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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

Dr Rachel Bryant Davies, BA, MPhil, PhD (Cantab)


Lecturer in Comparative Literature

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 6768
Room Number: ArtsOne 1.38
Office Hours: Tuesdays, 1-2 and 3-4pm in person, or by appointment


My research centres on adaptations of classical myths and texts for new contexts. I am particularly interested in the intersections between texts and other forms of culture – whether material, performance, visual – with attention to non-elite modes and everyday encounters (e.g. through toys, puzzles, popular theatre).

My recent publications have focused primarily on classical reception during the long nineteenth century (c.1750-1914), and how classical myths and literature have been used in the formation and circulation of classical knowledge, including debates about the purpose and relevance of philology and excavation.

My current research explores adaptation of classical antiquity as a tool for ideological and didactic purposes, through analysing the use of classical content in children’s literature and culture, and in periodicals. I am writing a monograph that investigates how the classical past informed the models of idealised behaviour presented to children: it assesses diachronic changes in how the cultural privilege of Classics was explained to children in different formats and how specific ideologies were camouflaged by their classical coatings. In addition, this research led me to curate a case for an exhibition at Cambridge University Library in 2018, ‘Tall Tales: Secrets of the Tower’.

Prior to my arrival at QMUL in September 2019, I held an Addison Wheeler Research Fellowship in Classics and Ancient History at Durham, and was a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Durham Centre for Nineteenth–Century Studies. I held a Library Research Fellowship at Princeton University with the Seeger Centre for Hellenic Studies and the Cotsen Children’s Library in 2019. I am an Early Career Associate of the Oxford Archive of Performance of Greek and Roman Drama and previously trained as a Classicist. I studied Classics at Newnham College, Cambridge, where I researched my doctorate as part of the Leverhulme-funded Cambridge Victorian Studies Group.

From 3 August 2020 til 3rd February 2022, I am Principal Investigator on a British Academy COVID-19 project, 'Childhood heroes: storytelling survival strategies and role models of resilience to Covid-19 in the UK' (BA COV19\201444), with Co-Investigators Dr Lucie Glasheen and Professor Kiera Vaclavik. This project includes a collaboration with children's magazine Storytime which draws on my historical research into children's interactions with classical myth in magazines and experience as a school teacher following my PhD.


I was awarded Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy in 2018.

I contribute to the following Undergraduate courses: European Literature and its Contexts; To Be Continued; Constellations; Research Projects Research Methods; Research Project Supervision.

I convene COM4209 (Myth, Modernity, and Metamorphoses), COM6212 (Epic Remakes: Ancient Hero(in)es and Modern Society) and co-convene COM507 (European Tragedy)


Research Interests:

Classical Reception (adaptations and afterlives of ancient Greek and Roman myths and literature); Children’s literature and culture; Nineteenth-century cultural history; Nineteenth-century popular entertainment; intersections between textual, visual, performance and material cultures



Classics at Play: Greco-Roman Antiquity in British Children’s Culture, c. 1750-1914 (Oxford, under contract).

Troy, Carthage and the Victorians: The Drama of Ruins in the Nineteenth Century Imagination (Cambridge University Press, 2018).

Critical Edition

Victorian Epic Burlesque: A Critical Anthology of Nineteenth-Century Theatrical Entertainments after Homer (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018).

Edited Volume

Intersectional Encounters in the Nineteenth-Century Archive: New Essays on Power and Discourse, co-edited with Erin Johnson-Williams (Bloomsbury Academic, 2022)

Pasts at Play: Childhood Encounters with History in British Culture, c. 1750-1914, co-edited with Barbara Gribling (Manchester University Press, 2020).


'"True Stories from Ancient History? “History Repeating Itself” in Plutarchian Exemplary Biography for Nineteenth-century British Children', in Katarzyna Marciniak (ed.), Our Mythical History (Warsaw University Press, forthcoming). 

‘Lessons drawn from Nature’: Ovid’s Metamorphoses in Wynne’s Choice Emblems: myth, nature and religion in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century children’s books and games, in Katarzyna Marciniak (ed.), Our Mythical Nature (Warsaw University Press, forthcoming). 

‘“Wisdom consists in the right use of knowledge”:  Socrates as a symbol of Quaker pedagogy in Maria Hack’s Grecian Stories, in Louise Joy and Jessica Lim (eds.), Women’s Literary Education, 1690-1850 (Edinburgh University Press, 2023), pp. 139-165.

