Alex Purves is Professor and Chair in the Classics Department at UCLA. She joined the UCLA faculty in 2002 after completing her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and her BA and MA degrees at the University of Nottingham (UK). Her research focuses on Greek literature, primarily from the archaic and classical periods. Her first book was on space and landscape in the early Greek epic and prose tradition, Space and Time in Ancient Greek Narrative (Cambridge University Press, 2010). More recently, she has written on embodiment and repetition in Greek epic Homer and the Poetics of Gesture (Oxford University Press, 2019) and published two edited volumes on the senses (Synaesthesia and the Ancient Senses, with Shane Butler, [Acumen/Routledge, 2013], and Touch and the Ancient Senses [Routledge 2018]).
Alex Purves is currently working on two projects. The first, Blue Homer: Reading the Sea in and beyond the Odyssey begins by examining the sea in early Greek poetry from the position of depths, surface, and shore, and then moves on to consider the color of the sea in Joyce’s Ulysses and immersion underwater in Walcott’s Omeros as a means of reframing Homeric reception. Her second project, entitled Micro-Sappho, investigates the ontological status of tiny, minute or immaterial words and things in Sappho’s poetry.
She is co-organizing with Louise Hornby in the English Department an interdisciplinary conference entitled Elemental Readings I: Air (May 19-20, 2023).
In addition to various visiting fellowships and lecture opportunities abroad, including the Spinoza Visiting Research Fellowship at Leiden, the Corbett Lecture at Cambridge, the Gaisford Lecture at Oxford and the Erwin Rohde Lectures at Heidelberg, she has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies, and most recently the Loeb Classical Library and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.
Alex Purves teach graduate and undergraduate courses in ancient Greek language, literature, and thought, as well as the department’s GE course on Classical Mythology (CL 30). In 2017, She was the recipient of UCLA’s Distinguished Teaching Award, with a special commendation for graduate teaching.
Students interested in pursuing graduate work with Alex Purves are encouraged to get in touch. You can listen to this interview to learn more about her work, mentoring, and research.
- BA (Hons) English and Classical Studies, University of Nottingham, UK 1993
- MA in Classical Studies, University of Nottingham, UK 1995
- Post-baccalaureate program in Classical Studies, University of Pennsylvania 1997
- PhD in Classical Studies, University of Pennsylvania, 2002
- Homer and the Poetics of Gesture
- Oxford University Press, 2019
- Synaesthesia and the Ancient Senses
- Acumen Press, 2013
- Space and Time in Ancient Greek Narrative
- Cambridge University Press, 2010
- Touch and the Ancient Senses
- Routledge, 2018
- “Water, Wave, Weather: Homer and the Simile at Sea,” Classical Antiquity vol 42.2 (forthcoming October 2023).
- “Iliad 22” in J. Ready, ed., Oxford Critical Guide to Homer, Oxford University Press (forthcoming 2023).
- “Two Ways of Being Alone: Dual Form in Sappho fr. 168b,” in S. Nooter & M. Telò, eds., Radical Formalisms, Bloomsbury Press (forthcoming 2023-24)
- with Lionel Popkin, “Up in Arms: Conducting …(Iphigenia),” in Ramus (special issue on Wayne Shorter & esperanza spalding’s “… (Iphigenia),“ edited by Helen Morales & Mario Telò (forthcoming 2023)
- “Now Sleep,” with Victoria Wohl, in K. Gilhuly & J. Ullrich, eds., Time and Ancient Greek and Latin Literature (forthcoming 2023-24).
- “The Problem with Now: Sappho, Alcman, and the Lyric Present,” in C. Bloomfield & E. Hall, eds., Time, Tense and Genre in Ancient Greek Literature, Oxford University Press (forthcoming).
- “Sappho’s Lyric Sensibility” in A. Kelly & P. Finglass, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Sappho, Cambridge University Press (2021).
