Department News and Events
It was a busy day last week in Princeton Classics, as two undergraduate courses hosted guest lecturers from experts in their respective fields. With a horse skull and several smaller bone-bags in tow, Prof. Katie Tardio of Bucknell came to introduce methods of zooarchaeology to “The Science of Roman History” (CLA 247). At the same time, Prof. Michael Weiss drove down from Ithaca to deliver an introduction to the obscure Italic language of Umbrian.
“…the plan is also to include the creative side, so we get artists involved, we get poets involved, and we get them into discussion with people doing fantastic things in the Department here. And the reality is that Princeton sees value, and the Department sees value, in those kinds of activities and supports them to no end. It’s one of the fabulous things about being here, to get that kind of support.”
After Princeton University announced it would begin offering undergraduate minors, the Classics Department’s proposal for a new minor was among the earliest accepted. We sat down with Alex Konovalov '25, the first student to enroll in the new program, for a conversation about his classics journey, his course of study, and how the two intertwine.
Froma I. Zeitlin, Ewing Professor of Greek Language and Literature, Emerita, celebrated her 90th birthday last spring. More recently, her new book The Retrospective Muse, was published by Cornell University Press in December. In this Q&A from the Humanities Council, Prof. Zeitlin discusses her book, her career in classics, and the enduring value of her work.
We are thrilled to congratulate Dr. Thomas Davies *20 on his appointment to the University of Melbourne, where he will teach as Lecturer in Classics and Archaeology. In his words, this permanent, research-oriented position (equivalent to Assistant Professor in the United States) will see him teaching the history, cultures, and literatures of Bronze and Iron Age Afroeurasia, building "the existing discipline of Classics and Archaeology into a comprehensive program on the ancient Afroeurasian world."
Princeton Classics is absolutely overjoyed to announce that Prof. Ilaria Marchesi will be joining our faculty as University Lecturer in Greek and Latin and as the new Director of the Classics Language Program. An expert in Latin lpedagogy and a leading authority on Pliny the Younger, Prof. Marchesi comes to the Department as Princeton's first ever externally appointed University Lecturer.
Princeton Classics is proud to announce that Professor Peter Kelly has secured funding for "New Approaches to Ekphrasis: Exploring the Vivid Interfaces Between Literature and Visual Representation" from the Princeton-Humboldt Strategic Partnership Initiative. Co-led by Darja Šterbenc Erker of the Humboldt, the project aims to examine modern poetry as well as ancient texts that reveal conceptions, representations, and ideas associated with vivid descriptions of objects, landscapes, and human bodies from all walks of life.
Princeton Classics is delighted to congratulate Prof. Dan-el Padilla Peralta who, together with Prof. Sasha-Mae Eccleston of Brown University, has received a one million dollar grant from the Mellon Foundation. This support will go toward Racing the Classics, which will be launching a new multi-year fellowship program designed to mentor graduate students and early career researchers of the ancient Mediterranean as they center critical race studies in their scholarship and teaching.
Research from Classics Department Visiting Fellow Joseph Fins (Weill Cornell Medical College) was featured in The New York Times on December 4, 2023. The article, titled “Brain Implants Helped 5 People Toward Recovery After Traumatic Injuries,” featured a new study on deep brain stimulation that was co-authored by Fins. The founding Chair of the Ethics Committee of New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center, Fins is an attending physician and the director of medical ethics.
Led by Princeton Classics professor Mirjam Kotwick and Penn State's Christopher Moore, a team of scholars from are assembling at Princeton to create a new Cambridge sourcebook that will reframe the study of classical Greek philosophy by drawing on material found in authors beyond the usual canon of Pre-socratics and Sophists, includiung historians, poets, orators, doctors, and music theorists. The workshop will last three days, feature luminaries in the field from across the country, and include public lectures from Victoria Wohl (Toronto) and Stephen A. White (UT-Austin).
For the Spring 2024 semester, Princeton Classics will be offering a new slate of undergraduate course options in Latin, Greek, and Classical Studies! These will include three original topics and three entirely new classes. Full length course descriptions are available now.
Happy Publication Day to Prof. Joshua Billings, co-editor of the new Cambridge Companion to the Sophists! Featuring contributions by Billings and assistant professor Mirjam E. Kotwick, this volume takes a fresh perspective on the sophists—who really counted as one, how distinctive they were, and what kind of sense later thinkers made of them. Available for order today!
