Conference 2021

The inaugural conference for the Women Writers and Classics Network, “Women Creating Classics”, will take place online via Zoom on June 17th-18th 2021: the conference programme is below. If you would like to join us, or have any questions, please get in touch with the conference organisers, Emily Hauser and Helena Taylor, at for more details.

Women Creating Classics Conference: Programme

University of Exeter (Virtual)*

17th-18th June, 2021

Supported by the Leverhulme Trust and the Classical Association

DAY 1: Thursday 17th June

9.00-9.15 Welcome: Emily Hauser & Helena Taylor

9.20-10.50 Panel 1 (1.5 hours)

  1. 9.20-10.50 Panel 1a: Creative Intellectuals I: 17th–19th Centuries (1.5 hours) (Chair: Rebecca Langlands)

Rosie Wyles, University of Kent, “Gender, the authorial persona and framing meaning”

Helena Taylor, University of Exeter, “On Not Knowing Greek and the Classical Reception Canon: The case of Madeleine de Scudéry (1607-1701)”

Isobel Hurst, Goldsmiths, University of London, “‘All the allurements of beauty and eloquence’: Aspasia of Miletus and the Intellectual Woman in the Nineteenth Century”

  • 9.20-10.50 Panel 1b: Archaic Poetry in Reception I: Sappho and Lesbian Love in the Twentieth Century (1.5 hours) (Chair: Emily Hauser)

Jacqueline Fabre-Serris, Université de Lille 3, “A Night in Ancient Rome. Renée Vivien’s scholarly and literary re-creation of the cult of Bona Dea”

Mara Gold, University of Oxford, “‘Thy Voice, oh Sappho, down the ages rings’: Queering Classics, women’s rights and writing for performance in early twentieth century Britain.”

Georgina Barker, UCL, “A Century of Russian Lesbian Sapphos”

Comfort break

11.00-12.00 Writing Workshop:Caroline Lawrence (1 hour)

Imagining a world full of gods and demi-gods using smells, bells and the creative right brain.

12.00-12.45 Lunch

12.45-14.15 Reading/Discussion 1: Contemporary Women’s Poetry (1.5 hours)

Readings & discussion: Clare Pollard, Fiona Benson, Vahni Capildeo (Chair & discussant: Helena Taylor)

Comfort Break

14.25-15.25 Roundtable 1: Figuring and Refiguring Penelope (1 hour) (Chair: Georgina Paul)

Roundtable & discussion: Georgina Paul, University of Oxford, Isobel Hurst, Sheila Murnaghan, University of Pennsylvania, Emily Hauser, University of Exeter.

Tea Break

15.45-17.45 Panel 2: Twentieth Century Women’s Poetry (2 hours) (Chair: Henry Power)

Yopie Prins, University of Michigan, “Anne Carson [ ] Sappho”

Laura McClure, University of Wisconsin-Madison, “H.D’s Choros Sequence”

Judith Hallett, University of Maryland, “Saved with ablatives and declensions in the toilet stall’: Classical learning and the poetry of Maxine Kumin (1925-2014)”

Laura Jansen, University of Bristol, “On Anne Carson/Antiquity”

Comfort Break

18.00-19.00 Keynote: Madeline Miller (1 hour)

DAY 2: Friday 18th June

10.00-11.00 Workshop: “Early modern women’s reception of classical exemplary figures” (1 hour) (Chair: Rebecca Langlands)

Workshop & discussion: Rebecca Langlands, University of Exeter, Helena Taylor, Emma Herdman, University of St Andrews

Comfort break

11.10-12.10 Roundtable 2: “Breaking the Form: Women Writers and Creative/Critical Practice” (1 hour) (Chair: Tom Geue)

Roundtable & discussion: Tom Geue, University of St Andrews, Daisy Dunn, Emily Hauser

12.10-13.00 Lunch

13.00-14.00 Reading/Discussion 2: “Scenes from (Mary) Sidney” (1 hour) (Chair: Freyja Cox Jensen)

Practical performance & discussion: Freyja Cox Jensen, University of Exeter, Oskar Cox Jensen, University of East Anglia, Dylan McCorquodale, University of Exeter, and Emma Whipday, Newcastle University

Comfort break

14.10-15.40 Panel 3: “Paths of Survival: Excavating the Past through Poetry” (1.5 hours) (Chairs: Fiona Cox & Elena Theodorakopoulos)

