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Staff Profile

Dr Edmund Richardson

Contact Dr Edmund Richardson (email at edmund.richardson@durham.ac.uk)

I’m interested in how people relate to the past - and the fragility and wonder of those relationships.

My research is on cultural history and the afterlives of the ancient world: from medieval tales of Alexander the Great (where he visits the land of giant spiders and courts the Queen of the Amazons), to Greek drama on the Broadway stage. I'm fascinated by characters on the edges of many histories: the prophet who couldn’t get the end of the world right. The headmaster who bludgeoned his wife to death, then sat wearily back down to his Latin. The con-artist turned famous archaeologist.

I was named one of the AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinkers for 2016-17 - one of ten academics selected to work with the BBC to develop programs based on their research. I've broadcast on everything from Victorian ghost-hunters to the search for Alexander the Great's tomb. I'm always more than happy to speak to schools and other external groups - about topics from Alexander the Great's lost cities to Victorian con-artists. You can read an interview with the AHRC about my work here, and one with the Guardian here.

I'm currently Director of the Durham Centre for Classical Reception, which aims to promote the interdisciplinary study of the afterlives of ancient Greece and Rome.

I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, interested in topics related to Classical Reception. I'm currently working with:

  • Seren Nolan, one of the Durham Leverhulme Doctoral Scholars, as her primary PhD supervisor for a project on the image of the Roman matrona in the long eighteenth century.
  • Maddalena Ruini, as her primary PhD supervisor, on a project which uses Gladstone's (in)famous Homeric scholarship to explore the role of time and history in nineteenth century Britain.
  • Blaz Zabel, as his primary PhD supervisor, on a project entitled 'Homeric Epic and World Literature: A Comparative Study of Method'.
  • Emily Dunn, as her second PhD supervisor on a project which explores the uncanny intersections between cremation and the ancient world, in the nineteenth century.
  • Thomas Couldridge, as his second PhD supervisor on a project entitled 'A Sculptural Renaissance: Competing Classicisms in Visual Culture of the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, c. 1870-1920'.

Before joining the Department as a Lecturer in 2013, I was Hannah Seeger Davis Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Princeton, in the Program in Hellenic Studies (2009-10), Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Durham (2010-12) and Lecturer at the University of Leeds (2012-13). I completed my Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge (2008).

Cambridge University Press published my first book, Classical Victorians: Scholars, Scoundrels & Generals in Pursuit of Antiquity, as the inaugural title in their new Classics After Antiquity series. Victorian Britain set out to make the ancient world its own - and this is the story of how it failed. It is the story of the embittered classical prodigy who turned to gin and opium, the general who longed to be an Homeric hero - and the virtuoso forger who tricked the greatest scholars of the age. Classical Victorians was longlisted for the Criticos Prize in 2013 - reviews include Common Knowledge, Notes & QueriesJournal of Hellenic Studies and Journal of Roman Studies.

Bloomsbury published my edited volume, Classics in Extremis, in late 2018. Classics in Extremis reimagines classical reception. Its contributors explore some of the most remarkable, hard-fought and unsettling claims ever made on the ancient world: from the coal-mines of England to the paradoxes of Borges, from Victorian sexuality to the trenches of the First World War to contemporary right-wing politics. How does the reception of the ancient world change under impossible strain? Its protagonists are 'marginal' figures who resisted that definition in the strongest terms. Contributors argue for a decentered model of classical reception: where the 'marginal' shapes the 'central' as much as vice versa – and where the most unlikely appropriations of antiquity often have the greatest impact. What kind of distortions does the model of 'centre' and 'margins' produce? How can 'marginal' receptions be recovered most effectively? Bringing together some of the leading scholars in the field, Classics in Extremis moves beyond individual case studies to develop fresh methodologies and perspectives on the study of classical reception.

My current research project, Alexandrias, tracks the search for Alexander the Great and the cities he founded, from Egypt to Afghanistan. The ways in which these Alexandrias were sought and recovered, it will argue, challenge current perspectives on the development of historiography and archaeology, and Alexander’s influence on later cultures. Alexandrias argues that error and misdirection – sometimes parasitical on equally false and elusive ancient material – can be engines of knowledge. It explores how the relationships between later cultures and the ancient world have been shaped by the awareness of loss; by the presence of what cannot be recalled. It asks whether history’s goal should truly be to remember everything – or should it sometimes let itself (in the manner of John Donne) be ‘re-begot / Of absence, darkness, death; things which are not’?

Research Interests

  • Classical Reception Studies
  • Alexander the Great
  • Historiography
  • Tragedy and Performance

Publications

Authored book

  • Richardson, E. (2013). Classical Victorians: Scholars, Scoundrels and Generals in Pursuit of Antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Chapter in book

  • Richardson, E. (2017). Classics and the Victorians. In Oxford Bibliographies. Classics. Clayman, Dee L. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Richardson, E. (2016). Ghostwritten Classics. In Deep Classics: Rethinking Classical Reception. Butler, S. London New York: Bloomsbury Academic. 221-238.
  • Richardson, E. (2016). The Emperor’s Caesar: Napoleon III, Karl Marx and the History of Julius Caesar. In Graeco-Roman Antiquity and the Idea of Nationalism in the 19th Century. Fögen, Thorsten & Warren, Richard Berlin: De Gruyter. 113-130.
  • Richardson, E. (2015). Political Writing and Class. In The Oxford History of Classical Reception in English Literature, Volume 4: 1780-1880. Vance, N. & Wallace, J. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 103-129.
  • Richardson, E. (2015). The Harmless Impudence of a Revolutionary: Radical Classics in 1850s London. In Greek and Roman Classics in the British Struggle for Social Reform. Stead, H. & Hall, E. London: Bloomsbury. 79-98.
  • Richardson, Edmund (2013). Of Doubtful Antiquity. In From Plunder to Preservation: Britain and the Heritage of Empire, c.1800-1940. Swenson, A. & Mandler, P. Oxford University Press.
  • Richardson, E. (2007). Jude the Obscure: Oxford's Classical Outcasts. In Oxford Classics. Stray, C. Duckworth.

Edited book

  • Richardson, E. (2018). Classics in Extremis: The Edges of Classical Reception. Bloomsbury.

Journal Article

  • Richardson, E. (2013). Mr Masson and the lost cities: a Victorian journey to the edges of remembrance. Classical Receptions Journal 5(1): 84-105.
  • Richardson, E. (2013). Review of G.S. Aldrete, A. Aldrete, The Long Shadow of Antiquity. What Have the Greeks and Romans Done for Us? (London and New York: Continuum, 2012). The Classical Review 63(02): 615.
  • Richardson, E. (2012). Nothing’s Lost Forever. Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics 20(2): 19-48.
  • Richardson, E. (2010). Review of J. M. Gutierrez Arranz, The Cycle of Troy in Geoffrey Chaucer: Tradition and "Moralitee" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009). Bryn Mawr Classical Review (2010.05.29).
  • Richardson, E. (2010). Review of W. Cook & J. Tatum, African American writers and classical tradition (Chicago, 2010). Bryn Mawr Classical Review (2010.08.63).
  • Richardson, E. (2005). Re-living the apocalypse: Robinson Jeffers' Medea. International Journal of the Classical Tradition 11(3): 369-382.
  • Richardson, E. (2003). A Conjugal Lesson: Robert Brough’s Medea and the discourses of mid-Victorian Britain. Ramus 32(1): 57-83.

Supervises