On October 3rd, poet and translator A.E. Stallings delivered the 2023 Robert Fagles Lecture for Classics in the Contemporary Arts to a standing room-only audience. For those who missed it, a full recording is available here!
We announce with great sadness the death of Janet Martin on August 30th. An expert in medieval Latin, early leader in the Women’s Classical Caucus, and the first woman to receive tenure in the department’s history, Janet taught at Princeton Classics for thirty-seven years before transferring to emeritus status in 2010. She will be deeply missed.
This September, grad student Pria Garcelle attended the Intensive Textile Course at the Textile Research Centre (TRC). There, she gained first-hand experience with millennia of techniques for transforming fibers into threads, threads into fabrics, and fabrics into the objects, decorations, and necessities of life. For Pria, who studies ancient textiles and their sociological roles in ancient Greece, it was an invaluable opportunity to acquire experiential knowledge of this important and underappreciated aspect of human history. You can read her reflections here!
Prof. John W.I. Lee kicked off the Classics Department’s annual lecture series with “African Americans and Xenophon, c. 1800–1910,” arguing that “although Xenophon gets less attention today than Herodotus and Thucydides, his work played a vital role in early African American education.” Analyzing the early curricula of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Prof. Lee found that Xenophon’s Anabasis—a tale of mercenaries in hostile territory whose escape to freedom was often compared to the plight of runaway slaves—was joined only by the Greek New Testament as the primary text for their courses in ancient Greek.
In the past three decades, the role of the dead in living communities has become a topic of widespread interest across disciplinary boundaries. Along different lines, classicists have become increasingly interested in the relationship between the living and the dead in the ancient Mediterranean. This workshop aims to bridge these conversations, linking a historical concern with the ancient dead with broader questions about the ethical and political stakes of haunting. With this framing in mind, we welcome a wide array of papers, projects, and practices, which plot themselves in the realm of spectral cartography. Possible topics include, for example, interactions between the living and the ancient dead, the “deadening” of languages and cultures, theoretical approaches to haunting, and the haunted disciplinarity of Classics.
With the new academic year in full swing, we sat down with Prof. Jesse Lundquist, an expert in ancient linguistics and the latest addition to the faculty of Princeton Classics, to ask him about his work, the value of teaching, and how he came to learn so many languages.
We are delighted to welcome poet, translator, and classicist A.E. Stallings as Princeton’s 2023–2024 Robert Fagles Lecturer for Classics in the Contemporary Arts. Known for her rhyming translations of Lucretius and Hesiod and for her five books of formalist verse, Stallings has received numerous prizes, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a MacArthur “Genius” grant, and the Runciman Award. A Pulitzer Prize finalist and current Oxford Professor of Poetry, Stallings will deliver a lecture on October 3rd titled “Homer's Hippiad: From the First Deaths to the Last Word,” exploring how mules and horses mirror and shadow their human counterparts in Homer’s Iliad.
The recent surge of interest in “global Classics”, the study of the texts and cultures of the ancient Mediterranean beyond the bounds of Greece and Rome, has directed much scholarly attention to the reception of Classics in vernacular languages and the role of Classics as a medium of interaction between cultures. Excitingly, such inquiry has also opened the door to exploring more marginalized voices in Classical studies, such as translations by women [“Grossly Material Things”: Women and Book Production in Early Modern England, Smith 2012] and the reception of Classics in Latin America [Empire without End: Virgilian epics from Spanish and Portuguese America, Valdivieso forthcoming] and East Asia [Plato Goes to China, Bartsch 2023]. Furthermore, we are interested in exploring the potential avenues generated by examining the bi-directional relationship between translation in and out of Classical languages and vernaculars and the composition of new texts within the confluence of different cultures.
We are proud to welcome Dr. Joseph Fins to Princeton as the Old Dominion Visiting Professor in the Humanities Council and Department of Classics for Fall 2023. The E. William Davis, Jr. M.D. Professor of Medical Ethics and Chief of the Division of Medical Ethics at Weill Cornell Medical College, Dr. Fins is also a professor at Yale Law School, the President of the International Neuroethics Society, a Member of numerous academies and learned societies, and the author of over 500 papers, chapters, essays, and books, including Rights Come to Mind: Brain Injury, Ethics, and the Struggle for Consciousness (Cambridge, 2015).
