Dr Jen Grove
Associate Research Fellow
Office: Room 326, Amory Building
I am an interdisciplinary classicist and historian with a focus on public engagement and engaged research. My main areas of interest are:
- History of sexuality;
- Classical Reception;
- History of art, collecting and museums;
- Material culture studies and archaeology;
- History of censorship and pornography;
- Archival research;
- Public engagement and engaged research;
- Sex Education
I am currently based in the Centre for Medical History and my research crosses the disciplinary boundaries of classics and ancient history; the history of sexuality; the history of medicine; art history; and collecting and museum studies.
I focus on the collection and reception of classical, and other historical, material culture and the way in which this has informed modern ideas about sex and sexuality, especially in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
I am especially interested in ‘Engaged Research’, as a new model for research and for engagement outside the academy. See my External Engagement for more details.
Constructions of Sexual Knowledge
History of Sexual Science and Medical Humanities
Classical Reception and history of sexuality
Censorship, 'pornography' and collecting cultures
Colonial histories of anthropology and archaeology
Selected Conference and Seminar Presentations
With Professor Kate Fisher (History), Professor Rebecca Langlands (Classics) and Dr Jana Funke (English) I co-direct the interdisciplinary Sexual Knowledge unit which considers how we have and continue to construct knowledge about sex and sexuality; the different forms of knowledge about sex that have emerged and been authorized, articulated, disseminated, applied, challenged and revised throughout history; and how they have and are applied in a variety of different settings and for different ends.
I am currently a research fellow on a five-year Wellcome Trust-funded project "Rethinking Sexology: The Cross-Disciplinary Invention of Sexuality: Sexual Science Beyond the Medical, 1890-1940” led by Professor Kate Fisher (History) and Dr Jana Funke (English). The project will run from 2015 to 2020 and seeks to explore the cross-disciplinary exchange at the heart of early sexual science between medical and non-medical forms of knowledge, such as historical, archaeological, anthropological, artistic and literary.
My research will highlight the importance of collecting and material culture for new scientific understandings of sex in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, in particular how ancient objects and imagery were used as evidence in debates over e.g. historical and cultural variation to attitudes about same-sex relationships and the nature and limits of ‘civilization’.
The project will raise broader questions about the dynamics of cross-disciplinary exchange, and seek to demonstrate how this research can be insightful in debates about sexual health and wellbeing today through an ambitious public engagement and impact programme, therefore feeding directly into questions at the heart of the Medical Humanities.
I am affiliated with the Sexual Knowledge, Sexual History project directed by Professors Kate Fisher (History) and Rebecca Langlands (Classics), which pioneers a new direction for the history of sexuality, applying the approaches and methodologies of the emerging discipline of Classical Reception to the study of the ways that ideas about sex and sexuality have developed in recent centuries. Encounters with historical material provide eye-opening and empowering examples of cultural diversity which can expand horizons, open up new ways of thinking and legitimate alternative ways of being.
I have published on the role of antiquity, specifically Roman sculpture and other antiquities, in the development of modern homosexual identities, notably through the study of the early twentieth century homoerotic collection of Edward Perry Warren which included the famous Warren Cup showing anal sex between ancient men.
I am also working (with Dr Jana Funke) on a co-edited volume entitled Desiring Statues: Statuary, Sexuality and History.
My work on the history of the modern collection of sexually-themed artefacts and their treatment within museums has bolstered theories, following Michel Foucault, which challenge the notion of a comprehensive repression of all discourses about sexuality in previous centuries in the West, and points to a moment of expanded debate about sex beginning in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Previous histories of the modern reception of ancient images of sex have focused on the censorship of this material and its treated as 'pornography' from its mass discovery in the eighteenth century until well into the twentieth. My doctoral thesis used archival research to show that, far from being a source of universal anxiety or embarrassment, hundreds of vases, statues, lamps and other artefacts - all with sexual themes - were being deliberately and systemically sought out by collectors and museums in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Furthermore, my research shows that, influenced in part by anthropological thinking and the notion of the ‘Scientific Museum’, this was part of a movement which treated material culture as the primary source for understanding cultural attitudes and practices: in this case ‘erotica’ was treated seriously as important evidence of ancient approaches to sexuality and sexual imagery.
