About Me

Charles McNamara Headshot

I’m a classicist at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Religions and Cultures. My main academic interests include ancient models of persuasion, the early modern reception of classical thought, historical lexicography, and persuasive technology.

My first book is Learning to Be Fair: Equity from Classical Philosophy to Contemporary Politics (Fortress, forthcoming 2024; available at Bookshop.org and Amazon). By excavating texts from antiquity to the modern age, this book undercuts the supposed novelty of “equity” in contemporary culture and instead anchors it in the foundations of the Greco-Roman philosophical tradition. Through this concept’s complex history, I connect current debates about equity to long-standing, unsettled, and even paradoxical questions about equality before the law and the possibility of teaching people to be good.

Currently I’m revising another book, drawn from my dissertation research, which focuses on the Roman rhetorical theorist Quintilian and his central role in the long tradition of viewing ‘certainty’ as a matter of consensus, an understanding at odds with the modern scientific concept of the same name. Alongside these monographs, I also co-edited Quasi Labor Intus, a volume on ambiguity in Latin literature produced in honor of Reginald Foster, and I have written academic articles for journals including Rhetorica and Classical World. My essays and reviews have also appeared in public-facing outlets such as Commonweal Magazine, Lapham’s Quarterly, and the Washington Post.

During the 2016–2017 academic year, I was the National Endowment for the Humanities/Society for Classical Studies Postdoctoral Fellow at the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae in Munich. Before coming to the University of Minnesota, I was the Robert Belknap Core Faculty Fellow in the Department of Classics at Columbia, and in 2016, I received Columbia’s Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching. As a long-time affiliate of the Core Curriculum, I taught twenty semesters of Contemporary Civilization, Columbia’s hallmark survey of political and philosophical texts from antiquity to the contemporary era.

Before I began my academic career, I taught English in a public high school in Phillips County, Arkansas. I’m a graduate of Harvard College and originally come from Grayling, Michigan.

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