While on sabbatical at Princeton, Fins will teach a course with Professor Brooke Holmes entitled, “Bio/Ethics: Ancient and Modern” and conduct archival research for a biography of the physician-humanist Dr. Lewis Thomas ’33, the poet, scientist, and National Book Award-winning author for whom Princeton's Molecular Biology building is named. Dr. Fins will also deliver a public lecture—watch this space for more details!
The 2023 Princeton Department of Classics Newsletter has arrived!
The department's annual newsletter is now available online and in print.
Inside, you can find exciting updates from faculty and students, as well as articles highlighting Classics Department events!
The John J. Keaney Prize is the departmental prize for the best senior thesis. This award is in fond memory of Professor John Keaney, who served the Department as colleague, teacher, and mentor for 41 years, from 1959 to 2000. The award was established in 2010 to replace the Atkins Prize for the best senior thesis, which was awarded until 2009. Initial funding has been provided by a grateful alumnus, one of the many who learned so much from Professor Keaney.
The Department of Classics is happy to share the news that Grant Bruner was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. The Phi Beta Kappa Society, founded in 1776 and the oldest of all national honorary scholastic societies, has a chapter at Princeton. Election to this chapter is based on scholastic standing and generally includes the highest-ranking tenth of each graduating class. Congratulations Grant!
The Stinnecke Prize, established at Princeton in 1870, is given to the sophomore or junior who passes the best examination based on the Odes of Horace, Eclogues of Vergil, and the Latin Grammar and Prosody, as well as the Anabasis of Xenophon or Plato’s Euthyphro, Crito, Apology and Phaedo and the Greek Grammar. The winner receives a one-time stipend of $5,000 in addition to any scholarship or other financial assistance, which he or she may be receiving.
The Humanities Council is pleased to award 27 new grants for innovation and collaboration in 2023-24. These projects, led by 41 faculty from across 25 academic departments and programs, will contribute to humanistic inquiry across disciplines on Princeton’s campus and beyond. In addition, the Council continues to support six previously awarded multi-year initatives.
The Department of Classics celebrates the 90th birthday of our esteemed emerita, Professor Froma Zeitlin. Professor Zeitlin is an exceptional scholar who has dedicated her career to the field of ancient Greek literature, with particular interests in epic, drama and prose fiction, along with work in gender criticism, and the relationship between art and text in the context of the visual culture of antiquity. Froma's work on establishing new approaches to Greek tragedy has been considered particularly influential.She has been an inspiration to generations of students and colleagues, and her contributions to the department and the wider academic community are immeasurable. We are honored to celebrate her milestone birthday and recognize her outstanding achievements. Please join us in wishing Froma a very happy 90th birthday!
Grant Bruner, a senior in classics, took the first prize in both Greek and Latin at the New York Classical club undergraduate Greek and Latin examinations. Laurie Drayton, a freshman with classics interests, took the second prize in both.
Annabelle Duvalis a history concentrator from Rhinebeck, N.Y. with a certificate in Gender and Sexuality Studies.Traditionally, the salutatorian delivers their address in Latin, a language Duval first started studying in the sixth grade. As an undergraduate, Duval studied the antiquity period in her home department, as well as in Classics. She also has taken courses focused on Latin literature.
In the 2022 Prentice lecture, ‘The Moon and the Map in the Ancient World,’ Karen ní Mheallaigh, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Classics at Johns Hopkins University, charted the long history of our fascination with the moon. Through a series of close readings of Lucian, Plutarch and other ancient thinkers, she unraveled an ancient phenomenology in which the moon was understood as an “optical prosthesis” that could supplement earthly vision and enhance the numinosity of space.
The Society of Fellows is very much delighted to announce that Yelena Baraz, the Kennedy Foundation Professor of Latin Language and Literature and Professor of Classics, has been appointed as its faculty director, beginning in fall 2023. She is to succeed Michael D. Gordin, Rosengarten Professor of Modern and Contemporary History, who has led the Society since 2017.
In 2022, the third year of the SCS Erich S. Gruen Prize, the selection committee received 18 submissions from graduate students across North America treating aspects of race, ethnicity, or cultural exchange in the ancient Mediterranean. The committee was impressed by the papers’ quality and range of disciplinary perspectives, methodologies, types of evidence, and time periods across the multicultural ancient world.