- “Rough Reading: Tangible Language in Dionysius’ Criticism of Homer” in T. Aldo, J. Grethlein & Luuk Huitink (eds.), Experience, Narrative and Literary Criticism in Ancient Greece (2020), 172-87.
- “Surface Reading: Touch and Emotion in Fuseli and Homer,” in S. Butler, ed., Deep Classics: Rethinking Classical Reception, Bloomsbury (2016), 67-85.
- “Ajax and Other Objects: Homer’s Vibrant Materialism” in S. Lindheim & H. Morales, eds., New Essays in Homer: Language, Violence, and Agency (Ramus Special Issue) (2015), 75-94.
- “In the Bedroom: Interior Space in Herodotus’ Histories,” in K. Gilhuly & N. Worman, eds., Space, Place, and Landscape in Ancient Greek Literature and Culture. Cambridge University Press (2014), 94-129.
- “Who, Sappho?” in D. Cairns & R. Scodel, eds., Defining Greek Narrative. Edinburgh Leventis Studies Vol. 7. University of Edinburgh Press (2014), 175-96.
- “Sleeping Outside in Homer’s Odyssey and W. G. Sebald’s The Emigrants,“ in H. Gardner & S. Murnaghan, eds., Odyssean Identities in Modern Cultures: The Journey Home, University of Ohio Press, (2014), 213-239.
- “Haptic Herodotus: History and the Senses,” in S. Butler & A. Purves, eds., Synaesthesia and the Ancient Senses (2013), 27-41.
- “Thick Description: Auerbach and the Boar’s Lair (Od. 19.388-475),” in M. Skempis & I. Ziogas, eds., Geography, Topography, Landscape: Configurations of Space in Greek and Roman Epic (2013), 37-62.
- “Homer and the Art of Overtaking,” AJP 132.4 (2011), 523-51.
- “Wind and Time in Homeric Epic,” TAPA 140.2 (2010), 323-350.
- “Falling into Time in Homer’s Iliad,” Classical Antiquity 25.1 (2006), 179-209.
- “The Plot Unravels: Darius’s Numbered Days in Scythia,” Helios 33.1 (2006), 1-26.
- “Unmarked Space: Odysseus and the Inland Journey” in Arethusa 39 (2006), 1-20.
- “Topographies of Time in Hesiod,” in R. Rosen, ed., Time and Temporality in the Ancient World, University of Pennsylvania Museum Press (2004), 147-68.
- “Philocleon as Actor and Spectator in Aristophanes’ Wasps,” DRAMA vol. 5. (1996), 5-22.
- GRK 1–3 Introduction to Ancient Greek
- GRK 20 Intermediate Greek I (Lucian)
- GRK 100 Intermediate Greek II (Xenophon, Plato)
- GRK 100+ Advanced Greek (Homer; Hesiod; Lysias; Euripides; Sophocles; Apollonius)
- CL 30 Classical Mythology (GE)
- CL 60 The Fantastic Journey: From Homer to 2001: a space odyssey (GE)
- CL 191 Capstone Seminar (The Immortal Experience; Aeschylus’ Other Plays)
- Hon 13 Honors Collegium Seminar
- CL 19 Fiat Lux Seminar (Sappho)
- GRK 200A Archaic Greek Poetry MA Survey
- GRK 200B Classical Greek Literature MA Survey
- CL 287 Graduate Proseminar
- GRK 200+ Graduate Seminars (Homer’s Iliad; Homer’s Odyssey; Hesiod; Sappho; Herodotus; Aristophanes; Sappho & Alcaeus)
Fellowships and Awards
- John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow 2023.
- Loeb Classical Library Fellowship 2023-2024.
- UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award, with special commendation for graduate teaching. 2017.
- Spinoza Visiting Research Fellow. Leiden, Netherlands. 2016.
- UCLA Faculty Career Development Award. 2009–2010 & 2004–2005.
- American Council of Learned Societies, Fellow. 2005–2006.
- Center for Hellenic Studies, Junior Fellow. 2005–2006.
- National Endowment for the Humanities. Summer Stipend. 2005.