Submitted by Christopher S. van den Berg on Saturday, 5/11/2019, at 3:22 PM

My research focuses on Greco-Roman rhetoric, the poetics of prose genres, the reception of ancient political rhetoric into the modern day, literary criticism, including the evaluation of visual media as a critical idiom for judging literature, and comparative literary systems.

My first book, The World of Tacitus' Dialogus de Oratoribus: Aesthetics and Empire in Ancient Rome, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2014.

I am currently completing or working on a number of interrelated research projects.

1) A study of Cicero's dialogue, the Brutus (46 BCE), provisionally entitled Crisis and Critic: The Politics and Poetics of Literary History in Cicero’s Brutus. This book argues that Cicero in the Brutus has created the field of literary history as we understand it today, outlining its central methodological features and problems.  Cicero's innovations in the field of literary historiography seek to evaluate and to control the adaptation of Greek cultural accomplishments even as he models Roman literary history on Greek and Roman precedents.  He also offers a new narrative of Roman cultural memory that not only supports his own aesthetic aims but also counteracts the rise of Julius Caesar.  The manuscript (125K words) has been accepted and is undergoing final revisions (to be published with CUP in 2020).

2) A larger study, provisionally entitled Critical Matter: Performance, Identity, and Object in Greco-Roman Criticism.

This book offers an interpretive survey of Roman literary criticism and history.  It argues that an author’s explicit discussion of how to judge and categorize literature can only be understood in light of the employment and manipulation of literary values within that same author’s text. Critical Matter uncovers three distinct yet interrelated features of criticism: its complexity as an artistic genre, how cultural cooperation and conflict between Greek and Roman theorists promoted its evolution, and the crucial role of material and visual culture for its analyses.  The authors studied extend from from Plato and Aristotle (4th century BCE) through the main authors of the Second Sophistic (as late as the 3rd century CE). The book also treats central themes of criticism and history (decline, Atticism/Asianism, evolution and the plastic arts) and key vocabulary (nature, artistry, talent, judgment, labor, and intention).

Critical Matter has received fellowship funding from two sources: the American Academy in Rome ("Rome Prize," 2019-2020) and the ACLS Burkhardt Residential Fellowship for Tenured Scholars (Princeton University, 2020-2021).  For these fellowships I'll be on leave from July 2019 to June 2021, completing the research across two years, first at the Academy in Rome and then at Princeton University.

3) An introduction to Roman Oratory and Rhetoric of the Imperial Period, entitled Empire of Eloquence: Roman Oratory and Rhetoric from Cicero to Late Antiquity.  The book is under advance contract with Johns Hopkins University Press.

Empire of Eloquence is a detailed interpretive history of oratory and rhetoric after Cicero, with a particular focus on the receptions of Cicero and on the interrelationship of rhetoric and the imperial dispensation.  This book will challenge (ancient and modern) beliefs in the "decline of oratory" and will examine how the art of rhetoric pervaded nearly all aspects of Roman cultural life.

At the broadest level my research focuses on how rhetorical understandings of texts and human action shape our claims about knowledge and moral agency, and how literature is essential to moral thought.

I'm eager to work closely with students on student research projects, introducing them to the world of scholarship and publication.  For some examples, see my Teaching Interests page.