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Dr James Robson

James Robson photo

Profile summary

  • Head of School
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Art His, Class St, Eng&CW, Mus
  • Classical Studies
  • james.robson

Professional biography

My classical career began with a degree in Greek and Roman Studies at Exeter, followed by postgraduate work at King’s College London, where I completed a PhD on humour and obscenity in the works of the Greek comic playwright, Aristophanes. Since arriving at the OU in 2000, I have been involved in the production of a number of the department’s courses, with the bulk of my work centring on fifth-century Greece and our Latin and Greek language modules.

I am currently Head of the School of Arts and Cultures.

Research interests

A major strand of my research concerns the Greek comic playwright Aristophanes, especially the humour and sexuality of his plays and their translation into English. More recently I have been looking at sex and sexuality in classical Athenian society in general and concepts of beauty and sex appeal in particular as well as male prostitution in classical Athens.

I have previously supervised a number of PhD students working on classical Greek literary, cultural and linguistic topics.



Jointly with M. Masterson and N. S. Rabinowitz (eds), Sex in Antiquity: Reconsidering Gender and Sexuality in the Ancient World, Routledge

Sex and Sexuality in Classical Athens, Debates and Documents in Ancient History, Edinburgh University Press

Jointly with Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones: Ctesias’ History of Persia: Tales of the Orient, Routledge

Aristophanes: An Introduction, Duckworth (shortlisted for the Runciman Award, 2010)

Humour, Obscenity and Aristophanes, Gunter Narr. See this text online at Google books.

Jointly with F. McHardy and D. Harvey (eds), Lost Dramas of Classical Athens: Greek Tragic Fragments, University of Exeter Press

Articles and Book Chapters

‘Humouring the masses: The Theatre Audience and the Highs and Lows of Aristophanic Comedy’, in L. Grig (ed.), Popular Culture in the Ancient World, Cambridge University Press, 66-87

'Aristophanes, Gender and Sexuality', in P. Walsh (ed.), Brill's Companion to the Reception of Aristophanes, Brill, 44-66

'The Frogs and Thesmophoriazusae', in A. Singh (ed.), Causeries, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, NL, 154-66

Jointly with Mark Masterson, 'The Book and its Influence', preface to the re-issue of K. J. Dover, Greek Homosexuality, Bloomsbury, xv-xxvii

‘Fantastic Sex: Fantasies of Sexual Assault in Aristophanes’, in M. Masterson, N. S. Rabinowitz and J. Robson (eds), Sex in Antiquity: Reconsidering Gender and Sexuality in the Ancient World, Routledge, 315-31

'Slipping One In: The Introduction of Obscene Lexical Items in Aristophanes’, S. D. Olson (ed.), Ancient Comedy and Reception: Essays in Honor of Jeffrey Henderson, de Gruyter, 29-50

'The Language(s) of Love in Aristophanes', E. Sanders, C. Thumiger, C. Carey and N. J. Lowe (eds), Erôs in Ancient Greece, Oxford University Press, 251-66

‘Beauty and Sex Appeal in Aristophanes’, EuGeStA (Journal on Gender Studies in Antiquity) 3: 43-66 [PDF available online]

'Transposing Aristophanes: The Theory and Practice of Translating Aristophanic Lyric', Greece & Rome 59: 214-44

‘Friends and Foes: The People of Lysistrata’, D. Stuttard (ed.), Looking at Lysistrata, Duckworth, 49-60

‘Lost in Translation? The Problem of (Aristophanic) Humour’, L. Hardwick and C. Stray (eds), A Companion to Classical Receptions, Blackwell, 168-82

‘Catullus 22: Suffenus iste – A Catullan Riddle?’, Classica et Mediaevalia 58: 209-14

‘Self and Society in Classical Athens’, P. Perkins (ed.), Experiencing the Classical World, Open University, 86-109

‘Aristophanes on How to Write Tragedy: What You Wear is What You Are’, F. McHardy, J. Robson and D. Harvey (eds), Lost Dramas of Classical Athens: Greek Tragic Fragments, University of Exeter Press, 173-188

‘New Clothes, A New You: Clothing and Character in Aristophanes’, L. Cleland, L. Llewellyn-Jones and M. Harlow (eds), The Clothed Body in the Ancient World, Oxbow, 65-74

‘Bestiality and Bestial Rape in Greek Myth’, S. Deacy and K. Pearce (eds), Rape in Antiquity, Duckworth, 65-96

Teaching and Pedagogy

‘Bridging the Divide: Innovations in Language Teaching at the Open University’, Bulletin of the Council of University Classical Departments 39 (2010) 11-14 [PDF available online]

‘Editorial’, Journal of Classics Teaching 13 (spring): 1 [Guest editorship of themed issue on Adult Education]