'Five books you'll like if you love The Odyssey', The Conversation, 25 August 2022,

‘“Our mind strives to restore the mutilated forms”: nineteenth-century virtual museum tours in children’s periodicals’, in Rachel Bryant Davies and Erin Johnson-Williams, Intersectional Encounters in the Nineteenth-Century Archive: New Essays on Power and Discourse,  (Bloomsbury Academic, 2022), pp 255-280.

'Home schooling is hundreds of years old – here’s what its history teaches us about learning through play', The Conversation, 11 August 202,

‘“This is the modern horse of Troy”: the Trojan Horse as 19th-century children’s entertainment and educational analogy’, in Katarzyna Marciniak (ed.), Our Mythical Hope: The Ancient Myths as Medicine for the Hardships of Life in Children’s and Young
Adults’ Culture
(Warsaw University Press, 2021), pp. 89-127, pp. 89-130.

 ‘Puzzling Antiquity in The Boy’s Own Paper’, in Rachel Bryant Davies and Barbara Gribling (eds.) Pasts at Play: Childhood Encounters with History in British Culture, c. 1750-1914 (Manchester University Press (under contract, 2020).

 ‘Through the proscenium arch’ (circus portraits and souvenirs), in Sadiah Qureshi and Adelene Buckland (eds.) Time Travellers: Victorian Perspectives on the Past (Chicago University Press, 2019).

‘“A subject which is peculiarly adapted to all cyclists”: Popular Understandings of Classical Archaeology in the Nineteenth-Century Press’, in Bernard Lightman and Bennett Zon (eds.) Victorian Culture and the Origin of Disciplines (Routledge, 2019), pp 161-187.

 ‘“Anachronasm or blunder”? Dibdin’s Melodrama Mad! and the rescue of Troy on the nineteenth-century British stage’, in Antje Junghanß, Bernhard Kaiser and Dennis Pausch (eds) Zeitmontagen. Formen und Funktionen gezielter Anachronismen in der Antike, (Steiner-Verlag, 2019), pp.161-176.

 ‘Fish, firemen and prize fighters: Victorian transformation of the Iliad and Odyssey on the London stage’, in Macintosh, McConnell et al (eds.) Epic Performances from the Middle Ages to the Twenty-First Century (Oxford University Press, 2018), pp. 540-557.

 ‘Troy’, with Gange, in Ledger-Lomas & Gange (eds.) Cities of God: The Bible and Archaeology in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 39-70.

Journal Articles

 ‘Olympic Revels for ‘little patrons’: classical mythology in nineteenth-century children’s toy theatres’, Journal of Victorian Culture (accepted).

 ‘The figure of Mary Mother of God in Christus Patiens: fragmenting tragic myth and passion narrative in a Byzantine appropriation of Greek tragedy’, Journal of Hellenic Studies 137 (2017), pp. 188-212.

 ‘Reading Ezekiel’s Exagoge: Tragedy, Sacrificial Ritual and the Midrashic Tradition’, Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 48 (2008), pp. 393–415.

‘Herodotos and the Scythians’, Opellae (Cambridge Classics Journal), 2004.

 ‘Euripides' and Soyinka's Bacchae’, Omnibus 46 (2003), pp. 11–13.

Book Reviews

‘Martha Vandrei, Queen Boudica and Historical Culture in Britain: An Image of Truth (Oxford, 2018)’, Journal of Victorian Culture, 2019.

‘Sheila Murnaghan and Deborah H. Roberts, Childhood and the Classics: Britain and America, 1850-1965 (Oxford, 2018)’, Journal of Hellenic Studies 2019.

‘Yopi Prins, Ladies’ Greek: Victorian Translations of Tragedy (Princeton, 2017), Journal of Hellenic Studies, 2019.

‘Laura Monrós-Gaspar, Victorian Classical Burlesques (Bloomsbury, 2015)’, Classical Review 66.2 (2016).


I welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of the areas of my research.

Public Engagement

In 2018, I curated a case on 'Everyday Antiquity for an exhibition at Cambridge University Library, ‘Tall Tales: Secrets of the Tower

Between my PhD and my postdoctoral post, I worked as a school teacher. I am currently collaborating with children's magazine Storytime to create a series of mini-magazines, 'We Are Heroes' (free download), as Principal Investigator on a British Academy COVID-19 project, 'Childhood heroes: storytelling survival strategies and role models of resilience to Covid-19 in the UK' (BA COV19\201444), with Co-Investigators Dr Lucie Glasheen and Professor Kiera Vaclavik. Each edition contains carefully chosen stories that have parallels to experiences of lockdown that children could be facing – such as staying at home or protecting yourself – with additional activities to offer children a creative way of processing the current situation. These are produced in consultation with children's mental health, resilience, and wellbeing expert, Dr Kristen Hadfield.

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