Jennifer Wallace grew up in London and Edinburgh and studied Classics and English Literature at Cambridge University. She wrote a PhD on the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and Romantic Hellenism and won a Junior Research Fellowship to Clare College, Cambridge, in 1992. She took up her current academic position, as Senior Lecturer and Director of Studies in English, at Peterhouse, University of Cambridge, in 1995.
Jennifer has published five non-fiction books and one work of fiction. In addition, she has co-edited three multi-author volumes of essays. She is interested in the Romantic poets, in ancient Greece, in archaeology, in the poetics of depth and what is missing, in tragedy and tragic drama, in photography, memoir and contemporary fiction, in women’s writing, in the ethics of literary criticism, in literary relics and good stories.
As well as academic writing on Romanticism, Classical reception and tragic drama, Jennifer has written for newspapers and magazines in the UK, USA and Japan. She wrote numerous feature articles for the Times Higher Education Supplement between 1995 and 2004, including interviews with Edward Said, Andre Brink, Slavoj Zizek, David Mamet and Judith Butler. Since then, she has reported, among other things, on biblical archaeology in Israel for Smithsonian Magazine, on the threat to tribal India from mining for a major photographic exhibition at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS (and related publications), and on environmental issues in Rajasthan for magazines in France and Japan. She writes travel articles regularly for ANA Wingspan in Japan, and has reviewed fiction and non-fiction for the Times Literary Supplement, the Times Higher Education Supplement and the LA Review of Books. She works frequently with her husband, the photographer Robert Wallis, on joint projects involving words and images.
Jennifer has a long-term interest in Greece, ancient and modern. For the last ten years she has served on the jury of the annual London Hellenic Prize which is awarded to an outstanding book in English related to, or inspired by, some aspect of Greece and she is a member of the Cambridge Greek Play committee which produces a play, performed in the original ancient Greek, every three years.
She has also played double bass in a jazz quartet. She lives in London with Robert.
Tragedy since 9/11
Reading a World Out of Joint.
(2019) Bloomsbury Academic
We are living through tumultuous times, in which the discourse of the War on Terror draws upon terms that hark back to ancient notions of tragedy: heroes, sacrifice, good and evil. People respond to disaster in ways that have much in common with practices in tragic drama. What can we learn from the tradition of tragedy? And how can a literary attention to tragedy help us to analyse current dilemmas of citizenship, political responsibility, spectacle, grief and mourning, justice and ethical responsibility?
From the trauma of September 11th, through the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to the aftermath of the Arab Spring and the environmental warning signs of climate change, this book reflects on the crises and terrifying events of the early 21st century and argues that a knowledge of tragedy from the works of Sophocles to Shakespeare to Samuel Beckett can help us understand them. Jennifer Wallace offers a cultural analysis of the tragic events of the past two decades with reference to a litany of key dramatic texts, including Aeschyluss Oresteia, Euripides Hecuba, Iphigenia in Aulis, Trojan Women and Bacchae, Homers Iliad, Ibsens Emperor and Galilean and Enemy of the People, and Shakespeares Julius Caesar, Macbeth and King Lear, among others.
DIGGING UP MILTON
(2015) Cillian Press
London, 1790: John Milton, one of Britain’s greatest poets, has been dead for over a century. Lizzie Grant, gravedigger, wife and entrepreneur, is very much alive.
When Milton’s bones surface at St Giles’ Church in London’s Cripplegare, illiterate yet enterprising Lizzie seizes the opportunity to make her mark on history. But Lizzie hasn’t accounted for Milton’s power – as a hero, a revolutionary, and literary genius. Amongst circulating body parts and surrounded by hypocrisy, Lizzie’s dreams start to unravel.
In 1790 it seems a lot of people want a piece of Milton.
This darkly humorous novel vividly captures the boisterous, bawdy life of the 18th century London streets in a tale of greed, guild and a paradise lost.
The Cambridge Introduction to Tragedy
(2007) Cambridge University Press
Tragedy is the art-form created to confront the most difficult experiences we face: death, loss, injustice, thwarted passion, despair.
From ancient Greece theatre up to the most recent plays, playwrights have found, in tragic drama, a means to seek explanation for disaster. But tragedy is also a word we continually encounter in the media, to denote an event which is simply devastating in its emotional power. This engaging introduction provides an overview of the tragic theatre canon – including chapters on the Greeks, Shakespeare, Ibsen and Chekhov, American tragedy and post-colonial drama – and brings a wide spectrum of examples, from both literature and life, into the discussion of this emotional and frequently controversial subject.
DIGGING THE DIRT: THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL IMAGINATION
(2004) Duckworth Publishers
When Jennifer Wallace travelled round Greece as a student, hiking through olive groves to hunt out the stones of old temples and lost cities, she became fascinated by archaeology. It was magical. It was absurd. Give an archaeologist a few rocks and, like a master storyteller, he could bring another world to life. From the plain of Troy to the Titanic, from Stonehenge to Ground Zero, Digging the Dirt explores the sites that have exerted the strongest pull on the public imagination. Some, where bones are indistinguishable from dust, have driven archaeologists to despair. Others haunt poets with memories of loss and romance. All reveal the relevance of archaeology to our deepest cultural anxieties.
Passionate and intelligent, Digging the Dirt engages with the work of philosophers and writers who have been stirred by the life below the ground, while never losing sight of the pressing demands of archaeologists today. In a world of postmodern spin, Wallace calls for a renewed sense of the poetics of depth and shows how excavation can play a vital role in bringing powerful political forces to account