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Photo of Dr Katharine  Earnshaw

Dr Katharine Earnshaw

Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History


01392 723322

My research centres around Latin hexameter poetry (in particular the authors Virgil, Lucan, and Lucretius), and texts such as Seneca's Natural Questions, especially where they initiate a discourse with 'science', geography, and philosophy. In recent times I have worked mainly on Virgil's Georgics. I am interested in how we learn about the world with and through texts, and particularly enjoy topics which intersect with modern philosophy and physics.

Space and landscape: I am particularly interested in agricultural landscapes and practice, environmental ethics, and in environmental approaches to literature. I have worked with local farmers and artists in Devon (see e.g. here), and have recently been awarded two grants as PI (working with John Wylie), both part of the 'Landscape Decisions: Towards a new framework for using land assets' call. Both grants utilise Virgil's Georgics and interrogate understandings of cultural value in relation to narrative, time, and agricultural ethics. Field\work is an AHRC SPF Research Network, and Field || guides is an AHRC SPF Follow-on project; both projects began in February 2020. In 2017-18 I held a UoE Education Incubator Fellowship, leading a project called 'Locating Imagined Spaces'.

Cognitive Humanities: especially texts and multimodality, spatiality and temporality, memory, perception and mental visualization. On this latter I co-organised (together with Felix Budelmann) a conference in January 2016, entitled 'Cognitive Visions: poetic image-making and the mind' ( I also co-manage the Cognitive Classics website ( I am very interested in the two-way direction of neuroscientific research and the humanities.

Time and consciousness: including as experienced in death and in the imagination; in spatial understandings of time, and the concept of distance.

Classical Reception: especially in British and American literature and art of the Long Eighteenth Century, and of the last quarter of the 18th and into the Romantic period in particular. I work or have published on the reception of Lucan, Lucretius and Virgil in authors such as Percy Bysshe Shelley and J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur, and artists such as Henry Fuseli.

In general, I enjoy the close philological detail of traditional classical approaches (my PhD thesis was a commentary on a section of book IV of Lucan's Pharsalia), and I also enjoy opportunities that allow me to work and collaborate with those in other disciplines (e.g. Geography, History of Art, English, and the Cognitive Sciences) and beyond academia.

External impact and engagement

I feel very strongly about fair access to higher education, and my career thus far has been characterized by a firm commitment to outreach and widening participation activities. Whilst at St. John's College, I initiated the 'St. John's College Classics Essay Competition', and I have been involved in giving a large number of school talks since being a postgraduate, both to students (of all ages) and to teachers. In April 2016, I was the judge for the Lytham Classical Association's inaugural schools competition.

My research on classical reception in art has led to my working collaboratively with various art galleries, and I am always keen to establish further such links.

I have taken part in two television documentaries, both of which (coincidently) were filmed, rather glamorously, in Naples. In 2015 I was approached to be a talking head on the National Geographic documentary 'Map of Hell', directed by Julian Jones. In 2018 I took part in 'Akala's Odyssey', directed by John O'Rourke; you can see a clip of Akala and I talking about dactylic hexameter here.


Originally from Blackpool, I did my BA, MA and PhD all at the University of Manchester. I then worked briefly as a Teaching Fellow at the University of Leeds (2008-9), and as the Postgate Teaching Fellow at the University of Liverpool (2009-10). At Liverpool, a significant part of my job was also focussed on outreach and widening participation. More recently I was a Fellow at St. John's College, Oxford (2010-16), where I was the organising tutor for Classics and Joint Schools. I arrived at the University of Exeter in 2016.