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Professor

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

Sharon L. James received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley, with a dissertation on parents and children in Homer, Vergil, and Dante. 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).  She taught a graduate course on Menander (Spring 2014).  In June 2012, she was the convener of a Faculty Resource Network seminar at New York University.  In 2013, she was honored with a University teaching award, the William C. Friday/Class of 1986 Award for Excellence in Inspirational Teaching.

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

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 2013 Outstanding Academic Title of 2012, and received a 2013 PROSE (Association of American Publishers) Honorable Mention as a Single Volume Reference in the Humanities & Social Sciences.  It is now available in paperback.

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.

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.

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.  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.

She is also editing a volume of essays on Propertius, Golden Cynthia: Essays on Propertius by and for Barbara Flaschenriem (University of Michigan Press).

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 38; 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), “Twenty Years of ‘Ovid and Literary Theory’” (CW 108, 2015) and “Re-Reading Propertius’ Arethusa” (Mnemosyne 65).  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,” forthcoming in the on-line Oxford Classical Dictionary, and a number of articles in the Encyclopedia of Greek Comedy. In recent edited volumes, her chapters include “The Life Course of the Roman Courtesan” (The Roman Courtesan, edd. Ria Berg and Richard Neudecker, 2018), “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). Other recent articles have appeared in various locations: Teaching Uncomfortable Subjects in the Classics Classroom, edd. Nancy Rabinowitz and Fiona McHardy (2014); Menander in Contexts, ed. Alan Sommerstein (2013); Combat Trauma and the Ancient Greeks, edd. Peter Meineck and David Konstan.  More articles are in progress, on various subjects.  She has articles in a variety of Blackwell collections: “Elegy and Comedy,” “Teaching Rape in Elegy,” “Gender and Sexuality in Terence.” “Plautus and the Marriage Plot” is forthcoming (Blackwell’s Companion to Plautus). 

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 here.

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 (faculty and graduate students in Classics, Theater, Religious Studies, and History) produced twenty performed scenes from Roman Comedy, six of them in Latin.

The videos have been viewed more than 32,000 times, in 130 countries (as of fall 2019).

The performances can be seen here.

She taught at Hamilton College, Bryn Mawr College, and the University of California, Santa Cruz before coming to UNC Chapel Hill in 1999.

Dissertations directed 

Hannah Sorscher.  “Unconventional Families in Roman Comedy.”  Current.
Jessica Wise. “Gender, Speech, Authority: Ovid’s Fasti and Augustan Thought on Women.” Completed 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: Unveiling Aurora: Gender and Time in Latin Love Elegy.

Recent M.A. Theses directed 

Hannah Sorscher, UNC Chapel Hill.  2017.  “Incest, Cannibalism, Filicide: Elements of the Thyestes Myth in Ovid’s Stories of Myrrha and Tereus.”
Emma Warhover, UNC Chapel Hill.  2017.  “The Recurring Grotesque in the Amores: A Bakhtinian Analysis.”
Jessica Wise.  2012.  “Female Speech in Propertius.”
Katherine R. DeBoer.  “Concubitus, Verbera, Catena: Slavery, Violence, and Vulnerability in Ovid’s Amores.” 2010.
Patrick Dombrowski.  “Judicial Rhetoric in the Prologues of Terence.”  2010.

Recent Senior Honors Theses directed 

Jermaine Bryant.  2019.  “The Myth of the Seven Against Themes in Propertius.” 
Philip Wilson.  2018.  “Nihil ex his quae in usu habemus: The Meaning of Learning in Petronius’ Satyricon.”
Amanda Kubic, Comparative Literature.  2016.  “Female Relationships in Sappho’s Poetry.”  
Allison Ditmore.  2016. “Female Responses to Threats in Roman Comedy.”  
Caitlin Hines. 2013.  “Puella, Meretrix, Matrona? The Confusion of the Social Classes of Women in Ovid’s Love Poetry.”  
Rachel Mazzara.  2013. “Speech Registers and Class Awareness in Terence’s meretrices.” 

Email: sljamesATemailDOTuncDOTedu
Curriculum Vitae