Virtue and vice, entertainment and uplift: Roman Women in Silent Cinema

Posted by er134 at Oct 25, 2013 10:34 AM |
‘Globally-recognised’ scholar to speak at Thirteenth Dorothy Buchan Memorial Lecture on Tuesday 29 October at the University of Leicester

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 25 October 2013

The thirteenth annual Dorothy Buchan Memorial Lecture will be delivered by world-renowned Professor Maria Wyke of University College London at the University of Leicester on Tuesday 29 October.

Professor Wyke’s lecture, entitled ‘Virtue and vice, entertainment and uplift: Roman Women in Silent Cinema’, will explore how Roman women were portrayed in early films, dating from before ‘talkies’ – films incorporating spoken dialogue - emerged in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Professor Wyke said: “Ancient Rome features frequently in early cinema.

“From it, cinema gained access to enthralling stories and cultural prestige. Ancient Rome gained embodiment, colour, movement and music, and an entry point into modernity.

“But in the gap between cinema's drive to provide moral uplift and profitable entertainment, fascinating and ambiguous portraits of figures such as Agrippina, Messalina, Octavia and Cleopatra emerged.”

The Dorothy Buchan Memorial Lecture is held every year in memory of Dorothy Buchan (1931—2000), who, after retiring as head of Leicester High School for Girls, undertook a BA in Ancient History and Archaeology, writing her notable dissertation in 1995 entitled ‘Women of power or counters of value? A study of four Hellenistic queens’.

Dorothy Buchan also served for several years as Treasurer of the Leicestershire - now Leicestershire & Rutland - branch of the Classical Association.

After her passing, friends, family and colleagues contributed to a fund in her memory, supporting the annual lecture hosted at the University of Leicester.

Dr Dan Stewart from the University of Leicester School of Archaeology and Ancient History said: “The Dorothy Buchan Memorial Lecture is a way for the University to emphasise the contribution of the local to the construction of the global. Dorothy herself lived and taught locally, yet had a far-ranging interest in examining historic issues of global importance.

“We are very lucky to have Professor Maria Wyke continuing this tradition on October 29. She is a globally-recognised scholar of ancient gender and its representation in a range of media, and she is actively engaged in studying the way cultures, and our perceptions of them, move, shift, and interact over time. Leicester - both as a University and as community - is particularly strong in challenging old paradigms, and has a proven history of innovative thinking when it comes to culture.”

The free public event will take place at the University of Leicester on Tuesday 29 October at 5.30pm in the Ken Edwards Lecture Theatre 3.

A small reception with Professor Wyke will take place in the foyer of the School of Archaeology and Ancient History at 6.30pm.

Those intending to bring groups, or to stay for the reception, contact Rachel Godfrey on 0116 252 2611 or for further information.


Notes to editors:

For more information contact Rachel Godfrey at:

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