Serena S. Witzke is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Classics Department at Wesleyan University for the 2017-2018 school year. She works in the fields of ancient comedy, gender and sexuality in antiquity, and Classical reception. In her work she examines the intersection of gender, class, age, and status and how this relationship shapes lived realities. She is interested in social hierarchies and how they affect ancient women and men, particularly the ways that subaltern figures (women, enslaved persons, non-citizens) work to benefit themselves by negotiating the power structures that limit them. Witzke looks at how texts engage with and critique social structures and hierarchies, how they deal with real or imagined threats by women to established order (such as uxores dotatae and duces feminae), and how they reveal information about persons and social relations that are otherwise difficult to find.
Witzke’s dissertation examined the ways in which Victorian playwright and celebrated wit Oscar Wilde recieved and interpreted ancient New Comedy and how that interpretation can offer new ways of reading the comedies of Plautus and Terence: Wilde used social critiques of Roman playwrights to investigate his own society, and in turn, his engagement with issues of identity and development can offer interesting new insights into the way Romans negotiate identity, the gendering of social roles, and facilitation or hindrance of personal development.
Witzke is working on a monograph entitled, Reconsidering the Recognition Comedy: Menander, Plautus, and Terence. Recent and forthcoming publications include “Violence against Women in Ancient Rome: Ideology versus Reality” in The Topography of Violence in the Greco-Roman World, “Gendered Patterns of Recognition in Menander’s Sikyonioi” in EuGeStA, “Gender and Sexuality in Plautus,” forthcoming in the Blackwell Companion to Plautus, and “Ethics in Roman Comedy” for the Antiquity volume of A Cultural History of Comedy.
Serena S. Witzke earned her BA in Classics at McMaster University and her PhD in Classics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has previously worked at Ohio Wesleyan, Wake Forest University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 2016 she was awarded the Women’s Classical Caucus Barbara McManus Award for Best Published Article: “Harlots, Tarts, and Hussies? A Problem of Terminology for Sex Labor in Roman Comedy,” (2015) Helios 42.1: 7-27.