Sheila Murnaghan, “Recovering Voices in Josephine Balmer’s The Paths of Survival”

“Making Our Mark: Poetic Imaginations of Forgotten Women’s Voices from Roman Britain”: Reading, panel and responses: Josephine Balmer, Fiona Cox, University of Exeter, Elena Theodorakopoulos, University of Birmingham

Comfort Break

15.50-17.20 Panel 4 (1.5 hours)

  1. 15.50-17.20 Panel 4a: Creative Intellectuals II: The Renaissance (1.5 hours) (Chair: Helena Taylor)

Behr, Francesca D’A., University of Houston,  “Lucrezia Marinella and Ancient Rhetoric: A Woman’s Approach to Eloquence in the Late Italian Renaissance”

Emma Herdman, “Classical Credentials: Women’s Intellectual/Sexual Licence in Renaissance France”

Sharon Marshall, University of Exeter, “Looking forward through translation: Hélisenne de Crenne’s Eneydes

  • 15.50-17.20 Panel 4b: Archaic Poetry in Reception II: Contemporary Homer (1.5 hours) (Chair: Elena Theodorakopoulos)

Ruby Blondell, University of Washington, “Like Working for a Frat House: A Feminist Takes On TV Epic”

Polly Stoker, University of Birmingham, “’Laughing as she cried’: Tragedy, comedy, and gender in receptions of Homer in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries”

Emily Hauser, “Recovering the women of the Trojan War: Why now?”

Comfort break

17.30-17.50 Breakout Session: Looking Back, Looking Ahead (20 minutes)

18.00 Keynote: Donna Zuckerberg (1 hour)

Women Creating Classics Conference: Speakers

Josephine Balmer’s latest collection, The Paths of Survival, was short-listed for the 2017 London Hellenic Prize and was a Poetry Book of the Year in The Times. Other collections include The Word for Sorrow (2009), Chasing Catullus: Poems, Translations and Transgressions (2004) and the chapbook Letting Go: mourning sonnets (2017). She has also published the translations Catullus: Poems of Love and Hate and Classical Women Poets (2004 & 1996). Her acclaimed volume, Sappho: Poems and Fragments, was short-listed in 1989 for the inaugural US Lambda Literary Award for Poetry and has recently been reissued in an expanded edition to include newly-discovered fragments (2018). Her study Piecing Together the Fragments: Translating Classical Verse, Creating Contemporary Poetry, was published by Oxford University Press in 2013.

Georgina Barker is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at UCL. Her research project ‘Classical ‘Lesbians’ in the Russian Imagination’ explores how twentieth- and twenty-first-century Russia has dealt with the problem of classical women-who-love-women. SPQR in the USSR: Elena Shvarts’s Classical Antiquity – her book about a Russian woman creating Classics, written partly during a scholarship from the Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA) at Exeter – will be out soon with Legenda. Barker is fascinated by how classical antiquity continues to shape contemporary Russian society…and vice versa.

Ruby Blondell is a Professor of Classics and Adjunct Professor in Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies Emeritx at the University of Washington in Seattle. They have published widely on Greek literature and philosophy, and on the reception of myth in popular culture. Their most recent book is Helen of Troy: Beauty, Myth, Devastation (Oxford 2013). They are currently writing a book on the portrayal of Helen of Troy in film and television.

Vahni Capildeo’s eight books and seven pamphlets include Like a Tree, Walking (Carcanet, 2021) and Measures of Expatriation (Carcanet, 2016), awarded the Forward Prize for Best Collection. Capildeo is Writer in Residence at the University of York, Visiting Scholar at Pembroke College, Cambridge, a Contributing Editor for PN Review and contributing adviser for Blackbox Manifold. Theirinterests include poetry, non-fiction, collaborative work, intersemiotic translation, and traditional masquerade.

Freyja Cox Jensen is Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Exeter.  She works on classical reception, the book trade, and the intersection between print and performance.  Before taking up her current post in 2012, she was a Junior Research Fellow at Christ Church, Oxford, where she previously took her BA, MSt, and DPhil. 

Oskar Cox Jensen is a Senior Research Associate at the University of East Anglia, working on a study of English protest song from 1600 to the present day. He is the author of When London Cried (2022), The Ballad-Singer in Georgian and Victorian London (2021), and Napoleon and British Song, 1797–1822 (2015), and co-editor of Charles Dibdin and Late Georgian Culture (2018) and a special forum of Journal of British Studies: “Music and Politics in Britain” (2021). He has been actor and musical director in practice-as-research productions of Tom Tyler, The Disobedient Child, Dickens’s Is She His Wife? and The Frozen Deep.

