British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, University of St Andrews

I’ve always been interested in (I’m currently telling myself I’ve always thought about) how literature ducks or dives into the political, and how that happens on the contested ground of the ‘self’. I’ve loitered in a few different corners of Latin literature along the way: from the oblique, allegorized politics of Horace's Ars Poetica, to the narratological alibi of the Roman calendar in Ovid’s Fasti, to the discourse of exile in Juvenal. I like to think in general about what it means to be an author under the Roman principate. My staple is the study of anonymous and pseudonymous texts, but I’m also stubbornly stumped by the question of how one writes a first-person self in ancient literature (and how one might do so in the age of electronic signature).

Right now, I’m polishing my doctoral thesis for publication (Satirist without Qualities: Juvenal and the Poetics of Anonymity) while gritting away in the first phase of a new monograph (The Muted Voice: Authorship, Autocracy and Anonymity in the Early Roman Principate). Both projects are interested in the special magic of the text as a technology of absence and anonymity. In my leisure time, I’m trying to revive Marxist criticism as the only decent approach to Virgil's Georgics, among other things. I’m also dreaming about ambitious and unfeasible longer-term projects such as an alternative literary history of verse satire, which puts the anonymous author front and centre; and a cultural history of modesty and self-effacement.

I’m a big believer in ‘distributed authorship’ and ‘thick textuality’: that is, every piece of writing as a product of an unpredictable chemical reaction between the writing subject, the writing medium, the world, other people, other texts, other ideas, and whatever ambient noise happens to be doing the rounds – but also as an arbitrary moment in an unending metamorphic process. That goes for academic work too. So I’ve tried to help get as many conversations as possible going on, with different voices shattering the echo chamber: a workshop on the critical turn of ‘metapoetics’ (with partner in crime Laura Viidebaum), a bigger conference on authors/readers/texts in imperial literature (‘Triangulationships’ – aiding and abetting Francesca Middleton and Claire Jackson), and an undergraduate summer school on reciprocity in Roman literature (with Heidelberg dream team Martin Stöckinger and Tobias Allendorf). I’m thrilled to continue more in this vein at St Andrews, the tightest of academic communities. I’m especially energised about slotting into ‘Literary Interactions under Nerva, Trajan and Hadrian’, which was crucial in whittling down my current project on anonymity.

I’ll be blogging regularly on the research process behind The Muted Voice (watch this space for url), which I hope will showcase these principles in action.

Experience

  • –present
    British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, University of St Andrews