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Ph.D., 1991, University of California at Berkeley

Two paper-maché female face masks from the NEH Roman Comedy Institute. Both have sizable eye holes. One has black hair and a heart-shaped mouth; the other has brown hair and a wide mouth.

Sharon L. James received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from the University of California at Berkeley, with a dissertation on parents and children in Homer, Vergil, and Dante. She taught at Hamilton College, Bryn Mawr College, and the University of California, Santa Cruz before coming to UNC Chapel Hill in 1999. She is professor of Classics and an adjunct member of both Comparative Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies at UNC Chapel Hill.

Her areas of scholarly specialization are Latin poetry; women and gender in antiquity, particularly women in Rome; New Comedy; and Italian epic. Further areas of general interest include gender in Greek tragedy; family and social organization in Homer; the Renaissance Italian New Comedy of Machiavelli and Ariosto.

Professor James’s teaching interests range from Latin of all kinds and all levels to comparative literature courses and the occasional class on Menander. On the undergraduate level, she offers Latin courses on Vergil, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Latin lyric, Roman elegy, Roman Comedy, Petronius, first-year seminars, and lecture classes on women in ancient Greece and women in ancient Rome. Her graduate courses include Ovid and Literary Theory, Roman Comedy, Roman Elegy, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Menander, a Propertius seminar, and an intensive interdisciplinary graduate course, “Approaches to Women in Antiquity,” team-taught with Professor Sheila Dillon (Department of Art History, Duke University).  In 2021, she was honored with the Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching at the UNC campus. In 2017, the Women’s Classical Caucus awarded her its Leadership Award. In 2013, she was honored with a University teaching award, the William C. Friday/Class of 1986 Award for Excellence in Inspirational Teaching.

Professor James’s current book project, a large-scale study entitled Women in Greek and Roman New Comedy, has been completed in manuscript form (at 700+ pages!) and is now in revision, before submission to press.  She is also working on a book about the field of study for Women in Ancient Rome, for De Gruyter’s series, Trends in Classics: Key Perspectives on Classical Research.

Future projects include a monograph about how to read Propertius. Her next major research project will be a study of rape and the social meanings of the female body from Greek myth to the contemporary world. She is also organizing a series of translations of the entire corpus of New Comedy (Menander, Plautus, Terence) to be published by the University of Wisconsin Press; volumes I and II are under contract.  She will be contributing translations of four plays.

Most recently, she has edited, and contributed to, a volume of essays on Propertius, Golden Cynthia: Essays on Propertius by and for Barbara Flaschenriem (University of Michigan Press).

With Professors Dorota Dutsch and David Konstan, she co-edited a volume entitled Women in Republican Roman Drama, published in Spring 2015 by the University of Wisconsin Press.

With Professor Sheila Dillon of Duke University, she co-edited A Companion to Women in the Ancient World, in which she published three case studies and an article co-authored with Madeleine Henry.  The Companion was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title, and received a PROSE (Association of American Publishers) Honorable Mention as a Single Volume Reference in the Humanities & Social Sciences.  Also with Professor Dillon, she edited Women in the Classical World, a four-volume collection of reprinted essays in the Routledge Press’s Major Works series, published in 2017.

Her 2003 book, Learned Girls and Male Persuasion: Gender and Reading in Roman Love Elegy (University of California Press), examines the arguments of Roman elegy from the perspective of its preferred love object, the docta puella.

She has published articles on Ovid, Roman comedy, elegy, Menander, Vergil, literary theory, and teaching the subject of rape.  “Feminist Pedagogy and Teaching Latin Literature” (Cloelia 39; 2008) was awarded a prize from the Women’s Classical Caucus, for Special Contribution to Feminist Pedagogy.  Recent journal articles include “Fallite Fallentes: The Intertextuality of Rape and Deception in Terence’s Eunuch and Ovid’s Ars amatoria (EuGeStA 6 (2016) 87-111) and “Twenty Years of ‘Ovid and Literary Theory’” (CW 108, 2015). Published on-line is her 2015 talk at Duke University’s Mellon Humanities Futures conference, “Ancient Comedy, Women’s Lives: Finding Social History and Seeing the Present in Classical Comedy.” Encyclopedia entries include “Rape” (Oxford Classical Dictionary On-Line), and a number of items in the Encyclopedia of Greek Comedy.

In recent edited volumes, her chapters include “Plautus and the Marriage Plot” (A Companion to Plautus, edd. Dorota Dutsch and Fred Franko), “Women and Trauma in Greek and Roman New Comedy” (Emotional Trauma in Greece and Rome, edd. Vassiliki Panoussi and Andromache Karanika), “The Life Course of the Roman Courtesan” (The Roman Courtesan, edd. Ria Berg and Richard Neudecker), “Rape and Repetition in Ovid’s Metamorphoses: Myth, History, Structure, Rome” (Repeat Performances: Ovidian Repetition and the Metamorphoses, edd. Laurel Fulkerson and Tim Stover, 2016), and “Mater, Oratio, Filia: Listening to Mothers in Roman Comedy” (Women in Republican Roman Drama, 2015).

With Professors Alison Keith (University of Toronto) and Laurel Fulkerson (Florida State University), she is co-founder of the International Ovidian Society, which has been busy organizing conferences and conference panels, and has plans for many more activities, including an on-line refereed journal.  More information can be found on the Ovidian Society’s website.

In summer 2012, Professor James co-directed, with Professor Timothy Moore (Washington University in St. Louis; UNC Classics PhD., 1986), an NEH Summer Institute entitled “Roman Comedy in Performance.”  This Institute experimented with different versions of selected scenes from Roman comedy (Bacchides, Casina, Eunuchus, Mercator, Persa, Pseudolus, Truculentus) Participants produced twenty performed scenes from Roman Comedy, six of them in Latin.

The videos have been viewed more than 35,000 times, in 130 countries. The performances can be seen on Youtube.

Dissertations directed

India Watkins Natterman. “Mismarked Flesh: The Interpretability of the Male Body in Julio-Claudian Literature.” 2023.
Sarah Eisenlohr, UNC Chapel Hill.  Current.  “Female Trauma in Ovidian Poetry.” 2023.
Hannah Sorscher. “Unconventional Families in Roman Comedy.”  2021.
Kelly McArdle, UNC Chapel Hill.  “Laughing at the Brutalized Body: The Political Dimensions of Violence in Plautine Comedy.”  2021.
Jessica Wise. “Gender, Speech, Authority: Ovid’s Fasti and Augustan Thought on Women.” 2017.
Katherine R. DeBoer. “Death and the Female Body in Homer, Vergil, and Ovid.” 2016.
Serena Witzke. “An Influence of Much Importance: Oscar Wilde and Ancient New Comedy.” 2014.
Erika Zimmermann Damer. “The Female Body in Latin Love Poetry.”  2010.  Revised version published in 2018 by University of Wisconsin Press (In the Flesh: Embodied Identities in Roman Elegy).
Hunter Gardner. “The Waiting Game: Gender and Time in Latin Love Elegy.  2005. Revised version published in 2013 by Oxford University Press, UK: Gendering Time In Augustan Love Elegy.

Email: sljamesATemailDOTuncDOTedu
Curriculum Vitae