Guy Kirkham-Smith

Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology
Doctoral Researcher

Contact details

Qualifications

  • M.A. (Classics), University of St. Andrews 2010
  • M.Litt. (Latin and Greek), University of St. Andrews 2011
  • M.Res. (Cuneiform and Near-Eastern Studies), University of Birmingham 2016 

Biography

I studied my undergraduate in Classics at the University of St. Andrews, where I combined a key interest in linguistics and etymology with a fascination of the origins of literature and mythology. A module on Hesiod and the Near-East in my final year gave an insight into a culture that was so influential in the Western literary canon but was almost entirely overlooked. This revelation eventually led me to the University of Birmingham where it was possible to study cuneiform for an MRes, gaining enough proficiency in Akkadian and Sumerian to begin doctoral research into these influences.

Alongside research for the PhD, I take part in a lot of Outreach activities, raising the profile of Near-Eastern studies in the Birmingham area, as well as Classics in general, helping to bring Latin back to being taught in several schools.

Teaching

PGTA Teaching at the University of Birmingham:

  • 2018/19: Introduction to Greek Literature
  • 2017/2018: Latin Books and Language, Greek Prose Texts, Greek Mythology
  • 2016/2017: Beginners’ Greek, Greek Prose Texts, Greek Mythology
  • 2015/2016: Early Civilizations: History of Western Asia
  • 2014/2015: Ancient Near-Eastern Myths, Akkadian Language, Sumerian Language

Doctoral research

PhD title
Phonology of Myth: Audience Direction in Archaic Greek and Near-Eastern Mythology
Supervisors
Dr J. Cale Johnson and Dr Gideon Nisbet
Course
Classics and Ancient History PhD/MA by Research (On-Campus or by Distance Learning)

Research

My research looks at how archaic Greek poetry uses specific phonic devices – collections of sounds within phrases in a text that give meaning to the audience above and beyond their literal meaning – in order to guide the audience in their reception of the text. Specifically looking at the Homeric corpus, I consider how, through this use and repetition of specific sounds, the audience are conditioned to direct their attention or their reaction in specific ways and how the text itself is sufficient to establish this reaction.

By comparing and contrasting with extended mythological narrative in the Ancient Near-East, with particular focus on the Enûma Eliš and the Gilgamesh tablets, this research demonstrates that while some techniques are common between Greek and Mesopotamian literature, the differences demonstrate key aspects of the approach to mythological narratives within each culture. The amount of influence of Mesopotamian culture on the Greek world has been a source of much academic intrigue in the past century. By taking the same analytical approach to each literature in isolation and comparing the results, it is possible to develop our approach to comparative studies. The main aim is to demonstrate that while some elements of mythology may have passed from the Near-East to the Greek world, the fundamental differences in approach between the Greek and Babylonian mind-set can drastically alter how they are presented or interpreted. While comparative mythology may not be able to prove a direct link between the Near-East and Greece, a comparative approach is capable of improving our understanding of both literatures, revealing functions and nuances that have yet been identified.

Publications

Conference papers

  • Šipra ša aqabbûku šuṣṣir atta: (Il)locutionary acts in Babylonian Mythological Narrative – Birmingham Assyriology Symposium, University of Birmingham, 2017
  • “Oh Enki, what big ears you have!" "But Athene, what big eyes you have!” Sources of Wisdom from Mesopotamia to Greece ­– Birmingham Assyriology Symposium, University of Birmingham, 2016
  • Phonic Registers in Homer: Visualising Oral Poetry  - CAHA Colloquium, University of Birmingham, 2016
  • Synecdoche and Repetition: Expressions of Extent in the Šurpu Incantation Series – Birmingham Assyriology Symposium, University of Birmingham, 2015
  • The Sound and Fury: Phonic Portrayals of Monsters in Greek and Mesopotamian Literature – ‘Animals Monsters and Demons: a Comparative Approach’ Conference, University of St. Andrews, 2015
  • A Monstrous Change: Near-Eastern Influence on Greek Monsters – Classical Association Conference, University of Nottingham, 2014
  • Mnemosyne: Mother of Muses – ‘Sites of Memory’ Conference, University of Birmingham, 2013