Paul Shorey Chair and Professor of Greek, Latin, and Classical Studies and Undergraduate Major Adviser
PhD University of Chicago
Office: Thomas Hall 245
Greek social and intellectual history, with particular focus on mythology, religion, magic, and Platonic philosophy. I have published on various subjects in Plato, on Orphism and the mysterious gold tablets, on Greek ideas of afterlife, and on magic in the Greco-Roman world. My current research interests include the history of myth interpretation, the use of images in Platonic philosophy, and the marginal categories of magic and Orphism within Greek religion.
I love teaching in the atmosphere of Bryn Mawr: the small community of earnest and eager graduate and undergraduate students, the faculty's mix of disciplines and perspectives, the fantastic resources for research, not to mention the idyllic setting and beautiful traditions that surround us all. My research and teaching interests center on Greek social and intellectual history, with particular focus on mythology, religion, magic, and Platonic philosophy. I enjoy the opportunity to teach courses on some of the less familiar aspects of ancient Greek culture, such as ancient Greek ideas of sexuality, magic, and mystery cults, as well as courses on the language, mythology, and history of ancient Greece. My current research interests include the history of myth interpretation and the marginal categories of magic and Orphism within Greek religion, and I have just published a study entitled Redefining Ancient Orphism. Orphism was taken by 19th-century scholars to be a particular, ancient Greek religious tradition, with a doctrine of original sin and a focus on practices of purification to expiate it, but I argue that we can't understand ancient Greek religion using modern Christian models; we can only make sense of the evidence within the dynamics of ancient polytheism. To the extent that 'Orphism' existed, it was not a coherent movement but a label given to a variety of religious practices that deliberately departed from the norm, elaborating on and altering traditional myths and rituals in innovative ways, while appealing to the authority of tradition by invoking the name of Orpheus, the greatest of poets. My new projects include a survey of the ideas and practice of magic in the Greco-Roman world, entitled Drawing Down the Moon, and an edited volume of essays on Plato and the Power of Images. In addition to scholarship here, I have been enjoying directing the Greek Plays on May Day and singing with the Bryn Mawr Renaissance Choir.