Staff profiles

Photo of Professor Karen Ni-Mheallaigh

Professor Karen Ni-Mheallaigh



01392 724491

My research interests are rooted in the world of the ancient scientific imagination. I am interested in intersections betweeen ancient scientific and imaginative thought, particularly clustered around the themes of astronomy and technology. I am particularly interested in the Moon in ancient and early modern thought, and in the fascination with the fantastic in ancient wonder-culture. As well as Greek language, I teach modules related to ancient fiction esp. Homer and the Homeric tradition, Lucian and the ancient novels, paradoxography and wonder-culture.

Research interests

My research is rooted in ancient Greek literature, fiction and the world of the ancient scientific imagination. I am particularly interested in astronomy as an aesthetic resource in ancient literature, focussing especially on the Moon as a point of intersection between the imaginary and the known.

I have published on the ancient novels, ancient pseudo-documentary fiction, and Lucian, who was the subject of my first monograph: Reading fiction with Lucian: fakes, freaks and hyperreality (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

I am currently co-editing, with Claire Rachel Jackson (Cambridge) and Helena Schmedt (Frankfurt), a volume of essays that explore Antonius Diogenes' novel, The incredible things beyond Thule, within its broader literary and cultural context. This is a fascinating, fragmentary Greek novel that claims to be a long-lost text, and includes a trip to the Moon - possibly the earliest lunar narrative in European literature.

I was awarded a Marie Curie research fellowship at AIAS (Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Denmark) in 2014-6, which enabled me to write a second monograph (near completion), The Moon in the Greek and Roman imagination: selenography in myth, literature, science and philosophy. I am also developing a study of Plutarch's On the face of the Moon.

I am interested in exploring the experience of fiction beyond the literary text in 'wonder culture'. This broader landscape of imaginative experience includes religious culture, spectacle, technology and the world of para-scientific marvels; I am also interested in the roles of art, architecture and technology in shaping imaginative experience - and how literature interacts with these.

Research supervision

I am open to discussing research proposals on any subject which relates to my own research expertise. I am especially happy to consider working with candidates with interests in ancient fiction and imaginative thought, and in the literature of the imperial period.

Other information

I live near Exeter city centre with my husband and our little dog Sweep.



My teaching tends to focus on ancient Greek language, and on the prose fictions of the Greek and Roman world. 

Modules taught


I joined the University of Exeter in 2007, having previously taught at the Universities of Liverpool and Swansea. I was born and grew up in Dublin, Ireland, and completed my BA and PhD in Classics at Trinity College, Dublin. I am married to another Dubliner and we have a much-loved little dachshund called Sweep.