Mark Payne

Biography and Interests: 

Mark Payne

Title: Professor of Classics and the College, and in the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought
Education: Ph.D. Columbia University 2003
Office: Classics 24
Areas of Specialization: Hellenistic poetry; poetry and poetics; literary theory; animal studies; ecological theory; reception studies

My research focuses on the literary imagination and its recursive effects on our everyday life worlds. My first book, Theocritus and the Invention of Fiction (Cambridge University Press, 2007) brought recent theories of fiction to bear on pastoral as the first fully fictional world of the ancient literary imagination.

My second book, The Animal Part: Human and Other Animals in the Poetic Imagination (The University of Chicago Press, 2010) looked at how poets from Archilochus to William Carlos Williams engage with the lives of other animals. It received the 2011 Warren-Brooks Award for Outstanding Literary Criticism.

My current book project, The Choric Con-sociality of Nonhuman Life, investigates the representation of Nature as a choric presence around human life in Hellenistic poetry, German Romanticism, and the Anglo-American weird tale. I have written papers on many aspects of ancient poetry and its reception, from Pindar to Paul Celan, and I am currently working on the relationship between ancient poetics of play and the painting of Cy Twombly. I am a faculty sponsor of the Animal Studies and Rhetoric and Poetics workshops, and a member of the Poetry and Poetics Program. In the last few years, I have worked closely with members of the Postclassicisms Network.

Video of talk at Chicago Humanities Festival:



  • 2010. The Animal Part: Human and Other Animals in the Poetic Imagination. The University of Chicago Press.
  • 2007. Theocritus and the Invention of Fiction. Cambridge University Press.

Selected Recent Articles:

  • In preparation. “What’s an ark?” Relegere special issue/Bible in effect series, edited by Matthew Chrulew.
  • Forthcoming. “Fidelity and farewell: Pindar’s ethics as textual events.” InTextual Events, edited by Felix Budelmann and Tom Phillips. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Forthcoming. “The choric con-sociality of nonhuman life: Schiller, Hölderlin, and interpellation by Nature in Hellenistic poetry.” In Antiquities Beyond Humanism, edited by Emanuela Bianchi, Sara Brill, and Brooke Holmes.Oxford: Oxford University Press: Classics in Theory series.
  • 2017. “Centaur.” In liquid antiquity, edited by Brooke Holmes. Athens: DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art: 84-87.
  • 2017. “Before the law: Imagining crimes against trees.” In Fatal Fictions: Crime and Investigation in Law and Literature, edited by Richard McAdams, Alison LaCroix, and Martha Nussbaum. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 241-58.
  • 2016. “Aetna and Aetnaism: Schiller, vibrant matter, and the phenomenal regimes of ancient poetry.” Helios 43: 1-20. 
  • 2016. “Trees in shallow time.” In Imperceptibly and Slowly Opening, edited by Caroline Picard. Chicago: Green Lantern Press: 76-83.
  • 2016. “Teknomajikality and the humanimal in Aristophanes’ Wasps.” In The Brill Companion to the Reception of Aristophanes, edited by Phil Walsh. Leiden: Brill: 129-47. 
  • 2016. “Relic | channel | ghost: Centaurs in Algernon Blackwood’s The Centaur.” In Deep Classics: Rethinking Classical Reception, edited by Shane Butler. London: Bloomsbury: 239-54. 

Recent Courses:

  • Plotinus (with Gabriel Lear)
  • Philosophy and the Poetics of Presence in  Postwar France (with Alison James)
  • Hölderlin and the Greeks (with Christopher Wild)
  • Intermediate Greek: Sophocles
  • Greek elegy and iambic poetry
  • Introductory Greek