Francesca D’Alessandro Behr, a native of Italy, is a Professor of Italian and Classical Studies at the University of Houston in Texas (USA) where she teaches courses on Italian and Latin literature and language. Her research is similarly oriented on both fields. Her book on Lucan, Feeling History: Lucan, Stoicism and the Aesthetics of Passion appeared in 2007 and another book of hers titled Arms and the Woman: Classical Tradition and Women Writers in the Venetian Renaissance has come out in May 2018 through Ohio State University Press. Besides Classical reception, her interests cover ancient and renaissance epic poetry, love poetry, gender studies and translation studies, Artemisia Gentileschi. She is currently working on a book mapping Classical influences in Lucrezia Marinella’s religious writings. 

Daisy Dunn is an author and critic. Her books include In the Shadow of Vesuvius: A Life of Pliny, Of Gods and Men: 100 Stories from Ancient Greece and Rome, and Catullus’ Bedspread: The Life of Rome’s Most Erotic Poet.

Jacqueline Fabre-Serris is Professor of Latin Literature at the University of Lille. Her research focuses on Latin literature (especially on the Augustan poetry), on mythography, on Gender studies and on the reception of the Antiquity. Monographs include Mythe et poésie dans les Métamorphoses d’Ovide (1995), Mythologie et littérature à Rome (1998), Rome, l’Arcadie et la mer des origines (2008). She is co-editor of Women and War in Antiquity (2015), Lire les mythes (2016) and Identities, Ethnicities and Gender in Antiquity (2021). She is co-director of the electronic reviews Dictynna, Eugesta, and Polymnia, and a series on mythography published by Les Presses du Septentrion. She is currently writing a book on Ovid and Sulpicia.

Tom Geue is a lecturer in Latin at the University of St Andrews. He has written about anonymous Roman literature, a project which sprouted an article on Elena Ferrante as a classical author. He is often working on, reading through, or thinking with Alice Oswald.

Judith Peller Hallett, Professor of Classics and Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Emerita at the University of Maryland, College Park, has published widely in the areas of Latin language and literature; women, sexuality and the family in ancient Greek and Roman society; and the study and reception of classics in the Anglophone world, focusing on pioneering female classicists and Jewish scholars who fled Nazi-occupied Europe. She attended the same public co-educational high school in the Philadelphia suburbs as did Maxine Winokur Kumin, twenty years later: it claims, among its other alums, baseball star Reggie Jackson to its credit, and politician Benjamin Netanyahu and poet Ezra Pound to its discredit.

Emily Hauser is a Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Exeter. She is the author of the acclaimed Golden Apple trilogy of novels reworking the women of Greek myth, including For the Most Beautiful (Penguin Random House, 2016), and has been featured in The Telegraph, The Observer, and on BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour. Her research focuses on gender in Homer, women poets in antiquity, and classical reception in contemporary women’s writing; she is co-editor of Reading Poetry, Writing Genre: English Poetry and Literary Criticism in Dialogue with Classical Scholarship (with Silvio Bär, Bloomsbury, 2018). Her current book, Authoress: Gendering Poets in Ancient Greece, looks at the gendering of authorship in Greek poetry and is forthcoming with Princeton University Press.

Emma Herdman is a Lecturer in French at the University of St Andrews. Her research often focuses on the conjunction between Renaissance French writing and classical or neo-Latin works: she has worked on Louise Labé’s rewriting of Ovid’s Salmacis, on Montaigne’s quotations of Juvenal in the Essais (and the implications of these for his female readers), and on the Renaissance fortunes of the classical example of Gnaeus Flavius, who stole and published – for the public good – the secrets of Roman law. She is currently working on the use of Ovid in the works of Madeleine and Catherine Des Roches.

Isobel Hurst is Lecturer in English at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research examines the reception of Greek and Latin literature in English, looking at the connection between classical education and authorship and women writers’ creative engagement with the classical tradition. She is the author of Victorian Women Writers and the Classics: The Feminine of Homer and is currently completing a book, Muse and Minerva: Transatlantic Women Writers and the Classical Tradition. She has contributed to several volumes in Oxford University Press’s Classical Presences series, including Homer’s Daughters: Women’s Responses to Homer in the Twentieth Century and Beyond.  

