Vacancy: PhD position Anchoring Innovation at VU University

PhD project, 4 years (1.0fte), starting date to be agreed, with a preference for 1 April 2019. Initially a contract will be given for 12 months, with an extension for the following 36 months on the basis of a positive evaluation.

From Gilgamesh to Gladiator: Anchoring Innovation in the Epic Tradition
(Anchoring Work Package 6, Reception of Antiquity)

€ 2,325 to € 2,972 gross per month (based on 38 hours a week)

Dr M.A.J. Heerink (VU), Prof. Dr I.J.F. de Jong (UvA)

VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Humanities

Job description:
The epic tradition comprises over 4,000 years, from the epic of Gilgamesh to the modern epic movie. This project deals with the reception of ancient epic poetry in the modern epic movie.

In classical antiquity, every epic poem is firmly anchored in literary tradition. Virgil’s Aeneid, for instance, is instantly recognizable as a Homeric epic. At the same time, every epic constitutes an innovation of that same tradition, as a result of a different kind of anchoring, i.e. in the political and/or religious context of production. The Aeneid, for instance, is a very Roman epic, dealing with the origins of the Roman people and the first emperor Augustus in particular.

Epic is more than poems composed in hexameters, however. The concept of Anchoring Innovation makes it possible to understand contemporary epic, i.e. the epic movie, as a continuation of the epic tradition. Although the medium (film) is different, epic movies are recognizable as such and are, just like their ancient predeccesors, firmly anchored in their ideological context. Examples are politically charged movies on classical antiquity such as Spartacus (1960), Gladiator (2000), Alexander (2004), Troy (2004) and 300 (2006), but also movies that only deal with the ancient world implicitly, such as the Star Wars cycle (1977-2017), Apocalypse Now (1979), Avatar (2009) and Inception (2010).

Candidates are invited to write a proposal on how they envisage a project on the way the modern epic movie is a continuation of (i.e. is anchored in) the ancient epic tradition, while at the same constituting an innovation of that same tradition, anchored in its ideological context.

More information about the Anchoring Innovation research agenda of OIKOS can be found on the OIKOS website (, including an article by Ineke Sluiter, entitled “Anchoring Innovation: a Classical Research Agenda”.

Tasks of the PhD candidate will include:

  • Completion and defence of a PhD thesis within four years
  • Participation in meetings of the project research group(s)
  • Presentations of intermediate research results at workshops and conferences
  • Participation in the training programme of the Graduate School and Research School


  • A (R)MA or MPhil degree in Classics and/or Ancient Studies or in (with a demonstrable interest in Cultural or Media Studies), or in Cultural and/or Media Studies (with a demonstrable interest in Classics and/or Ancient Studies), held by time of appointment (if the degree is not yet obtained at the time of application, a statement by the applicant’s supervisor should confirm that it will be obtained by time of appointment)
  • Excellent research skills
  • A strong cooperative attitude and willingness to engage in collaborative research
  • Excellent command of English

Job application:

In order to be considered, applications must include the following information (in the same order), in one PDF file (not zipped):

  • Cover letter
  • CV, including contact information of two referees
  • Transcript of records
  • Research proposal of 1500 words. Excluded are the bibliography and (if appropriate) an appendix containing a list of sources (together max. two pages A4)
  • Copy of relevant diploma
  • If necessary (see requirements), statement by supervisor confirming that the applicant will hold the required degree at the time of appointment

Please submit your complete application to dr Roald Dijkstra, the coordinator of the Anchoring-programme via before 1 November 2018.

Interviews will take place in the week of 3 December. For candidates living abroad interviews may be held via Skype.

More information about this position may be obtained from Dr M.A.J. Heerink (