Universiteit Leiden

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Matthew Payne


Mr.dr. M.F. Payne
+31 71 527 6427

Matthew Payne is a researcher at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society.

More information about Matthew Payne

Fields of Interest

Roman Drama
History of Scholarship
Classical Tradition
Latin Literature
Seneca the Younger
Imperial Literature

Project: Reading Republican Tragedy

My post-doc project is part of the Anchoring Innovation research programme (2017 Gravitation Grant, Ministry of Education, NWO)

My project will examine the history of scholarship on fragmentary Roman tragedy. The fragments that survive to us were once part of a much bigger picture of tragedy on the Roman Republican stage, of which we now have a very incomplete grasp. With rarely more than a few lines from a play, the gaps are extensive. On the other hand, for Greek tragedy we have complete plays and far more contextual knowledge about their theatrical performance. The complete Greek tragedies we possess are still a small fraction of those that were produced and are confined to those originally staged in 5th century Athens, but, when compared with what we know about Roman Republican tragedy, we have a far deeper understanding of the Greek dramas.

The question that my project sets out to answer is this: how has our far greater knowledge of Greek tragedy influenced our understanding of fragmentary Roman tragedy? I will consider how the phenomenon of anchoring, where established information frames and affects the processing of new information, influences the editing of the fragmentary material and the conclusions drawn from it. I will be investigating how scholars' far more extensive knowledge of Greek tragedy shapes, consciously and unconsciously, their reading and editing of the Roman tragedians, leading them to interpret the fragments in particular ways, or in their reconstructions of the lost plays. I will also be situating these scholars in their historical settings and assessing how contemporary cultural trends, such as philhellenism in the 19th century, plays an important role in their reception of the fragments and taking an interdisciplinary approach, by drawing, for instance, on research on the psychology of reading and aesthetic response.

The wider aims of my research are to explore how assumptions and biases can emerge in scholarship and endure over time, and to contribute to new approaches to fragmentary material in general.


2018-Present: Postdoctoral Researcher, Leiden University
2014-2018: PhD in Classics, University of St Andrews, Thesis: ‘Aberration and Criminality in Senecan Tragedy’, supervised by Dr Emma Buckley.
2013-2014: MPhil in Classics, Cambridge University
2009-2012: BA in Classics, Cambridge University



  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Centre for the Arts in Society
  • Latijnse T&C

Work address

Arsenaalstraat 1
2311 CT Leiden
Room number A0.40


No relevant ancillary activities

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