Greek and Roman Literature

Classics and Literature

The study of literature in Greek and Latin lies at the center of all the fields covered by the Department of Classics. The differences are in how each field construes textual evidence and defines the parameters of the literary. The Program in Classical Languages and Literatures makes literature and literary culture the focus of its curriculum. Our faculty represent a wide range of approaches and read literature in relation to: animal studies, gender, law, performance studies, philosophy, politics, religion, rhetoric, and ancient Greek and Roman society. Reception studies is a concern shared by all. In addition to courses originating in Classics, students may also take offerings from Comparative Literature, the Committee on Social Thought, the Divinity School, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and the various modern literature departments. Two workshops housed in the department have a strong orientation toward literary topics: Metaphor, and Rhetoric and Poetics. Many of the faculty and students also attend the workshops on Poetry and Poetics, Literature and Philosophy, and the Renaissance. The Classical Performance Society regularly puts on plays and the poetry readings on campus are innumerable.


While many of our faculty work on literature in its relation to some other field, all the members of our faculty teach courses that include literary texts. Listed below are those whose research interests concentrate primarily on the interpretation of literature as such.

  • Shadi Bartsch-Zimmer’s most recent book is The Mirror of the Self:  Sexuality, Self-Knowledge, and the Gaze in the Early Roman Empire (Chicago, 2006). Her interests cover literature, philosophy, and rhetoric in Imperial Roman literature as well as the reception of the Western classical corpus in modern China. Forthcoming soon with the University of Chicago Press is Persius: A Study in Food, Philosophy, and the Figural.
  • Michèle Lowrie’s most recent book is Writing, Performance, and Authority in Augustan Rome (Oxford, 2009). She works on literature and politics in Republican and Augustan Rome and on the reception of Roman political thought. Current book projects include the exemplum and exceptional politics, the origins of security as a concept, and Roman tropes for civil war in Victor Hugo’s Quatrevingt-treize (in collaboration with Barbara Vinken).
  • Sarah Nooter has published When Heroes Sing: Sophocles and the Shifting Soundscape of Tragedy (Cambridge, 2012). She specializes in Greek tragedy with a focus on the interaction of sound and signification. A current project is the reception of Athenian drama in twentieth-century African literature.
  • Mark Payne’s most recent book is The Animal Part: Human and Other Animals in the Poetic Imagination (The University of Chicago Press, 2010). He works on the literary imagination within the framework of animal studies and classical reception from a broadly comparatist orientation. His current book project is called The Choric Con-sociality of Nonhuman Life; he is also working on the ancient poetics of play and Cy Twombly.
  • Peter White’s most recent book is Cicero in Letters: Epistolary Relations of the Late Republic (Oxford University Press, 2010). He focuses on the relationship between Roman social life and literary production, and is currently preparing a commentary on books 5-9 of Augustine’s Confessions.
  • David Wray has published Catullus and the Poetics of Roman Manhood (Cambridge, 2001). He works on gender, ancient philosophy, translation in theory and practice, and has wide interests in classical reception. His current book project is called Phaedra’s Virtue: Ethics, Gender, and Seneca’s Tragedy.

In addition, the following faculty members edit texts and teach textual criticism, papyrology, and epigraphy.

  • Michael Allen’s most recent edition is Frechulfi Lexouiensis episcopi opera Omnia (Turnhout, 2002). He edits Medieval Latin texts and is currently working on Lupus of Ferrières. Forthcoming soon is Eriugena and Creation (Turnhout).
  • Alain Bresson’s most recent book L’économie de la Grèce des cités (Paris, 2007) has been published in English as The Making of the Ancient Greek Economy (Princeton, 2016). His focus on the ancient Greek economy requires a broad range of sources, including literary texts, coins, inscriptions, and archaeological data. He is co-editing, with François Velde and Elio Lo Cascio, The New Oxford Handbook for the Economies of the Ancient World.
  • David Martinez’s most recent edition is P. Michigan XIX: Baptized for our Sakes; A Leather Trisagion from Egypt (Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1999). He works on Greek papyrology and paleography, early Christian literature, and the Hellenistic background to the New Testament. He is currently editing papyri housed at the University of Texas, Austin, which mainly date from the Ptolemaic period.
  • Sofia Torallas Tovar’s most recent single-author book is Biblica Coptica Montserratensia. P. Monts. Roca II (Barcelona, 2007). She is the curator of the collection of papyri at Abadia de Montserrat. Her research focuses on editing Greek and Coptic texts, Greco-Roman Egypt, and sociolinguistics. She participates in several international research groups ( and


We have offered a wide range of courses on individual texts or authors read in the original languages as well as broader topics offered in translation that have touched on literary texts. The following listing includes only courses taught or co-taught by professors of Classics. Others have been available through cross-listing with the modern literature departments, History, or Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.

  • Aeschylus ('Prometheus Bound')
  • Aristophanes’ Athens (in English)
  • Augustine’s City of God (in English)
  • Augustine’s Confessions
  • Greek Elegy
  • Hölderlin and the Greeks (either Greek or German required)
  • Medieval Latin
  • Mythical History / Paradigmatic Figures: Caesar, Augustus, Charlemagne, Napoleon (in English)
  • Roman Elegy
  • Roman Novel
  • Sophocles’ Electra
  • Tacitus’ Agricola
  • Vergil’s Aeneid
  • Vergil’s Georgics
  • Xenophon’s Poroi


Our placement record has been strong in recent years. Students who have graduated from the Program in Classical Languages and Literatures recently are teaching at Berkeley, Colgate, Duke, Holy Cross, and Reed.