Reading Greek: Grammar and Exercises, Cambridge University Press: Revisions to Sections 3-9 for 2nd edition: 54-209

Jointly with Jeremy Taylor: ‘Greek and Latin Web Resources at the Open University’, Journal of Classics Teaching 10 (spring): 29-30

‘“Night was departing …”: Using Translations in Post-Beginners’ Language Teaching’, Different Lights, Different Hands (LTSN Subject Centre for History, Classics, Archaeology, 26 January 2002), D. Fitzpatrick and L. Hardwick (eds), Open University, 85-100

‘Commentaries and Post-beginners’ Language Learning’, Old Wine, New Bottles: Texts for Classics in a Changed Learning Environment at University: Proceedings of the Teaching and Learning with Texts, Commentaries and Translations Colloquium (LTSN Subject Centre for History, Classics, Archaeology, 26 January 2002), D. Fitzpatrick, L. Hardwick, S. Ireland and D. Montserrat (eds), Open University, 51-60 

Shorter Articles and Outreach

Entry on 'Aristophanes', in J. Burgess, E. Kneebone, V. Liapis and L. Swift (eds), The Literary Encyclopedia, Volume 1.1.1: Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Imperial Greek Writing and Culture, 800-100 B.C.E. [read this online]

'Greek Homosexuality for Millennials', ARGO: A Hellenic Review 4: 4-5

'The Truth about Sex in Ancient Greece', The Conversation 1/4/15 [read this online]

‘Classical Comedy was Just as Risqué as Rik Mayall', London Evening Standard, 17/6/14 [read this online]

Entries on ‘Grotesque Character(s)’ and ‘Tragicomedy in Tragedy’ in H. Roisman (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Greek Tragedy, Blackwell

‘Good and Bad Comedy in Aristophanes’ Clouds’, Omnibus 60 (September 2010) 16-18

‘The Ancient Greeks were the True Masters of Obscenity’, London Evening Standard, 25/11/09 [read this online]

‘Humour, Translation and Aristophanes’ Wasps’, Omnibus 52 (September 2006) 32-3

‘Translating Aristophanes’ Humour’, Journal of Classics Teaching 2 (summer) 3-5


Entries on 'Humour and Laughter, Theories of', 'Lampito', 'Translations' and 'Wordplay', in A. H. Sommerstein (ed.), Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Greek Comedy, Wiley-Blackwell

Jointly with E-J Graham, 'Classics Online at the Open University: Teaching and Learning with Interactive Resources', in A. Holmes-Henderson, M. Musié and S. Hunt (eds), Forward with Classics!: Classical Languages in Schools and Communities, Bloomsbury

'Whoring, Gaping and Hiding Meat: The Humour of Male-on-Male Sexual Insults in Aristophanes' Knights', Archimède 5

See also Open Research Online for further details of James Robson’s research publications.

Teaching interests

I have written teaching materials on various aspects of the ancient world, including the Athenian Acropolis and Aristophanes’ Lysistrata (for A219, Exploring the Classical World) and Homer’s Iliad (A105, Voices, Texts and Material Culture). On the language side, I led the team which produced A275, Reading Classical Greek: Language and Literature and have previously chaired a number of Greek and Latin language modules. I also formed part of the teams that produced the MA in Classical Studies and A276 Classical Latin: The Language of Ancient Rome.

My contribution to our classical languages profile was formally recognized in 2006 by an Open University Teaching Award.

I regularly give talks on pedagogy and the teaching of ancient languages and am particularly interested in the use of new technology to support the learning of Latin and Ancient Greek.  In 2014 co-organized a conference at the OU on this topic: iLatin and eGreek: Ancient Languages and New Technology.



Research Activity

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Greek and Latin Texts ClusterClusterFaculty of Arts


