Departmental Research Interests

The research clusters below demonstrate how we take advantage of the unique, interdisciplinary nature of the department.  More detailed information on faculty research interests can be found by viewing their profiles.

Texts, Objects and Context

Our faculty take an interdisciplinary approach to studying the social and historical contexts of ancient texts and material culture.

Florence Yoon is exploring what heralds and diplomats in Greek literature can tell us about ancient construction of identity. C. W. Marshall has published widely on issues of stagecraft and performance in Greece and Rome, paying particular attention to the demands on ancient actors and how masks work. He is also interested in performance traditions, such as genre, dating, literary allusion, and fragmentary plays. Franco De Angelis combines text and material culture, adopting a cross-cultural, theoretical, and comparative approach to the study of Ancient Greek world history.

Leanne Bablitz studies Roman law in daily life and is interested in the participants and environment of the Roman courtroom. She is currently working on Tacitus’ depiction of trials and artistic representations of legal scenes. Katharine Huemoeller specializes in the sexual dimension of Roman slavery and is working on a social history of Roman concepts of property and the ways in which ownership was informed by gender and status.

Sara Milstein is disentangling the clashes of perspective lodged within biblical and Mesopotamian narratives, with the aim of finding fresh ways to read and interpret this heavily reworked literature. Gregg Gardner, Diamond Chair in Jewish Law and Ethics, specializes in classical rabbinic literature – texts from late antiquity (e.g. Talmud and Midrashim) that constitute the foundations of all subsequent Jewish thought. He is especially interested in concepts of wealth, poverty and philanthropy in these texts. Dr. Gardner also studies the material culture and archaeology of Jews and Judaism in Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine Palestine. Matthew McCarty is developing a framework to study Roman religion through its material remains, seeking to understand beliefs through the study of ‘things’ and not just texts. Thomas Schneider is interested in the possible impact of the materiality of Egyptian papyri on the composition of the Hebrew Bible texts.

G. Anthony Keddie researches class rhetoric in Judaean apocalyptic texts of early Roman Palestine and the influence of the first generation of Jesus followers. He looks at the literary and archaeological evidence for institutional economic change in Roman PalestineRobert Cousland has published on the apocryphal writings of Judaeo-Christian tradition, including the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Lives of Adam and Eve. He is also an expert in theories of myth, particularly Greek religion and mythology.

Kevin Fisher is part of a the Kalavasos and Maroni Built Environments Project (KAMBE), a collaborative and interdisciplinary investigation of the relationship between urban landscapes, social interaction, and social change. KAMBE looks at the transformation of a Bronze Age site on Cyprus from insular village society to an urban society with international contacts. Dr. Fisher also collaborates on the Computational Research on the Ancient Near East project (CRANE), which seeks to shed light on the rise and development of complex societies in the Near East. This research will also provide insight into a number of pressing contemporary issues, including the ecological impact of human activities, the impacts of climate change, the long-term health consequences of human dietary practices and subsistence strategies, and the role of cultural conflict in affecting social and political change.

Reception, Interpretation and Translation

Many faculty members are interested in how the modern world understands and relates to its past.  Siobhán McElduff and Susanna Braund have both published widely on issues of translation, taken in its narrow and broader senses. Dr. McElduff is working on a monograph on “cheap classics” and the working classes of 18th and 19th century Ireland, England and Scotland Dr. Braund is completing a book project on the cultural history of translations of Virgil, considering dozens of languages and geographical regions from the twelfth century to the present day. C. W. Marshall has published on representations of Greece and Rome in popular culture, including comics and contemporary American television (including the series Battlestar Galactica and The Wire). He is  currently researching the plays of Thomas Heywood, a contemporary of Shakespeare, whose works provide a dynamic point of reception of classical literature. Michael Griffin works on the philosophical and historical relevance of exegetical debates of later antiquity on the works of Plato and Aristotle.

Lisa Cooper researches the history of archaeological exploration in Greater Mesopotamia, especially the life and work of Gertrude Bell, a rare female archaeologist working in the Middle East at the turn of the 20th century. Thomas Schneider researches German Egyptology under the Nazis. Franco De Angelis is working on a project that connects Old World antiquity and New World North America, studying how the exploration and settlement of the New World allowed Europeans to understand their past and imagine their futures.

Connectivity and Diversity

Much of our faculty’s research touches on issues of cultural connections, integrations, and diversity. Franco De Angelis is interested in migrations, diasporas, economics, and regional identities in the Ancient Greek world. He is currently researching and rethinking cultural transfers in the pre-Roman western Mediterranean to develop a more nuanced picture of early Greek and Phoenician activity in this region.

Lisa Cooper‘s excavations at Bestansur, a 7th century BCE site in Iraqi Kurdistan, seek to document the Neo-Assyrian imperial presence, or lack thereof, through the site’s material culture, and to clarify the particular social-cultural identities that may have been present at the settlement during this period. Matthew McCarty uses archaeological evidence to examine how the expansion of the Roman Empire changed (or did not change) other religious systems in the Mediterranean. He is currently working on the Apulum Roman Villas Project, excavations at a rural site in modern Transylvania, looking at the processes of formation, development and disintegration of villa socio-economic systems in Dacia.

Many of our faculty employ cross-cultural evidence. For example, Dr. McCarty is interested in comparisons between Rome and Qin/Han China and C.W. Marshall draws on models of exploitation in modern Southeast Asia to examine the role of sex slaves in New Comedy.

Digital Humanities

Our department continues to develop its expertise in the application of digital approaches to studying the past. Siobhán McElduff and Kevin Fisher are on the steering committee of the Digital Salon initiative, which is bringing together researchers from across the Humanities and Social Sciences at UBC, UBC Okanagan, and Simon Fraser University. Dr. McElduff’s research includes open source text books and improving optical character recognition for 18th and 19th century documents – the latter forms part of a project on gathering better economic data for the history of classical reception. One of her projects, Temple of the Muses, is a database of the works of what was the biggest and cheapest bookstore in the world in 18th and 19th century London.

Dr. Fisher’s Kalavasos and Maroni Built Environments (KAMBE) Project incorporates a variety of cutting-edge digital technologies, including aerial photogrammetry, laser scanning, and 3D modeling, to explore Late Bronze Age urban landscapes on the island of Cyprus. He is currently collaborating with UBC Centre for Digital Media and the Emerging Media Lab on a virtual reality model of the site. 

CNERS students spearheaded the exciting From Stone to Screen Project, a digitization project of the department’s extensive collection of epigraphic squeezes as well as a substantial artifact collection. Since 2011, they have worked to build an online research and pedagogical resource for studying these objects.