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Dr Christine Plastow

Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Lecturer in Classical Studies
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Art His, Class St, Eng&CW, Mus
  • Classical Studies
  • christine.plastow

Professional biography

I began my career as an undergraduate at Royal Holloway, University of London, where I studied English Literature and Classical Studies. I then moved to the University of Bristol for a Masters in Classics and Ancient History, before ending up at University College London, where I wrote my PhD on ‘Athenian Homicide Rhetoric in Context’ under the supervision of Chris Carey. While at UCL, I worked as a teaching assistant in Greek and Latin, and a tutor in the UCL Writing Lab. I joined the Open University in 2017 as a Lecturer in Classical Studies.

Research interests

My research focuses primarily on Athenian forensic oratory and law, as well as Athenian oratory more broadly. My PhD thesis examined the distinctive role of homicide in Athenian law and culture, and explored how this distinctiveness played out in rhetoric in four pertinent areas: Athenian ideology, religious pollution, relevance, and the twin issues of motivation and intent. I am currently in the process of transforming this thesis into a book entitled Homicide in the Attic Orators: Rhetoric, Ideology, and Context. One aspect that arose from this study was the importance of location in defining appropriate content for rhetoric; interesting distinctions could be seen between homicide rhetoric delivered in the homicide courts, and that delivered in the popular courts. This observation informed my next project, which will look at space and place in Athenian oratory more broadly. This project has begun with a case study on the functioning of space and place as related to identity in Antiphon 5.

In my approach to the subjects of law and forensic oratory, I endeavour to view the two as symbiotic. I believe that we cannot examine aspects of law which appear in the forensic speeches without considering the rhetorical factors which may influence them; similarly, we should not attempt to read forensic speeches without some knowledge of the laws which underpinned their delivery. More generally, I am interested in the importance of viewing works of Athenian oratory not as texts but as speeches, with an emphasis on the act, moment, and location of delivery, and the influence these can have on the original audience’s and our own understanding of their content. Regarding Athenian law, my approach is neither wholly that of ‘law and society’ nor of the rule of law, but rather a combination of the two: I argue that the writing of laws should not be taken out of its societal context, as this may tell us much about wider society, but that the courts are more than a ground for simple social contest between participants, with law holding a certain power of its own.  

Besides these primary research interests, I am interested in classical reception, and particularly receptions of Greek drama in the 20th and 21st centuries; I focus on how aspects of the ancient theatrical experience can be echoed in modern performance. As such, I act as research and education co-ordinator for the London-based By Jove Theatre Company; as a company, we stage new versions of old stories, with a particular focus on Greek drama. I also maintain research interests in translation theory and feminist theory in Classics.

Teaching interests

I am on the module teams for Reading Classical Greek: Language and Literature (A275) and MA Classical Studies part 2 (A864). I am also on the production team for the new module, Exploring the Classical World. I particularly enjoy teaching Greek language, and have done so many time in the past, both at university and privately, as well as teaching Latin. I have also really enjoyed teaching seminars on Athenian Law and lectures on Greek history.

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