Seminar: Ancient Myths of Metamorphosis, Body, Self

Thursday 30 May, 2019, 6.00 p.m.
Maudsley Philosophy Group Seminar.
Boardroom at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, 16 de Crespigny Park, London, SE5 8AF.
Professor Esther Eidenow, Professor of Ancient History at the University of Bristol.
This paper will explore how stories about metamorphosis in Greek myth can give some insight into culturally specific notions of the body and ideas about the ‘self’. Focusing on stories about petrification, it will examine how this imagery was used to convey character, and to describe the emotional, physical—and spiritual—state of individuals and their relationships.


My broad area of expertise is ancient Greek society and culture, with specific focus on ancient Greek religion and magic. I have published monographs on oracles, curse tablets and binding spells, concepts of fate, luck and fortune, and the social emotions surrounding ‘witchcraft’ trials in classical Athens. I am the editor with Thomas Harrison (St Andrews) of a new series on Ancient Religions and Cognition for Cambridge University Press, and co-founder and co-Editor in Chief (with Luther Martin, Vermont) of the Journal of Cognitive Historiography.

I take an interdisciplinary approach to research, employing cognitive and anthropological theories to investigate ancient evidence, with particular interest in questions about social emotions, the concept of the individual and ideas of the self, network theory, and the socio-cultural power of narrative. I am currently working on projects exploring narratives and environmental risk; myth and landscape; the idea of ‘belief’; and concepts of change in the ancient world.

Much of my work is informed by a broader curiosity about how different cultures respond to not knowing about the future (raising questions about responses to uncertainty, risk, and decision making). This has been shaped by my career before academia, when I worked as an editor and writer, specializing in scenarios and strategy for business, governments and international organisations, such as UNAIDS. I still work with some of my business and strategy colleagues on related questions—e.g. what makes a narrative about the future seem plausible.”

All are welcome and the event is free. However pease register in advance by emailing Felix Warnock at felix.warnock[at]

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