My research extends our understanding of the role of sex and material culture - especially archaeological evidence - in colonial constructions of ‘civilisation’ and the ‘cultural evolution’ of humanity, whether these were used to justify the imperial project or subvert contemporary, Christian society and morality.
I have published on the historical medical collection of Sir Henry Wellcome as a case-study for the way in which ancient amulets and votives shaped as human sexual anatomy were collected in great quantities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as part of an interest in links between sexuality and spirituality, and broader connections between health and religion, in more ‘primitive’ societies.
In particular I show that this continued an intellectual tradition originating from the Enlightenment discovery of the ubiquitous image of the erect penis across the recently excavated cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as the newly ‘discovered’ Hindu temples of India, and which used archaeology, collecting and art history to demonstrate that ‘phallic worship’ and fertility ritual were the origin of all world religions.
Selected invited speaker presentations and workshops
- Department of Classics Seminar Series, University of Reading, October 2018.
- Workshop at Regional Networking Event, hosted by the Bristol Centre for Health, Humanities and Science and the Exeter Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health, in association with the Regional Medical Humanities Network, March 2018 (with Michael Flexer).
- Public Engagement Workshop: Institute of Classical Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, March 2018.
- LGBT+ Classics: Teaching, Research, and Activism, hosted by Women's Classical Committee, University of Reading, February 2018.The fourth John Addington Symonds Celebration event in conjunction with Institute of Greece, Rome and the Classical Tradition and the OutStories Bristol AGM: University of Bristol, October 2017: ‘EP Warren's Classical erotica: LGBT+ activism and objects from the past’.
- British Art Network seminar: Queer British Art, Tate Britain, 2017: ‘Queer Identities?’
- Postgraduate Theatre Research Seminar, University of Bristol, May 2014: ‘'Interpreting Erotica: using archives to understand the collection and reception of sexual antiquities at the turn of the twentieth century'.
- Classical Archaeology Seminar, Institute of Classical Studies, London, February 2012: ‘'Henry Wellcome's Classical Erotica: sexually related antiquities collected for the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum in the early 20th century'.
Selected papers and workshops
- Engage Conference, National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement, Edinburgh 2018, ‘Academic-professional "hybrid" roles part 2: prioritising workloads’.
- Sexology and Development: Exploring the Global History of the Sexual Sciences, University of Exeter and University of Lincoln, October 2018, ‘"Ancient codes" and "biologic norms": Kinsey's uses of cultural development and classical archaeology’.
- 24th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists, Barcelona, September 2018, ‘Sexologists as collectors of archaeological erotica in the late nineteenth and twentieth century’.
- Reproductive and Sexual Health Activism, c.1960-present, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, July 2018, ‘Sexual health and museum artefacts: Exploring the University of Exeter’s “Sex & History” project’.
- Culture, Creativity and Wellbeing Symposium, University of British Columbia / University of Exeter, May 2018, ‘How can history help to improve sexual health and wellbeing?’
- Sex, sexuality & reproduction: historical perspectives, 32nd Irish Conference of Historians, University College Cork, April 2018, ‘Sexologists as collectors of historical erotica in the first half of the twentieth century’.
- Engage Conference, National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement, Bristol, December 2016, ‘Public Engagement Experts, Mapping the researcher/professional landscape’. The workshop appeared in the London Engagement Network’s top ten workshops of the conference.
- Public Engagement as Method, University of Sheffield, July 2016: ‘Engaged Research: What does it mean for the historian?’.
- History of Sexuality PGR/ECR Conference, University of Exeter, July 2016, workshop on Public Engagement and Impact.
- Moving Trans* History Forward 2016, University of Victoria, Canada, March 2016: 'Trans* History Meets the History of Sexology: Interrogating the Past, Engaging Communities' (with Jana Funke).
- Classical Association Annual Conference, University of Nottingham, April 2014: ‘'Sex and History: using ancient images to tackle ‘pornography’ with young people'.
