Dr Efrossini Spentzou

Personal profile

I am deeply committed to interdisciplinary studies and works at the intersection of Classics with modern critical thought. My first book on the feminine voice in Ovid’s Heroides, considers gendered ways of writing, establishing a dialogue between Ovid’s ancient narrative and French feminist thought, esp. écriture feminine. I am particularly interested in the ways gender and creativity operate against/alongside each other, and have published and edited work on the figure of the ancient Muse and creativity from a feminist perspective.

I completed (with Richard Alston) a monograph on Roman Imperial Subjectivity, a conversation in threads spanning through disparate ancient genres and postmodern philosophical discussions about the self. Reflections of Romanity. Discourses of Subjectivity in an Imperial Age offers a challenge to modernity’s perception of a clear, solid, and natural antiquity in exploring the gentle, gnawing malaise of the individual living in the High Principate, from Nero to Hadrian: a relatively stable and peaceful in military terms age that, however, lost its certainties and the reassurance of common goals, a rather post-modern condition. 

My on-going interests on gender relations, images of the artist and constructions of home and belonging all inform my 2013 book, a study on the politics of love in the Augustan period. That book explores issues of self-image and creativity, home and exile, and gendered power play against the backdrop of (Augustan) political pressure and political unrest.

I also have a sustained engagement with the politics of classics reception, in its European, and especially, Modern Greek literature and context. I have published work on the figure of Helen in modern European politics and aesthetics and in modern Greek feminist poetry. More recently I have turned my attention to the engagement of Yiorgos Seferis and Yiannis Ritsos with the classical past, and especially the role of nostos, the return, in their poetry. This work has grown into a study of constructions of home in modern Greek literature, and a discussion of associated and competing, models of masculinity. I hope to extend the study of locality, travel, exile, and cosmopolitanism in modern literature inspired by classical plots and themes through an international conference I am planning with colleagues from America. My next comparative literature project will be a study of exile and return in the Greek historical novel of the 1990s and 2000s, a corpus of modern Greek quasi-Odysseys, that negotiates the local, national and cosmopolitan to rich effect.

Psychogeography and the multiple ways space is contested and produced underpin a recently completed collaborative project with William Fitzgerald on The Production of Space in Latin Literature, which is now in Press and due to be published in 2018. 

My current project expands on an on-going engagement with issues of human and cultural space in classical literature. The focus here is on borderspaces and encounters, the in-between spaces where subjects face up to the intimacy of the other. A first attempt at fleshing this out comes with a re-reading of Eurydice and Byblis in Ovid’s Metamorphoses through the feminist art and cirtical thought of the Israeli-born artist and psychoanalyst Bracha Ettinger. In developing an ‘encounter’ between Ettinger and Ovid, I explore issues of representation, identity, and failure in Ovid. This is a conversation that both illuminates the fluidity of the Ovidian conceptions of the self (in relation to the social) and offers a new perspective of Ettinger’s matrixial, non-possessive, always evolving 'part-subject'.

Porous borders and borderline identities is the topic of a bigger book-length study in the making that seeks to highlight fluid identities-in-conflict and in fusion in a series of contemporary (20th and 21st century) rewiritings of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The project will look into poetry, theatre, film, musical, art, even a graphic novel, where the ancient tale encounters figures as diverse as girl refugees in limbo, female authors and male publishers, prima donnas and theatre directors, women starting again after divorce, boys and girls in the favelas of Brazil and many others.

My teaching ranges across Latin and Greek literature and myth and their reception, at both BA and MA level. I have supervised, and particularly welcome, PhD students interested in forging new ways of setting antiquity (esp. as reflected in Latin literature) in dialogue with modernity.

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