Academics at Work: Bringing the ancient classical world to life with Anastasia Pantazopoulou

Pantazopoulou, visiting assistant professor of classics, wants to keep finding ways to make her research accessible to broader audiences outside academia, to engage them in conversations concerning identity and inclusion in ancient works and modern society.

Cecily Schar ’27 30 May 2024 Posted In:
Tracing Medea cover page
The introductory webpage from Tracing MedeaPhoto:

For visiting classics professor Anastasia Pantazopoulou, digital humanities is an integral part of her projects, giving modern-day life to the antiquity of the classical world. The Carleton Digital Humanities program began in 2013 in partnership with St. Olaf and Macalester, and runs out of Carleton’s Humanities Center. The program is assisted by digital humanities associates — students who are taught the program’s methods and can assist faculty in connecting humanities topics to the digital world. According to the program’s website, its goal is to “leverage digital technologies and expertise to advance innovative and interdisciplinary work across campus.” 

Headshot of Anastasia Pantazopoulou
Anastasia Pantazopoulou

Living in Greece, which she describes as “growing up in the remnants of the past,” Pantazopoulou developed a lasting interest in how ancient Greece has affected modern Greek culture, as well as that of the broader Western world, which led her to pursue an education in classics. She says the larger goal of her research and projects is to investigate “how [the classical past] has informed our present day, and my own identity as a Greek person.” 

Pantazopoulou centers her focus especially on the narratives of women in Greco-Roman literature, something which was uncommon in the male-dominated social structures of classical antiquity. 

“Storytelling practices allow female ‘others’ to become subjects in their own experiences and regain their voices,” she said. “[I look at] how we see them regaining agency and how that can inform the present day.”

Through pairing ancient Greek and Roman writings with modern media and technology, Pantazopoulou reveals how our current world is still affected by the classical past.

This thread is carried throughout Pantazopoulou’s research and projects. Drawing on her desire to bring the classical world into our own, she is involved with two in-progress digital humanities projects at Carleton. The first is an “animated archive” titled, Tracing Medea: The Identity Journey of Euripides’ Medea on the Modern Stage. Tracing Medea examines how adaptations of the Greek tragedy Medea have been shaped by their geographical and cultural settings. It is a set of digital maps that collects multimedia resources and information about “performances, places, and identity structures” across time and space, “built on the values of visualization and mapping methodologies.” The character Medea is known for her nuanced “ethnic, social, and gendered identity,” which is also something Pantazopoulou looks at. Four Carleton students work on Tracing Medea alongside Pantazopoulou: research assistants Ellie Simon ’26 and Sam Much ’27, and digital humanities associates Abdullah Ansar ’25 and Noah Zameer Lee ’27. Recently, Tracing Medea was accepted into the Institute for Liberal Arts Digital Scholarship (ILiADS), hosted this year by Emory University, for further development this summer in order to have part of it available to the public in the fall of 2024.

Medea map 1
One of Tracing Medea‘s interactive maps

Another ongoing project Pantazopoulou is involved with at Carleton is tentatively titled the Classical Reception Source Database. Two Carleton students, Aselya Gullickson ’26 and Eila Planinc ’26, are scheduled to also be a part of this project.

“[It’s a] tagged database on scholarship of reception of the classical world into the modern world,” Pantazopoulou said.

Run by the Antiquity in Media Studies Source Database Committee, this database is designed to be accessible to both the general public and those in academia, again exploring how the ancient world has been received in contemporary society across time, space, and media. It especially represents the interdisciplinary work that Pantazopoulou does, combining computer science with classical primary and secondary sources.

In April, Pantazopoulou presented a talk about her research at Carleton and the Classical Association of the Middle West and South (CAMWS) Annual Meeting, showcasing her method of comparing parallel ancient and contemporary literatures. The talk was centered on the “female experience of war,” as told by the Athenian tragic Euripides in his play Trojan Women and the Christine Evans’ contemporary play Trojan Barbie, and explored how women had their identities altered by conflict, especially those on the defeated side. Pantazopoulou highlights Euripides and his works in multiple of her projects, because the focus of his texts allow social “othering” to be broken down.

“[Euripides] opens the tragic space to different characters and voices that are less heard than that of the male citizen in classical Athens,” she said. Through stories and perspectives like these found in Euripides’ plays, as well as Trojan Barbie, women are able to regain some of their agency, and the audience can see how the impacts of war are felt across time, especially by women.

Because of her experiences as a woman in academia and an international researcher, Pantazopoulou has always felt drawn toward investigating “how we see [women] regaining agency and how that can inform the present day… how I myself can, inside and outside the academic world, create spaces for all voices to be heard.” She wants to create connections between these experiences in her research, and looks forward to doing the same thing with future interdisciplinary and digital humanities projects.

“Generally,” Pantazopoulou said, “my goal is to keep finding ways to make my research accessible to broader audiences outside academia. [I want to] engage them in conversations concerning identity and inclusion in ancient works and our society.”

This story is part of a series of interviews with Carleton faculty about their research and engagements with the Carleton community. The Academics at Work series allows Carleton professors to talk about the changes they have observed and help lead in their own academic communities, as well as provide further insight into the work they do at Carleton.