- Classics in Communities: Theories and Practices to develop Classics Outreach in the 21st Century, University of Oxford, November 2013: ‘'Making Learning Differently' (with Alex Wardrop and Sam Thomas) and 'Sex and History: Talking sex with objects from the past'.
- Bodies of evidence: re-defining approaches to the anatomical votive, The British School at Rome, June 5th 2011: ‘Roman votive genitalia in the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum'.
- The Reception of Rome and the Construction of Western Homosexual Identities, Durham University, April 2012: ‘The role of Roman artefacts in E. P. Warren's ‘paederastic evangel’’.
- Not Just For the Record: Enlivening Archives?, Centre for History in Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, November, 2011: ‘’My plans exist in my mind like a jig-saw puzzle’: Piecing together Henry Wellcome's ideas through the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum archives and the question of the erotic acquisitions’.
- Demystifying Public Engagement: Gender and Sexuality Beyond the Academy conference, Newcastle University, May 2011: ‘Engaging Young People: A day trip to Sir Henry’s Wellcome’s erotica and sexually related collection'.
- Classical Association Annual Conference, Durham University, April 2011: ‘Greek and Roman sexual artefacts collected for the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum in the early twentieth century'.
External impact and engagement
I am interested in the emerging category of ‘Engaged Research’ and exploring how public engagement with research can make a meaningful impact on communities outside the academy, and also inform my own research practices in order that my work can be of further relevance for today's society.
Since 2009 I have worked on the Sex and History Project, an award-winning and innovative approach to improving young people’s well-being and sexual health, directed by Professors Kate Fisher and Rebecca Langlands. It uses objects from past cultures as a new and innovative way to discuss sex and relationships. Learning about what people from across time and place have thought about desire, arousal, intimacy, gender, body image, beauty, power and control provides both an arresting focus for discussion, and a safe distance from sensitive issues, that can have a transformative effect.
Stemming from our research which explores the ways in which people throughout history have turned to the past to make sense of sex in their own presents, Sex and History reconstructs such productive engagements with the past to open up new ways of thinking about sex today. For our historical research, this work has provided new insights into the way in which the past can be a powerful catalyst for self-discovery about sexuality, and also the potential for artefacts in particular to act as an accessible and immediate route to learning about past attitudes to sex, and the useful way in which they can be interpreted in many different ways for a variety of different arguments and debates about sexuality.
Sex and History uses museum visits and object-based workshops to add a new, rich dimension to sex education. It empowers young people to make healthy choices about sex and relationships and provides a wider social and cultural framework for the assimilation of biological and practical information about sexual health. The methodology is particularly effective in tackling those tricky subjects outside of the biological, such as relationships, consent, body-image and pornography and the media. We are working with the RSE Hub, Brook Bristol, and other sexual health and education researchers and practitioners on the production of resources for school teachers and to build robust methodologies for evaluating them in an educational context.
Sex and History works with museums and the cultural sector to enhance the relationship between young people and heritage and to shape social change. We focus on the production of creative interpretations of historical objects (including film making, soundscapes, dance, animation intergenerational discussion and exhibition curation) of demonstrable cultural, artistic, social and educational value, using a model of participation and co-production that has the capacity to transform mental, social and physical wellbeing and economic resilience.
Sex and History has received funding from Museums Libraries and Archives, The Wellcome Trust, REACT Pump priming; Catalyst Fund and the AHRC. We have worked with a wide range of partners including: Age Concern; Barnardos; Eddystone Trust; Effervescent social alchemy; Exeter Foyer; Groundwork SW; Platform 51; Plymouth City Museum; Plymouth Youth Service; Russell-Coates Art Gallery and Museum; Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter; Royal Cornwall Museum; Truro; RSE Hub, The Science Museum, Wellcome Collection.
As part of the Sex and History project, I have co-curated a major exhibition at Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter. Intimate Worlds: Exploring Sexuality through the Wellcome Collection (2014) was the first dedicated exhibition of the erotic and sexually-related artefacts collected as part of the early twentieth century historical medical collection of Sir Henry Wellcome. Based largely on my doctoral research, this demonstrated Wellcome’s medical and anthropological interests in sexuality, and the collection stories behind the material which he sent his staff out around the world to acquire. We designed the exhibition and participation programme in order to prompt visitors to (re)consider their own attitudes towards such contemporary issues as censorship and display, gender and desire, the boundaries between childhood and adulthood, control of sexuality, fertility and contraception, pleasure and power relations.
