My research explores the Greco-Roman roots of Western ideas about the physical body, the natural world, matter, and the non-human, and especially the problems these ideas create for concepts of the subject, ethics, and politics. I also study the long afterlife of these ideas, especially in twentieth and twenty-first century philosophy, and try to conceptualize the implications of reception for contemporary engagements with antiquity. My areas of specialization encompass ancient medicine and life science, Greek literature—especially Homer and tragedy—ancient philosophy, reception studies, literary theory, and continental philosophy.
I was trained in the United States and Europe as a comparatist and a classicist. I hold a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University. I also hold a D.E.A. in Études grecques from the Sorbonne (Paris-IV). I have taught since 2007 at Princeton in the Department of Classics, and I am currently the Director of the Interdisciplinary PhD Program in the Humanities (http://www.princeton.edu/ihum/). I have been awarded fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Phi Beta Kappa, the Whiting Foundation, the Center for Human Values at Princeton, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Fondation Hardt. I currently hold a three-year Mellon New Directions Fellowship.
My first book, The Symptom and the Subject: The Emergence of the Physical Body in Ancient Greece, was published in 2010 by Princeton University Press. Beginning with Homer, moving through the Hippocratic medical texts, and closing with studies of early ethical philosophy and Euripides, I examine how the physical body came into being as a “conceptual object” in the fifth century BCE through medical interpretations of symptoms, thereby transforming the meaning of suffering, human nature, and subjectivity. In 2008, a volume of essays that I co-edited was published by Brill on the second-century CE orator Aelius Aristides. My second book, Gender: Antiquity and Its Legacy, a study of how the field of gender studies has been shaped through engagements with Greco-Roman antiquity, appeared in the series “Ancients and Moderns” (I. B. Tauris-Oxford University Press) in 2012. A second co-edited volume on the reception of Epicureanism from antiquity to the twentieth century also appeared in 2012 in the “Classical Presences” series at Oxford University Press. In 2015, my co-edited volume The Frontiers of Ancient Science: Essays in Honor of Heinrich von Staden, appeared with de Gruyter. My articles and essays on Greek literature, medicine, the history of the body, ancient philosophy, and critical theory have appeared in Classical Antiquity, Transactions of the American Philological Association, Isis, American Journal of Philology, Ramus, b2, Apeiron, Harvard Design Magazine, and Cabinet as well as in a number of edited volumes.
I am currently at work on a study of the concept of sympathy in Hellenistic and Roman science, medicine, philosophy, and poetry, entitled The Tissue of the World: Sympathy and the Nature of Nature in Greco-Roman Antiquity. I argue that sympathy in this period takes shape as a way of conceptualizing communities between the human and the non-human world and encourages an understanding of “capital-N” Nature that will persist for centuries in the West. I have recently published papers on Scamander in the Iliad and Michel Serres’ reading of Lucretius and his concept of “liquid history,” and I have papers forthcoming on early Greek ideas about animal knowledge of nature in Pliny, plant life and embryology in the Hippocratics and Galen, and the body and embodiment in the “Oxford Philosophical Concepts” book on “Body” and the Cambridge Companion to Hippocrates.
I am currently the PI of a Global Collaborative Networks Fund grant that supports the “Postclassicisms” network (www.postclassicisms.org). I am also on the Executive Committee of the Gauss Seminars in Criticism and an affiliated faculty member of the Department of Comparative Literature, the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, and the University Center for Human Values and an associated faculty member of the Program in the History of Science.