Hamish Williams (PhD in Classics, the University of Cape Town, 2017) is a Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of English and American Studies, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Germany. He has previously taught International Studies at Leiden University, the Netherlands. His research work is spread across the sub-disciplines of Classical reception studies, modern, popular fiction studies, and utopian studies.
My background is in Classical studies (PhD, University of Cape Town (2017); with a research stay at Leiden University; funded by the National Research Foundation of South Africa, the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust). While my doctoral dissertation entailed a close-reading of ancient epic (particularly, the Homeric Odyssey), my research in the past three to five years has gradually veered in the direction of Classical reception, a sub-discipline of Classics concerned with the post-Classical appropriation, reflection, and reimagination of Classical literature and thought. Classical reception itself is a fairly broad field, and my own research to date has tended to focus on the relationship between Classics and modern (from the late nineteenth century), popular literature and culture.
My current research project, which is based in Jena and is funded by an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, aims at exploring classical thought and literature in modern popular/genre fiction, more particularly the fantasy literature of J.R.R. Tolkien. This research project, which commenced formally in October 2019, has led to the publication of several works in important peer-reviewed journals in popular fiction studies, including Tolkien Studies and Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, book chapters, and an edited volume Tolkien and the Classical World.
The intersection of Classicism and utopianism forms an important part of my current and future research. Based on my current Humboldt research, I am preparing a proposal for a monograph, The Past Perfect Realms of Tolkien: Classicism and Utopianism, for Bloomsbury Publishing (2022). As the title of the work indicates, the monograph juxtaposes both my previous research expertise in Classical reception studies and popular fiction with my future research orientation in utopian studies. The monograph aims to situate Tolkien as an important thinker in utopian studies because of the diversity, complexity, and of course Classicism in his representations of [im]perfect space.
Another important output of my continuing research in Classical reception studies and utopian studies is the edited volume Sea Utopias and Catastrophes in Ancient Narratives: History, Literature, and post-Classical Receptions, which is currently under review with Liverpool University Press. The volume brings together a number of scholars in different fields of Classics and Classical reception (ancient history, archaeology, art, philology and literature) in order to assess the impact on modern thought of ancient ideas on the sea as a utopic-catastrophic sphere.