Edith Hall (born 1959) is a British scholar of classics, specialising in Ancient Greek Literature and cultural history, and Professor in the Department of Classics and Centre for Hellenic Studies at King's College London. From 2006 until 2011 she held a Chair at Royal Holloway, University of London, where she founded and directed the Centre for the Reception of Greece and Rome until November 2011. She resigned over dispute regarding funding for classics after leading a public campaign, which was successful, to prevent cuts to or the closure of the Royal Holloway Classics department. 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 Stephen Spender Prize for poetry translation. Her prizewinning doctoral thesis was awarded at Oxford. In 2012 she was awarded a Humboldt Research Prize to study ancient Greek theatre in the Black Sea, and in 2014 she was elected to the Academy of Europe.
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Edith Hall studied for a BA degree in Classics & Modern Languages after winning a Major Scholarship to Wadham College, Oxford (awarded with First Class Honours in 1982) and a DPhil degree at St Hugh's College, Oxford (awarded in 1988). She has held posts at the universities of Cambridge, Reading, Oxford and Durham, and visiting chairs at several North American institutions.
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. In February 2014 she appeared on BBC2 Newsnight and recited a newly discovered poem of Sappho in ancient Greek as the credits rolled. Her central research interests are in ancient Greek literature, especially Homer, tragedy, comedy, satyr drama, Ancient Literary Criticism and Rhetoric, Herodotus and Xenophon, although her publications discuss many other ancient authors including Lucian, Plutarch, Artemidorus, Menander, Thucydides, Plato and Aristotle, and other ancient evidence including metre and versification, papyri, vase-paintings and inscriptions. She is also an advocate of a cultural-historical approach to antiquity – studying the ancient world through the way that its culture has informed later epochs, whether in later antiquity or modernity, and whether in fiction, drama, cinema, poetry, political theory, or philosophy. Her research has been influential in three distinct areas: (1) the understanding of the performance of literature in the ancient theatre and its role in society, (2) the representation of ethnicity; (3) the uses made by Classical culture in European education, identity, and political theory.
Ancient 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. Her 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'. Her 2013 book Adventures with Iphigenia in Tauris: A Cultural History of Euripides' Black Sea Tragedy is a detailed history of the impact of an often neglected tragedy by Euripides, covering its presence in vase-painting, Aristotle, Latin poetry, Pompeian murals, Roman imperial sarcophagi and literature including the ancient novel and Lucianic dialogue.
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.
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), and in the essay collection she edited Cultural Responses to the Persian Wars (2007).
Classics and society
In recent years, Hall's research has also incorporated later Cultural History, especially the social role played by the presence of ancient Greece and Rome. Her books in this area include The Return of Ulysses: a Cultural History of Homer's Odyssey (2008, shortlisted for the Criticos Prize), noted for its scholarship and accessibility. This was followed by two collections of essays on ancient slavery and one on the uses and abuses of Greek and Roman texts and ideas in the relationship between India and Britain 1757–2007. A current research project, Classics & Class in Britain 1789–1939, investigates the history of the cultural presence of the ancient Greeks and Romans in social classes and circles outside the elite academy.
- 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)
- Medea in Performance Legenda, (2000)
- 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)
- Agamemnon in Performance (Oxford University Press, 2007)
- 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)
- Reading Ancient Slavery (Bloomsbury, 2010)
- India, Greece and Rome 1757–2007 (Institute of Classical Studies, 2010)
- Ancient Slavery and Abolition (Oxford University Press, 2011)
- Adventures with Iphigenia in Tauris: A Cultural History of Euripides' Black Sea Tragedy (Oxford University Press, 2013)
- Introducing the Ancient Greeks: From Bronze Age Seafarers to Navigators of the Western Mind (W. W. Norton, 2014)
- "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 27 May 2011.
- Ancient Comedy with a Modern Twist: Hilarious Est. The Observer, 25 March 2010.
- Times Literary Supplement, 5557, 2 October 2009.
- All Things Greek: To Hellenic and Back, Newsweek, 19 March 2010.
- Hallie Rebecca Marshall, Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 11 September 2006.
- 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.
- Steve Coates in The New York Times, 22 August 2008
- Edith Hall's Blog The Edithorial
- Edith Hall's Home Page
- APGRD (Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama)
- Edith Hall's AHRC-funded research project Classics & Class in Britain 1789–1939
- Edith Hall's entry on the King's College London website