A&S Postdoctoral Fellow in Environmental Humanities, 2024-26

April 30, 2024 by Sonja Johnston

We’re pleased to announce that Francesca Econimo will join this year’s JHI Circle of Fellows as the A&S Postdoctoral Fellow in Environmental Humanities. Francesca Econimo (Ph.D. 2021, Scuola Normale Superiore (Pisa, Italy) Classical Studies) is a scholar of philological, linguistic, and historical Classics, whose focus is on Roman literature, in particular Flavian epic poetry. She has published multiple articles in both Italian and English, and is the author of La parola e gli occhi. L’ekphrasis nella Tebaide di Stazio (Edizioni della Normale, Pisa 2021). She has forthcoming monograph on Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the Thebaid of Statius. She is also preparing a commentary on a section of the Thebaid (books IV-VI). She has held postdoctoral fellowships at the Scuola Normale Superiore (Pisa) and Trinity College Dublin.

Fellowship Project

‘Other’ Worlds? Islands as Female Domains in Flavian Epic

Islands in classical literature are often conceptualized as deviant realities, especially when they are ruled by female figures who challenge the hierarchy of gender (cf. the islands of Calypso, Circe and the Sirens in the Odyssey) and power dynamics based on patriarchy (cf. the gynecocracy of Lemnos in Apollonius’ Argonautica). The notion of islands as sites of emasculating femininity persists in Roman poetry, particularly in the Flavian epic–a group of poems dating back to the reign of Vespasian and his sons Titus and Domitian (69-96 CE)–in which the view of islands as places of potential gender conflict takes on a stronger political significance in light of the Romans’ concern with civil war and imperial succession to power which informs the epics of the 1st century CE. Considering the cases of Lemnos in the Argonautica and the Thebaid, Scyros in the Achilleid and Sicily in the Punica, this project will investigate (1) how islands, as spaces of quintessential ‘otherness’, represent a stage for women to enact gender subversion and political experimentation; (2) how they reflect, despite their marginality and connection to female figures, Rome’s cultural anxieties associated with the preservation of its male-centered imperial power. Methodologically, this research will be pursued by combining an intertextual approach to the Flavian epic with an analysis that draws on gender studies and feminist criticism. The association between women and islands will also be read from a political and historical perspective in light of Domitian’s Rome.