What I’m Working on Now

I’ve joined the faculty of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Religions and Cultures at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. Alongside teaching ancient languages and courses in translation, I help direct the department’s College in the Schools program dedicated to enriching classical language instruction in schools across Minnesota and Wisconsin.

I’m revising my first monograph, provisionally titled Humanist Certainty. Broadly speaking, the book argues that the ancient notion of certainty, alien to the modern concept of the same name, is most fully theorized in Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria as a term denoting customary agreement, not unimpeachable truth. This consensus-based understanding of certainty, built upon earlier sources including Aristotle and Cicero, exerts an influence on Quintilian’s humanist readers—including Lorenzo Valla, Thomas Hobbes, and Giambattista Vico—who use it to ground their writings on law, logic, and science. The second half of the book, which treats these later authors, focuses on the writings on Lorenzo Valla, Thomas Hobbes, and Giambattista Vico.

As part of a second research interest, I’ve started to do some writing on the rhetorical tradition as it bears on the emerging anxieties surrounding deepfake videos. I argue that deepfakes approximate the long-standing, low-tech strategy of Ä“thopoeia, the use of persuasive caricature and impersonation. My first academic article on deepfakes and their ancient antecedents is forthcoming in Classical World, specifically focusing on the concept of sermocinatio in the fourth-century rhetorical theorist Gaius Julius Victor.

I’m happy to have found a new running team in the Twin Cities–Mill City Running–to keep my legs in good condition while I wait for the race calendar to make a full-blown comeback. I miss my old running routes and partners in New York, but Minneapolis has an impressive urban park network with beautiful trails and vistas.

I’ve become a civic evangelist for Vote Forward, a volunteer organization devoted to increasing voter participation in the United States.

(last updated 9/14/2021)