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Chiara Thumiger

fotoChiara Thumiger
Chiara Thumiger

Honorary Research Fellow


Research interests: Greek tragedy; the concepts of mind and the views of madness in ancient literatures; the representations of character and views of self in ancient literatures; animals and and animal imagery in Greek literature; notions of fiction and metafiction in ancient and modern literature; literary theory.

After completing my Laurea at the Università degli Studi di Milano (Italy) I undertook a PhD at King’s College London. My doctoral research, carried out under the supervision of Prof. M.S. Silk, concentrated on Euripides’ Bacchae and on the representation of characters in the play. During and after my PhD I have taught Greek and Latin language and literature at KCL, the School of Advanced Studies, Queen Mary University and UCL.

My interests so far include: Greek tragedy; representations of character and views of self in ancient literature; classics and theory; the discussion on the extent and limits of reception of ancient literature, with particular attention to fiction and metafiction in ancient and modern literature. Recently I have also worked on animals and animal imagery in Greek literature, especially tragedy; I am presently turning the results of this research into a monograph titled The voice of the swallow.

My present main research project focuses on madness in ancient cultures, in all its forms. I consider medical as well as literary aspects in order to address the apparently simple question: ‘what is madness?’. I look at literary instantiations of mental disturbance, starting from a provisional definition of madness as defamiliarising element, and paying close attention to the vocabulary and the poetics of madness. The expected outcome of this research is a monographic study, broadly historical but aimed at highlighting the recurring stylistic, verbal and motifemic markers of mental disturbance in ancient literature.


Forthcoming Books:

· Hidden Paths. Notions of Self, Tragic Characterization and Euripides’ Bacchae (BICS Suppl. 99, London 2007).

Books under preparation:

· Classical Empires in Contemporary Culture. Proceedings of the UCL Conference (co-edited, with Ahuvia Kahane) (forthcoming).
· Eros. Proceedings of the UCL 2009 Conference (co-edited, with Chris Carey, Nick Lowe, and Ed Sanders) (forthcoming, OUP)

The Voice of the Swallow. Animals and Animal Imagery in Greek Tragedy (forthcoming)


  • ‘Animal World, Animal Representation, and the “Hunting-Model”: Between Literal and Figurative in Euripides’ Bacchae’, Phoenix 60.3-4 (2006) 191-210.
  • ‘Visione e identità nelle Baccanti di Euripide’, ACME II (2007) 3-30.
  • ‘Personal Pronouns as Identity Terms in Ancient Greek: The Surviving Tragedies and Euripides’ Bacchae’. Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, 104 (2008).
  • ‘anagkês zeugmat’ empeptôkamen: Greek Tragedy between Human and Animal’. Leeds International Classics Seminar (2008)
  • ‘Metatheatre in modern and ancient fiction’. Materiali e Discussioni per l’Analisi dei Testi Classici 63 (2009) 9-58.
  • ‘Epidemia tra le Baccanti di Euripide, Tucidide e il Corpus Hippocraticum’. Studi Italiani di Filologia Classica 7 (2) 2009.

Forthcoming articles and chapters:

  • 'Hallucination, Drunkenness and Mirrors: Ancient Reception of Modern Drama’. Forthcoming in A. Bakogianni and M. Edwards (eds.), Dialogues with the Past: Reception Theory and Practice. London (2010).
  • ‘Vision and knowledge in Greek tragedy’. Forthcoming in D. Cairns, N. Rabinowitz, S. Blundell (eds.) Vision and Power (2012).
  • ‘The roots of empire and divine justice: Dante’s Paradiso VI’. In Classical Empires in Contemporary Culture (co-edited, with Ahuvia Kahane).
  • ‘Mad Eros and eroticized Madness in Tragedy’. In Eros (co-edited, with Chris Carey, Nick Lowe, and Ed Sanders) (forthcoming)

Invited contributions:

  • ‘Animals in tragedy’ and ‘Metamorphosis: human into animal’. In Oxford Handbook of Animals, ed. by G. Campbell. OUP (forthcoming, 2012)
  • Entries ‘Ancient and modern views on character and personality’, ‘Madness’, ‘Concept of Mind’, ‘Animals and animal imagery’, ‘Vision and knowledge’, ‘Bacchae’ in Blackwell Encyclopedia of Greek Tragedy, ed. by H. Roisman (forthcoming, Blackwell).

Book reviews:

  • · Barbara Goward, Telling Tragedy in Journal of Hellenic Studies 125 (2005) 163-4.
  •   Luigi Battezzato, Linguistica e Retorica della Tragedia Greca. Rome (2008). CR 60, 01 (2010) 13-15.
  • · Richard Buxton, Forms of Astonishment. Oxford (2009). Forthcoming in CR.
  • · Colleen Chaston, ‘Tragic props and Cognitive Function. Aspects of the function of Images in Thinking. Leiden (2010). Forthcoming in CR.


· 23 May 2008. ‘Classical empires in contemporary culture’ (One-day conference, UCL; co-organized with Maria Wyke).

· 28-31 March 2009. ‘Eros in Ancient Greece’ (International Conference, UCL/ICS; co-organized with Chris Carey, Nick Lowe, and Ed Sanders).

· 27-31 July 2010: ‘Animals in the Greek and Roman world’. (Celtic Conference in Classics, University of Edinburgh, co-organised with Sarah Hitch)


· March 2008. ‘The epidemia of Dionysus in Euripides’ Bacchae. Between stasis and plague’, UCL Departmental Seminar Series.

· March 2008. ‘Animals and animal imagery in Greek tragedy’. Classical Association Conference, Liverpool.

· May 2008. ‘The other tragedy: animals and animal imagery in Greek drama’. Humans and non-human animals in antiquity, Leeds International Classics Seminar.

· June 2008. ‘Hallucination, drunkenness and mirrors: ancient reception of modern drama’. The Reception of Ancient Greek and Roman Drama: International Conference, ICS, London.

· July 2008. ‘‘Rather than seeing he was seen by them’. Views and viewers in Euripides’ Bacchae’. Celtic Conference in Classics (Cork, Ireland).

· November 2008. ‘Approaches to ancient madness’. Seminar Series, Department of Classics, University of Nottingham.

· March 2009: ‘Eros as madness’. Eros. International Conference, UCL & ICS. London.

· July 2010: ‘Speciesism and poetic imagery: reading poetic animals’. In ‘Animals in the Greek and Roman world’. (Celtic Conference in Classics, University of Edinburgh, co-organised with Sarah Hitch)

· January 2011: ‘Orestes’ mania and Orestes’ synesis: models of madness in Greek tragedy’. Ringvorlesung des August Boeckh Antike Zentrums, Neues Aus dem Altertum. Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

· May-June 2011: participation in the Workshop Psychology for ancient and mediaeval historians at Columbia University.

· August 2011: ‘Some remarks on mental insanity in the medical texts’. In Approaches to Ancient Medicine, University of Exeter.