‘Women and the Humanities’ is a new TORCH programme this year, which brings together researchers from across the disciplines whose work touches on issues of gender, and particularly on women. We also aim to provide a platform for academics seeking to rectify imbalances within the academy (and beyond it too). I’ve had the privilege of directing the programme for its initial year, and it’s been a thrill every step of the way. We have had seminars run all year round on Gender, Literature and Culture. We have events on topics as diverse as women’s sexual autobiographies, female genital mutilation and the gender gap within the academy. That last workshop is what I (together with Dr Rachel Moss) am putting most of my energies into at the moment. We are working in collaboration with the University’s Equality and Diversity Unit to bring a number of prominent women academics to Oxford to talk about their experiences, and more constructively to showcase their proposals for making universities a more gender-neutral environment. Our aim, in the course of the day, will be to come up with a manifesto that anyone working in any university can use to hold their administrators to account. I am also, as I write, in discussion with the team behind an extraordinary project, which involved the staging of Euripides’ Trojan Women by women refugees from the horrendous conflict in Syria. Euripides’ play deals with the aftermath of the sack of Troy: it’s a brutal exposure of the damage that affects women after men have gone to war, and an eloquent allegory for the women’s experience. It’s unusual, as a humanities academic, to find yourself up-close with the issues of the day, but this TORCH programme is unusually well positioned to do that: to mediate between humanities scholarship, with all of its rigour, sophistication and intellectual sweep, and the realities that many people live with on a day-to-day basis. I’ve found being involved with it a wonderful experience: rich, rewarding, humane and (in the best sense) challenging. Events have been captivating and entirely positive in spirit. Come along to an event and see what I mean!
Tim Whitmarsh (Corpus Christi)
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Women in the Humanities