Laura Jansen is Senior Lecturer in Classics & Comparative Literature at the University of Bristol. She is author of Borges’ Classics: Global Encounters with the Graeco-Roman World (Cambridge 2018), editor of Anne Carson/ Antiquity (Bloomsbury 2021) and The Roman Paratext: Frame, Texts, Readers (Cambridge2014), and general editor of the monograph series Classical Receptions in Twentieth-Century Writing (Bloomsbury). Her next books are on Italo Calvino: Classics between Science and Literature (Bloomsbury) and Susan Sontag: From Plato’s Cave to Sarajevo (Oxford University Press). She is originally from Buenos Aires.

Rebecca Langlands is Professor of Classics at University of Exeter. She works on Latin literature, ethics, sexuality and gender, and classical receptions. Her books include Sexual Morality in Ancient Rome (CUP 2006), Sex, Knowledge and Receptions of the Past (OUP 2015, with Kate Fisher), Exemplary Ethics in Ancient Rome (CUP 2018) and Literature and Culture in the Roman Empire, 96-235: Cross-Cultural Interactions (CUP 2020, with Alice König and James Uden). At Exeter she is the co-director of the Sexual Knowledge Unit and of the Centre for Classical Reception, and also runs, with Kate Fisher, the Sexual History project, developing innovative sex education methodology and resources based on historical materials.

Caroline Lawrence is the author of over thirty historical novels for children, including the popular Roman Mysteries series of books, televised for the BBC in 2007 & 2008. She gets ideas from ancient texts, material culture and Hollywood script doctors. Caroline is currently working on a retelling of Aesop’s Fables set firmly in the Classical period.

Laura McClure is Professor of Classics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a senior fellow at the university’s Institute for Research in the Humanities. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in Classical Languages and Literatures after completing a dissertation of sacrifice actions in the plays of Euripides. Her research interests focus on Athenian drama, the study of women and gender in the ancient world, and classical reception. Her books include Spoken Like a Woman:  Speech and Gender in Athenian Drama (Princeton, 1999), Courtesans at Table:  Gender and Greek Literary Culture in Athenaeus (Routledge, 2003), and Women in Classical Antiquity: From Birth to Death (Wiley Blackwell, 2019). She has edited several volumes of essays, including Making Silence Speak: Women’s Voices in Greek Literature and Society, with André Lardinois (Princeton, 2001), Prostitutes and Courtesans in the Ancient World,with C. A. Faraone (Wisconsin, 2006), Sexuality and Gender in the Classical World (Wiley Blackwell, 2008), and, most recently, the Blackwell Companion to Euripides (Wiley Blackwell, 2017). She has also published numerous articles on the subject of women and gender in Athenian drama and courtesans in the Greek literary tradition. She is currently writing a book on women’s receptions of the Greek chorus in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Dylan McCorquodale is a Canadian PhD student at the University of Exeter.  His research focuses on the historiography of the early modern history play, considering the dramatist as de facto historian.

Madeline Miller grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. She is the author of The Song of Achilles, which was awarded the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction and was a New York Times Bestseller. Miller is also the author of Circe, which was the winner of the Indies Choice Best Adult Fiction of the Year Award, and the Indies Choice Best Audiobook of the Year Award. Circe also received The Red Tentacle Award, an American Library Association Alex Award, the 2018 Elle Big Book Award, was short-listed for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction, and was a number 1 New York Times Bestseller. She lives outside Philadelphia. 

Sheila Murnaghan teaches in the Department of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania; she works on Greek poetry, especially epic and tragedy, gender in classical culture, and classical reception.  Her recent publications include a Norton Critical Edition of Euripides’ Medea and Childhood and the Classics: Britain and America, 1850-1965, co-authored with Deborah H. Roberts.  She is currently working on a commentary on Sophocles’ Ajax and a Norton Critical Edition of Antigone.

Clare Pollard has published five collections of poetry with Bloodaxe, most recently Incarnation. Her play The Weather was performed at the Royal Court Theatre. She edits Modern Poetry in Translation, and has translated Ovid’s Heroines, which she toured as a one-woman show with Jaybird Live Literature. Clare’s most recent book is a non-fiction title Fierce Bad Rabbits: The Tales Behind Children’s Picture Books (Penguin). She has been awarded a Society of Authors work-in-progress grant for her next book, a novel about prophecy entitled Delphi.

