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Durham University

Department of Classics and Ancient History

Staff

Dr Andrea Capra

Associate Professor (Reader) in the Department of Classics and Ancient History

Contact Dr Andrea Capra (email at andrea.capra@durham.ac.uk)

Areas of Doctoral Supervision

Most areas of Greek literature, especially Plato, Comedy, lyric poetry, the Greek novel.

Biography

My area of scholarship is Greek literature and civilisation, and my research interests include lyric poetry, Aristophanes, the Greek novel, the ancient reception of Homer and, above all, Plato's dialogues.

I explore the Greek world from a variety of perspectives, working on the intersections between different disciplines, most notably philology, literature, philosophy and art history, with an emphasis on performance as a defining feature of Greek civilisation. I have published widely on these and other areas: post-2013 publications are listed below; for a full CV including a list of (and links to) most of my publications.see https://durham.academia.edu/AndreaCapra.

I received my MA in Classics from the University of Pisa, where I also successfully completed a four-year, fully-funded residential program at the Scuola Normale Superiore. I hold a PhD from the University of Milan, which resulted in my first monograph (Il Protagora di Platone tra eristica e commedia, Milan 2001). After defending my PhD dissertation, I spent a few months as an invited visiting scholar at the Cambridge Faculty of Classics, until I obtained a permanent position as a 'Liceo' teacher in Greek, Latin and Italian literature (students aged 13-19). In 2005 I got a position at the University of Milan, where I worked until joining Durham in December 2017 and completed my second monograph (Aristofane, Le Donne al Parlamento, Rome 2010). In the last few years I have been a Residential fellow at the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies (2011-2012), where I worked on my third monograph (Plato's Four Muses: The Phaedrus and the Poetics of Philosophy, Cambridge MA 2014) and at the Princeton Center for Hellenic Studies (2017).

I am a staunch believer in the importance of public engagement. It is with some regret that I resigned from my secondary school position, and in fact I continue to give talks in schools on a voluntary basis and I took part for many years in programs for the training of secondary school teachers. I enjoy writing popular essays and textbooks, I am an elected member of the Italian association for the dissemination of classics, and I contribute to 'Classici Contro', a movement born during the Berlusconi era and committed to the promotion of classical culture as a means to oppose bigotry and xenophobia. Perhaps my favourite memory in this area is my 2013 participation in the Syracuse outdoor festival of ancient theatre, possibly the major such event in Europe. For the occasion, I adapted my translation and reading of Aristophanes' Assemblywomen for the stage and closely cooperated with the director in making the play meaningful for a contemporary audience as a stand for women's rights.

Current Research

I am currently at work on four co-authored projects and on a short introduction to Plato’s dialogues.

1) Intervisuality: New Approaches to Greek Literature (with Lucia Floridi, University of Bologna) The notion of ‘intervisuality’ has proved extremely productive in fields such as medieval art history and visual culture studies. By bringing together a diverse team of scholars, this project aims to bring intervisuality into sharper focus and turn it into a powerful tool to explore the research field traditionally, if misleadingly, referred to as ‘Greek literature’ in its visual and performative dimension. For an extended description, have a look at the project and its background at www.intervisuality.com. The resulting co-edited book is due in 2021.

2) Luigi Settembrini I Neoplatonici (with Barbara Graziosi, Princeton University) A new edition, introduction, and first English-language translation of The Neoplatonists by 19th-century Risorgimento hero Luigi Settembrini. Censorship delayed the publication of the manuscript until 1973. Soon after, this controversial tale sparked endless polemics and ideological appropriations, to the detriment of a sound and - if such a thing exists - unprejudiced study of the text and its background. The edition will restore the text and place the work between the study of ancient Greece and the creation of modern Italy, between the nationalist revolutions of the 1840s-60s and the sexual revolutions of the 1960s-70s; between (heterosexual) autobiography and (bisexual) classicising fantasy inspired by the Greek novel and poking fun at 'Neoplatonic' asceticism.

3. Aristophanes' 'Images' (with Maddalena Giovannelli, University of Milan). This project builds on two critical strands that have changed Aristophanic studies in the last few years: first, performance studies have questioned the ‘significant action principle’, i.e. the dogma wherby anything crucial for the theatrical understanding of Greek drama play is marked clearly in the text; second, new archaeological and epigraphic data have shaken the equally dogmatic idea that Greek plays were designed for one performance alone. Removing these principles prompts a far better appreciation: while Attic theatre rapidly turned from a one-city institution into a hallmark of Graeco-Roman civilisation, Aristophanes’ plays triggered a series of related images, both literary and visual, in all sorts of media throughout the Ancient world. This project adopts ‘intervisuality’ as a tool designed to map them in the plays themselves as well as in the ancient and modern reception. The resulting co-authored monograph is due in 2021.

4) Plato and Comedy. Plato's comedic entanglements have long been one of my primary research interests. After joining Durham, this has become part of a team project I share with my colleagues and friends George Gazis, Anthony Hooper and Sarah Miles (projecthttps://www.dur.ac.uk/platooncomedy/). The project is strongly interdisciplinary in character and includes both philosophers and classicists who work on topics including Plato’s poetics, the wider philosophical reception of comedy, and comedy itself. Through a workshop and a conference we hope to illuminate the scope and complexity of Plato’s treatment of comedy, and situate Plato’s treatment of comedy within a broader history of development of the comic tradition, and its reception. The final outcome will be an edited volume to be published in the near future.

5) Plato’s Plane Tree: The Dialogues in the Academy. This project looks at Plato’s works from a fresh perspective: the dialogues were likely ‘published’ in the precinct of the Muses of the Academy, where a statue of Socrates marked a heroic cult modelled on a quintessentially Greek phenomenon, namely the heroic cult of poets. With that in mind, the project combines new archaeological data with a figural or or typological reading of the corpus, showing how the dialogues in many ways prefigure Plato’s Academy and the cult of Socrates through a tripartite fresco addressing three different attitudes towards the philosophical life – hostility, suspension and full endorsement. This reconstruction significantly enhances the consumption of the dialogues, which is why the resulting monograph, economically presented, targets both specialists and the general public. The monograph is due in 2020.

Doctoral Supervision

Andrea welcomes students working on most areas of archaic and classical Greek literature. He is currently supervising the following students:

Marta Antola: Urban Temptations and Socratic Storytelling: Plato’s Athenian Odyssey (First Supervisor)

Melissa Gardner: Odyssean Perspectives on Trauma (First Supervisor)

Andrea Giannotti The Pre-Play Ceremonies of the Athenian Dionysia: A Reappraisal (Second Supervisor)

Outreach

Andrea is very happy to give school talks and papers on topics related to Greek Civilisation. He is also impact coordinator for the project Living Poets and will gladly contribute to its further dissemination.

Publications

Authored book

Chapter in book

Journal Article

Book review

Translated Book