Beauty and sex appeal in Aristophanes (2013)
Robson, James
EuGeStA: Journal on Gender Studies in Antiquity, 3 (pp. 43-66)
Transposing Aristophanes: the theory and practice of translating Aristophanic lyric (2012-10)
Robson, James
Greece & Rome, 59(2) (pp. 214-244)
Catullus 22: Suffenus iste – A Catullan Riddle? (2007)
Robson, James
Classica et Mediaevalia, 58 (pp. 209-214)
Sex and Sexuality in Classical Athens (2013-10-01)
Robson, James
Debates and Documents
ISBN : 9780748634132 | Publisher : Edinburgh University Press | Published : Edinburgh
Ctesias' History of Persia: Tales of the Orient (2009-11-30)
Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd and Robson, James
Routledge Classical Translations
ISBN : 978-0415364119 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon, Oxon
Aristophanes: An Introduction (2009)
Robson, James
ISBN : 978-0715634523 | Publisher : Duckworth | Published : London
Humour, obscenity and Aristophanes (2006)
Robson, James
Drama - studien zum antiken drama und seiner rezeption
ISBN : 3823362208 | Publisher : Gunter Narr Verlag | Published : Tuebingen, Germany
Humouring the masses: The Theatre Audience and the Highs and Lows of Aristophanic Comedy (2017)
Robson, James
In: Grig, Lucy ed. Popular Culture in the Ancient World (pp. 66-87)
ISBN : 978-1-107-07489-7 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press | Published : Cambridge
The Frogs and Thesmophoriazusae (2016)
Robson, James
In: Singh, Alexandre ed. Causeries (pp. 154-166)
ISBN : 978-94-91435-46-1 | Publisher : Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art | Published : Rotterdam, Netherlands
Aristophanes, Gender and Sexuality (2016)
Robson, James
In: Walsh, Philip ed. Brill's Companion to the Reception of Aristophanes. Brill's Companions to Classical Reception (pp. 44-66)
ISBN : 9789004270688 | Publisher : Brill | Published : Leiden and Boston
Foreword: The Book and its Influence (2016)
Masterson, Mark and Robson, James
In: Dover, K. J. ed. Greek Homosexuality (3rd edition) (xv-xxvii)
ISBN : 978-1-4742-5715-2 | Publisher : Bloomsbury | Published : London
Fantastic sex: fantasies of sexual assault in Aristophanes (2014-12-18)
Robson, James
In: Masterson, Mark; Rabinowitz, Nancy Sorkin and Robson, James eds. Sex in Antiquity: Exploring Gender and Sexuality in the Ancient World. Rewriting Antiquity (pp. 315-331)
ISBN : 9780415519410 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon
Slipping one in: the introduction of obscene lexical items in Aristophanes (2013-12)
Robson, James
In: Olson, S. Douglas ed. Ancient Comedy and Reception: Essays in Honor of Jeffrey Henderson (pp. 29-50)
ISBN : 978-1-61451-166-3 | Publisher : De Gruyter | Published : Berlin
The language(s) of love in Aristophanes (2013-01-31)
Robson, James
In: Sanders, Ed.; Thumiger, Chiara; Carey, Christopher and Lowe , Nick eds. Eros in Ancient Greece (pp. 251-266)
ISBN : 9780199605507 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford
Friends and foes: the people of Lysistrata (2010)
Robson, James
In: Stuttard, David ed. Looking at Lysistrata (pp. 49-60)
ISBN : 978-1853997365 | Publisher : Duckworth | Published : London
Lost in Translation? The problem of (Aristophanic) humour (2007-12)
Robson, James
In: Hardwick, Lorna and Stray, Christopher eds. A Companion to Classical Receptions. Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World (pp. 168-182)
ISBN : 9781405151672 | Publisher : Blackwell Publishing | Published : Oxford, UK
Aristophanes on how to write tragedy: what you wear is what you are (2005-07-10)
Robson, James
In: McHardy, Fiona; Robson, James and Harvey, David eds. Lost dramas of classical Athens: Greek tragic fragments (pp. 171-186)
ISBN : 859897524 | Publisher : Exeter University Press | Published : Exeter, UK
New clothes, a new you: clothing and character in Aristophanes (2005)
Robson, James
In: Cleland, Liza; Harlow, Mary and Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd eds. The Clothed Body in the Ancient World (pp. 65-74)
ISBN : 1 84217 165 8 | Publisher : Oxbow Books | Published : Oxford, UK
'Night was departing ...': using translations in post-beginners' language teaching (2004)
Robson, James
In: Fitzpatrick, David ed. Different lights, different hands: working with translations in classics and ancient history at university (pp. 85-100)
ISBN : 749296569 | Publisher : The Open University | Published : Milton Keynes, UK
Commentaries and post-beginners' language teaching (2002)
Robson, James
In: Fitzpatrick, David; Hardwick, Lorna; Ireland, Stanley and Montserrat, Dominic eds. Old wine, new bottles: texts for classics in a changed learning environment at university (pp. 51-60)
ISBN : 0 7492 9613 5 | Publisher : The Open University | Published : Milton Keynes, UK
Bestiality and Bestial Rape in Greek Myth (1997)
Robson, James
In: Deacy, S and Pearce, K eds. Rape in Antiquity: Sexual Violence in the Greek and Roman Worlds (pp. 65-96)
ISBN : 0-7156-2754-6 | Publisher : Duckworth | Published : London
Sex in Antiquity: Exploring Gender and Sexuality in the Ancient World (2015)
Masterson, Mark; Rabinowitz, Nancy Sorkin and Robson, James eds.
Rewriting Antiquity
ISBN : 978-0-415-51941-0 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon, New York

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