Yopie Prins (she/her) is the Irene Butter Collegiate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan, where she teaches classical reception studies, nineteenth-century poetry and prosody, comparative poetics and lyric theory, and critical translation studies. She is the author of Victorian Sappho and Ladies’ Greek: Victorian Translations of Tragedy.   She is also co-editor of Dwelling in Possibility: Women Poets and Critics on Poetry (1997) and The Lyric Theory Reader (2014) and completing a book entitled “Voice Inverse: Meter and Music in Victorian Poetry.”

Polly Stoker completed her PhD at the University of Birmingham in 2019 and continues to work there as a Teaching Fellow. She also coordinates the Birmingham and West Midlands schools’ network for the education charity Classics for All. 

Helena Taylor is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in French Studies at the University of Exeter. Her research focuses on early modern French literature, thought, and classical reception. She is the author of The Lives of Ovid in Seventeenth-Century French culture (OUP, 2017); editor, with Kate Tunstall, of a forthcoming Special Issue of Romanic Review, “Women and Querelles in Early Modern France” (2021), and, with Fiona Cox, of Ovid and Women’s Writing in French (OUP, 2022); and is currently finishing her second monograph Savantes: Women Writing Antiquity in Early Modern France

Elena Theodorakopoulos is a senior lecturer in Classics at the University of Birmingham. Her research specialisms are in Latin poetry, reception of Classics in film, and in the reception of Classical literature in modern and contemporary women’s writing.

Emma Whipday  is Lecturer in Renaissance Literature at Newcastle University. Her book Shakespeare’s Domestic Tragedies: Violence in the Early Modern Home (CUP, 2019) is co-winner of the Shakespeare’s Globe Book Award 2020, and her essay collection Playing and Playgoing: Actor, Audience and Performance in Early Modern England (co-edited with Simon Smith) is forthcoming from CUP. She has also published on early modern true crime narratives, domestic and sexual violence in Shakespeare, and her practice as research experiments. Emma is also a playwright; her plays include Shakespeare’s Sister (Samuel French, 2016) and The Defamation of Cicely Lee (winner of the American Shakespeare Center Shakespeare’s New Contemporary competition 2019).

Rosie Wyles is Lecturer in Classical History and Literature at the University of Kent. Her research interests include Greek and Roman performance arts, costume, reception within antiquity and beyond it, and gender.  She is co-editor of the OUP volume Women as Classical Scholars (2016) in which she wrote about the role of seventeenth-century french classicist Madame Dacier as a female pioneer.

Donna Zuckerberg (she/her) is a writer, editor, and recovering academic. Her work focuses on the intersection of Classics, contemporary feminism, and digital culture. She is the author of Not All Dead White Men: Classics and Misogyny in the Digital Age (Harvard University Press, 2018), and is currently at work on a second book, provisionally titled Resistrata!, about the history of feminist response to sex strikes. She received her Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2014 and was the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Eidolon, a prize-winning online publication that sought to make Classics “personal and political, feminist and fun.” Eidolon ran from 2015 to 2020 and received more than 2 million views. Donna lives in California with her two children and bulldog. You can find her on Twitter as @donnazuck.

Call for papers:

The reception of the classics by women writers has historically been a story of a relatively few remarkable individuals overcoming patriarchal educational, social and cultural norms to read – in original or in translation – classical texts and write about them. Today, some of these barriers may have transformed, and may, indeed, be applicable beyond gender categories, as is evident from the educational inequalities that determine access to classical learning, while others are still ever present. Important recent work in this burgeoning area of scholarship has focused on female classical philologists and scholars; we would like to broaden these categories, looking beyond the sole criteria of literacy in ancient languages to include a range of different forms of reception from across time periods and cultures. Our understanding of women writers includes all those who self-define as women, including (if they wish) those with complex gender identities which include ‘woman’.* The purpose of this conference is to bring together both practitioners (translators, novelists, poets) and scholars working on classical reception by women writers, to address common methodological concerns and explore future possible collaborations. Some questions we will address include: does the category of ‘women writers’ have a transhistorical validity in relation to classical reception? Are some classical authors or genres more appealing to women writers? How have ancients writers who belong to a tradition normally reserved for the elite and, in the past, for men been used to engage in sexual and textual politics?

*Definition adapted from The Women’s Classical Committee