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Dr Joanna Paul

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Professional biography

I am a Senior Lecturer in Classical Studies, and I joined the Open University in September 2011. Since 2019 I have also been the Open Media Fellow for Arts and Humanities. After an undergraduate degree in Greek and Roman Studies at the University of Birmingham, I studied for my MA and PhD at the University of Bristol, where I developed my research interests in classical reception studies. I joined the OU from the University of Liverpool, where I was a Lecturer in Classical Studies (2006-2009), and then the J.P. Postgate Early Career Fellow in Classics (2009-2011). 

Research interests

My research is concerned with the many different ways in which the modern world receives, engages with, and uses the classical past. I am particularly interested in receptions of antiquity in contemporary popular culture, especially the cinema. My monograph on Film and the Classical Epic Tradition was published by Oxford University Press in 2013, and I have written about films as diverse as Fellini-SatyriconLe MéprisAlexander, Agora, and Pompeii

The ongoing impact of Pompeii and Herculaneum on the cultural imagination continues to be the other main focus of my work, and I am currently investigating the surprising variety of ways in which contemporary music, from prog rock to pop, has found inspiration in this archaeological site. 

I am also developing a new project which explores the relationship between antiquity and gardens in the modern world. Building on my expertise in Latin literature, I am particularly interested in the ways in which Latin texts and other aspects of Greco-Roman myth and culture are incorporated into contemporary garden art, beginning with the work of Ian Hamilton Finlay at Little Sparta.

I supervise PhD students working on a range of classical reception topics, and have recently served as external examiner for projects in Liverpool, Queensland, and Madrid. 

Teaching interests

I am experienced in teaching a wide variety of subjects, including classical reception topics, Latin literature, visual culture, and Roman history. I chaired our Latin module (Classical Latin: the Language of Ancient Rome (A276)) throughout its production and the first years of its presentation, and have contributed materials to all of our other Classical Studies modules. I am currently the Classical Studies lead for our level 1 interdisciplinary module, Cultures (A112), and am convening a block on Ovid and myth in Rome for our new level 3 myth module (A350). 

I am committed to supporting high-quality and innovative teaching across my subject community, and have recently completed a term as Chair of the Education Committee at the Council of University Classical Departments (2018-2021). I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. 

Impact and engagement

My role as Open Media Fellow for Arts and Humanities means I spend much of my time working with colleagues across the faculty, OpenLearn, and Broadcast & Partnerships on a wide variety of broadcast projects for the BBC, and open access resources. These activities play a vital role in bringing the OU’s expertise to the widest possible audience, while also generating materials that support our own teaching and learning. 

Outside this role, I have contributed to DVD documentaries on Alexander and Fellini-Satyricon and appeared on the BBC flagship Newsnight, as well as writing articles for OpenLearn and The Conversation. During my time as co-convener of the Classical Reception Studies Network (2017-19), I lead the redevelopment of our web presence, amongst other activities. I regularly present my research at conferences and seminars both nationally and internationally, and have in recent years been invited to give lectures at Aarhus, Paris, and Freiburg.