Originally from Cambridge UK, Naomi Weiss arrived at Harvard in 2014 after receiving a BA and MSt from Oxford and a PhD in Classics from the University of California, Berkeley. She is primarily a scholar of archaic and classical Greek literature and culture. Her research spans four intersecting areas: ancient Greek music and chorality; ancient Greek drama, especially tragedy; questions of genre in ancient Greek poetry; and, more recently, modern adaptations of Greek drama. Central to much of her work is the relation between language, performance, and audience.
Many of Weiss's publications have focused on the performance and representation of music and dance in archaic and classical Greece, particularly in tragedy, on which she has published multiple articles. Her first book, The Music of Tragedy: Performance and Imagination in Euripidean Theater (University of California Press, 2018), takes a new approach to the study of the classical Greek theater by exploring the dramatic function of mousikē (song, music, dance) in the plays of Euripides. She has also co-edited (with Lauren Curtis) Music and Memory in the Ancient Greek and Roman Worlds (Cambridge University Press, 2021), which explores music’s role in discourses of cultural memory, communication, and commemoration in ancient Greek and Roman societies.
Issues of genre often inform and motivate Weiss's work. These include ideas about the origins of song types in the ancient Greek musico-poetic imaginary and in the classical scholarly tradition; generic self-consciousness and generic hybridity in archaic and classical Greek poetry; and also genre in terms of her own scholarly practice, as she brings together forms of drama (tragedy, comedy, satyr play) and media (plays, pots) that are rarely analyzed side by side. Her co-edited volume, Genre in Archaic and Classical Greek Poetry: Theories and Models (Brill, 2019; edited with Margaret Foster and Leslie Kurke), foregrounds innovative approaches to the question of genre, what it means, and how to think about it for ancient Greek poetry and performance. Her interest in genre also drives her recent turn toward classical reception studies, as she considers the interaction between tragic and novel form in 21st-century fiction.
Weiss's new book, Seeing Theater: The Phenomenologies of Classical Greek Drama, is about how fifth-century drama (tragedy, comedy, satyr play) interrogates the spectator’s own viewing experience. Analyzing the construction of space, props, and bodies across different genres and media through the lens of theater phenomenology, Weiss shows how they exploit the potential fissures, tensions, and misalignments between the means and objects of representation.