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Housman Lectures


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Housman Lecture - 18 May 2022

Professor Gregson Davis

Born in Worcestershire in 1859, Alfred Edward Housman was a gifted classical scholar and poet. After studying in Oxford, Housman worked for ten years as a clerk, while publishing and writing scholarly articles on Horace, Propertius, Ovid, Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles. He gradually acquired such a high reputation that in 1892 he returned to the academic world as Professor of Classics at University College London (1892-1911) and then as Kennedy Professor of Latin at Trinity College, Cambridge (1911-1936). During his time as professor in the Department of Greek and Latin at UCL Housman produced some of his most important scholarly work (including his edition of Juvenal and the first volume of his Manilius) and published his first and best known collection of poetry, 'A Shropshire Lad' (1896). Housman's continuing reputation as a scholar and a poet is reflected in Tom Stoppard's 1997 play The Invention of Love, which includes a dramatisation of A.E. Housman's election to the chair of Latin in London.

Housman Lectures at UCL

The Department of Greek and Latin at University College London organizes a Housman Lecture each year (formerly every two years). These are delivered by a scholar of international distinction from outside London.

2022: Professor Gregson Davis and "The reception of Lucretius' "On the Nature of Things" in Aimé Césaire's "Journal of a Homecoming. (18th May 2022, 6-8pm). 

The eminent Martinican poet, Aimé Césaire, is renowned for his eloquent denunciation, in prose and verse, of European colonialism and for his radical socio-political role as co-founder of the Negritude movement. This lecture explores Césaire’s reception of the Latin poet, Lucretius, whose treatise, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), is an exposition in verse of the philosophy of Epicurus. In his robust critique of French colonialism and its institutional oppression of black African peoples, Césaire appropriates and recasts prominent tropes from Lucretius’ monumental poem. The lecture focusses on two themes that reflect major aspects of Césaire’s reception of the Latin text: the critique of institutionalized religion (religio) as an arm of the imperialist subjugation of enslaved Africans, and the appropriation of the trope of the Plague to convey the spiritual abjection of the colonized subject.


2021: Susan A. Stephens Jason and the Athletes. (27th October 2021, 6-7.30pm). 


2020:  Ellen Oliensis The Trials of Latona in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (watch the webcast)


2019: Victoria Wohl The sleep of reason: the psyche and the subject in ancient Greece


2018: Bernard O'Donoghue Chosen Ancestors: Seamus Heaney and Virgil


2017: Judith Butler  Kinship Trouble in The Bacchae (watch the webcast / download the text)


2016: Maurizio Bettini  From market to metamorphosis. Cultural images of 'translation' in Rome


2015: Leslie Kurke  Pindar's Material Imaginary: Dedication and Politics in Olympian 7


2014: Denis Feeney Ovid as a literary historian


2013: Eric Csapo The Dionysian Parade and the Poetics of Plenitude


2012: Stephen Hinds  Displacing Persephone: Epic between Worlds


2009: Alessandro Barchiesi


2009: Housman 150 Anniversary: UCL celebrated the 150th anniversary of the birth of AEH with an evening of talks. David Butterfield, Stephen Harrison, Peter Howarth and Norman Vance spoke about Housman's life, scholarship, poetry and place in Victorian culture.


2007: Christopher Pelling The Grandstand that was Greece: Greek observers on Roman Civil Wars


2005: Pat Easterling Ancient Plays for Modern Minds?