B.A., Stanford University; M.A., University of California (Santa Barbara); M.A., Ph.D., Princeton University
Margaret E. Deffenbaugh and LeRoy T. Carlson Professor in Comparative Literature; Professor of Classical Studies
Specializes in the literature and culture of Ancient Greece; teaches Greek drama and myth, and the theme of travel in literature.
My research focuses on the intersection of history, literature, and culture of archaic and classical Greece (8-6th centuries BCE). My first two books explored the transformative and tumultuous period of the eighth century—a time when Greeks settled new lands, engaged in far-reaching trade networks, and embarked upon radical new experiments in politics, economics, and communication. In The Poetics of Colonization, I read the kinds of stories the Greeks told themselves about founding new colonies abroad, and in The Raft of Odysseus, I looked at ways in which Homer’s Odyssey represents a culture engaged in negotiating a new place for itself in a rapidly changing world. In my most recent project, I am once again interested in how Greeks adapted to changing circumstances, but this time, my focus is classical Athens and the incredible transformation of the Athenian civic experience during the fifth century BCE.
I teach two different kinds of courses at Wellesley and enjoy the variety of students I encounter as a result. Most of my course-load is devoted to teaching students to read ancient Greek at all levels. I enjoy the challenge of introducing students to a new language and way of organizing the world linguistically. At the other end of the spectrum, the advanced courses provide rewarding opportunities to introduce students to more sophisticated approaches to the ancient world. I also teach courses in which the readings are done in English (Greek drama, mythology, theme of travel). These classes attract a range of students, not all budding classicists, and I appreciate their different responses and kinds of approaches.
In September 2009, I took over as the director of the Susan and Donald Newhouse Center for the Humanities at Wellesley College. By promoting and supporting innovative, imaginative, and influential research in the humanities, the Newhouse Center serves as a vibrant and exciting place of contact and connection between the Wellesley College humanities community and visiting scholars, artists, writers, and performers from the Boston area and beyond.