I have also been an exhibition consultant on Desire, Love, Identity: Exploring LGBTQ Histories, at The British Museum (2017), and The Institute of Sexology (2014-15) at Wellcome Collection which featured sexually-related material from Sir Henry Wellcome’s collection, as well as sex researchers throughout the twentieth century.
I have organised and taken part in a number of activities which aim at engaging the public with history through material cultures, archaeology and archives.
I co-developed a well-received AHRC-funded blog project, 'Nemi to Nottingham' which brought together international early career and established researchers to contribute on the subject of the ancient Roman site of the Temple to Diana at Nemi, Italy and the story of the huge collection of anatomical votives found there, as they were redisplayed for the first time in thirty years at Nottingham Museum.
I have co-developed rhe Making Learning project using craft practices to learn about and connect with history and our own emotional lives. In this we have worked with arts festival visitors, school children, women who have experienced domestic violence and older people. I co-delivered workshops in which we recreated ancient anatomical votives as a way of learning about the ancient practice of representing health issues through an external object, and exploring its potential for wellbeing today.
I was also Library and Archive Volunteer at ss Great Britain Trust, Bristol, (2013-2014) and Roman Handling Sessions Volunteer at Bristol City Museums and Galleries in 2013.
I have been invited as a speaker and workshop facilitator at events aimed at a non-academic audience. These include:
My research has received media attention, for instance my work on homoerotic art collecting.
The Sex and History project which I work on has received considerable media attention and I have made media appearances representing the project, for instance on BBC Radio and and ‘Occupy the Airwaves’, International Women’s Day takeover on Phonic FM.
I also blog for Notches: (Re)Marks on the History of Sexuality.
I have taught on the following modules at University of Exeter:
· Sexualities, History, University of Exeter, 2016-2018 (Level 3)
· Sexuality and Gender in the Ancient World, University of Exeter, 2009-2010 (Level 3)
· Greek and Roman Narrative, University of Exeter, 2010-2011 (Level 1 and 2)
- HIH3619 - Sexualities
- Society for the History of Collecting
- Museums and Galleries History Group (MGHG)
- European Association of Archaeologists (EAA)
- Arts Health Early Career Research Network
- Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance
I am also a member of:
- Public Engagement Strategic Advisory Group, University of Exeter
- Community and Public Engagement Strategy Working Group, University of Exeter
- Selection panel for the Early Career Researcher Exploratory Awards, University of Exeter
- National LGBT History Month academic conference committee, Schools OUT UK
- Sex, Science and Censorship in the 19th and 20th century conference, 2020, funded by Wellcome Trust.
- Sex, Sexuality and Classical Reception seminar, February 2019, funded by Wellcome Trust, hosted by the Centre for Medical History at University of Exeter, organised in conjunction with the Exeter Classical Receptions Network.
- Hybrid Academics and Engaged Researchers workshop, September 2018, University of Exeter (with Sanja Djerasimovic).
- Interdisciplinary Histories conference, February 2017, funded by Wellcome Trust, hosted by the Centre for Medical History at University of Exeter (with Kate Fisher and Jana Funke).
- Desiring Statues: Statuary, Sexuality, and History conference, April 2012, funded by Wellcome Trust, hosted by the Centre for Medical History at University of Exeter (with Jana Funke).
- Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Reception of the Ancient World (AMPRAW), hosted by Institute for Classical Studies, London, December, 2011 (as part of team of 5 postgraduates).
- Classics and Ancient History Seminar Series, University of Exeter, 2010-2011 (with Earl Banner).
2015-present Project management for “Rethinking Sexology” project, University of Exeter
2009-present Project management for “Sex & History” project, University of Exeter
2015 Project Coordinator, University Strategic Programme Office, University of Auckland.
2014 Student Housing Advisor, Bath Spa University.