), and theory and Classics (Alston, Spentzou). Science-led methodologies are deployed by Jari Pakkanen in architectural reconstruction, recording and quantification and Erica Rowan’s studies of archaeobotanical remains. Zena Kamash is working with psychologists to investigate well-being and heritage in contemporary Iraq.
We work closely with colleagues in other disciplinary areas, notably in History with the Centre for Holocaust Studies and the ancient historians there (Kate Cooper, Hannah Platts, David Natal Villazala David Gwynn and Victoria Leonard), philosophy (John Sellars) and with English.
Research by Disciplinary Areas
Our archaeologists are working to develop understanding of building methods and techniques nad in the survey and excavation of the Attic urban site of Salamis (Pakkanen), exploring the history of archaeology of the Near East and working with communities to reclaim their pasts (Kamash), and uncovering the environmental archaeology of the Classical Mediteranean, including analysing foodstuffs and fuels (Rowan).
In Greek history, our focus has been on the socio-political issues of the Greek world, particularly those illuminated by oratory and legal disputes. There has recently been a particular focus recently on refugees and inter-community relations (Rubinstein) and the practices of deception (Kremmydas). Rankov works on the naval history of the Greek world.
In Greek and Latin, research straddles literary theory, with strengths in narrative theory (Lowe), feminism and identity (Spentzou), and the aesthetic (Chomse). Gloyn works primarily within the social attitudes of philosophical texts while Alston works on the political theory in Roman-period historiography. Literature research engages heavily with reception including popular, literary, philosophical and political receptions. Hawley and Gloyn are both engaged with support of and research in pedagogy.
In Roman history, there is a continuing engagement with military and naval history (Rankov) and imperialism in its diverse forms (Alston). Rankov focuses on the city of Rome and its epigraphic culture as well as the institutional history of the Roman army. Alston covers a range of socio-political histories, mostly of the imperial period, with a particular focus on the structures of power from household to imperial levels.
We support individual and group-led research. We organise seminars, conferences and workshops often with partner organisations, including London Colleges and the Institute of Classical Studies. Recent events on ‘Law, Emotions and Politics in the Nürnberg Trials’, ‘Drawing on the Past’ (on comics and Classics), ‘Sexuality and Gender from Livia to Theodora’, ‘Tacitus in the Twenty-first Century’, ‘Reception of the Classics and The Great War’, ‘Germanicus’, and the Fédération internationale des associations des études classiques and the Classical Association Conference 2019.
We are particularly proud of our role within the Women’s Classical Committee (WCC), which has served as an important group for raising issues of gender and inequality within the discipline. The WCC emerged from a ‘sandpit’ event organised by Efi Spentzou with Genevive Liveley (Bristol) in 2015, which was sponsored by Royal Holloway and the Institute of Classical Studies. The group has since become a major force in the Classical world in no small measure due to the work of Royal Holloway staff (Gloyn, Spentzou Kamash, Leonard) and a range of PGR.
The impact of our research has been enhanced by working with a range of museums and cultural centres. Kamash’s has worked with a range of museums in her project Remembering the Romans to explore issues of diasporic identity, cultural heritage and trauma. Pakkanen has worked with the Museum of Naxos, the Benaki Museum, the Museum of Finnish Architecture. Alston has spoken at the V&A (India and the Classics). We are also using web resources (Liz Gloyn’s Classically Inclined; Zena Kamash's Remembering the Romans; Richard Alston’s New Classical Cities) to bring work to a wider audience.