Edith Hall (born 1959) is a British scholar of classics and cultural history and professor of Classics at King's College London. From 2006 until 2011 she held a Research Chair at Royal Holloway, University of London, where she directed the Centre for the Reception of Greece and Rome until November 2011, when she resigned over dispute regarding funding for classics. She also co-founded and is Consultant Director of the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama at Oxford University, Chairman of the Gilbert Murray Trust, and Judge on the Times Stephen Spender Prize for poetry translation. Her prizewinning doctoral thesis was awarded at Oxford.
Edith Hall studied for a BA degree in Classics & Modern Languages at Wadham College, Oxford (awarded in 1982) and a DPhil degree at St Hugh's College, Oxford (awarded in 1988). She held posts at the universities of Cambridge, Reading, Oxford and Durham, and visiting chairs at several North American institutions, before taking up her post at Royal Holloway.
Known for her humorous style of lecturing, Hall has made many television and radio appearances as well as acting as consultant for professional theatre productions by the National Theatre, Shakespeare's Globe, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Live Theatre in Newcastle, and Theatercombinat in Germany. She is an advocate of ‘Classical Reception’ – studying the ancient world through the way that its culture has been received by later epochs, whether in fiction, drama, cinema, poetry, political theory, or philosophy. Her research has been influential in three distinct areas: (1) the representation of ethnicity; (2) the social and ideological role played by theatre (especially Greek tragedy) in both the ancient and modern worlds; (3) the uses made by Classical culture in European education, identity, and political theory.
Representation of ethnicity
Hall’s first monograph, Inventing the Barbarian (1989), argued that ancient European identity relied on the stereotyping as ‘other’ of an Asiatic enemy. Her argument that ancient ideas about ethnicity underlie modern questions of nationalism, racism and ethnic self-determination has been extremely influential in Classics, and regarded as ‘seminal’ by scholars in other fields. This work was developed in her scholarly commentary on the Greek text of Aeschylus’ Persians, with English translation (1996).
Theatre and society
Several of her books argue that theatre history plays an important role in intellectual and cultural history, especially because entertainments reach lower-status audiences. These include Greek and Roman Actors (2002, with Professor Pat Easterling), and The Theatrical Cast of Athens (2006), which incorporates a revisiting of Inventing the Barbarian in the light of developments in international history since 1989. New Directions in Ancient Pantomime (2008), the first study of the balletic performance of mythological narratives which educated mass audiences across the ancient Mediterranean world for several centuries, was praised by D. Feeney, Prof. of Latin at Princeton University, as ‘indispensable for all students of the Roman Empire.’
When a lecturer at Oxford in 1996 she co-founded, with Oliver Taplin, the interdisciplinary APGRD (Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama). The project collects and analyses materials related to the staging and influence of classical plays. The project’s ten co-edited volumes, of which Hall is lead editor of seven and contributor to nine, have been described as playing ‘a pivotal role in establishing the parameters and methodologies of the study of the reception of Classical drama in performance’. The most substantial book to emerge from the project is the 220,000-word Greek Tragedy and the British Theatre 1660-1914, co-authored with Fiona Macintosh, which in 2006 was shortlisted for both the Theatre Society Book of the Year Prize (2006), the J.D. Criticos prize and the Runciman Prize.
Classics and society
In recent years, the emphasis of Hall's research has moved into Cultural History, especially the social role played by the presence of ancient Greece and Rome. In 2007 she opened the Centre for the Reception of Greece and Rome at Royal Holloway, University of London. Here the research focuses on the bridges between modernity and Mediterranean antiquity, especially in relation to citizenship and identity. The centre has held conferences exploring British Imperialism and the Classics in India 1757-2007, on Ancient Slavery and 19th-century Abolition, on Trips to the Moon from Lucian to modern Science Fiction, Classics and Thought in France, and Classics and Social Class. The centre’s first publication was Hall’s monograph The Return of Ulysses: a Cultural History of Homer’s Odyssey (2008, shortlisted for the Criticos Prize), noted for its scholarship and accessibility. Her most recent book, Greek Tragedy: Suffering under the Sun, argues that Greek tragedy is a deeply philosophical medium, includes an essay on every surviving ancient Greek tragedy and has been described as ‘admirably exhaustive’.
- Inventing the Barbarian: Greek Self-Definition through Tragedy (OUP, 1989)
- Sophocles’ Antigone, Oedipus the King, Electra (OUP, 1994)
- Aeschylus’ Persians: Edited with Translation and Commentary (1996)
- Dionysus since 69: Greek Tragedy at the Dawn of the Third Millennium (2004)
- Greek Tragedy and the British Theatre 1660-1914 (2005, with Fiona Macintosh)
- The Theatrical Cast of Athens: Interactions between Ancient Greek Drama & Society (2006)
- Cultural Responses to the Persian Wars (OUP, 2007)
- Aristophanes in Performance (Legenda, 2007)
- The Return of Ulysses: A Cultural History of Homer’s Odyssey (2007)
- New Directions in Ancient Pantomime (2008, with Rosie Wyles)
- Sophocles and the Greek Tragic Tradition (CUP, 2009, with Simon Goldhill)
- Greek Tragedy: Suffering Under the Sun (OUP, 2010)
- Theorising Performance (Duckworth, 2010)
- "King's College London - Professor Edith Hall". kcl.ac.uk. 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
- Thorpe, Vanessa; Boffey, Daniel (26 November, 2011). "Professor Edith Hall, one of Britain's top classicists, quits in row over university budget cuts | Education | The Observer". The Guardian (London: GMG). ISSN 0261-3077. OCLC 60623878. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
- "Published Books". http://www.edithhall.co.uk. Retrieved 14 December 2011. "Hellenic Foundation Prize for the best doctoral thesis in ancient Greek studies."
- "Edith Hall: Curriculum Vitae, July 2008". The Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama. University of Oxford, UK. Retrieved May 27, 2011.
- Ancient Comedy with a Modern Twist: Hilarious Est. The Observer, 25 March 2010.
- Paul A. Cartledge, The Greeks: A Portrait of Self and Others. Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 3 March 1994.
- A. Merrills ‘Monks, Monsters, and Barbarians: Re-Defining the African Periphery in Late Antiquity’, Journal of Early Christian Studies, 12, 217-44.
- Tom Holland in The Guardian, 17 December 2005.
- Times Literary Supplement, 5557, 2 October 2009.
- Hallie Rebecca Marshall, Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 11 September 2006.
- Steve Coates in The New York Times, 22 August 2008
- All Things Greek: To Hellenic and Back, Newsweek, 19 March 2010.
- Edith Hall's Blog The Edithorial
- Edith Hall's Home Page
- Edith Hall CV
- APGRD (Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama)
- Royal Holloway Department of Classics
- The Centre for the Reception of Greece and Rome