What I’m Working On Now

  • I’m revising my dissertation “Quintilian’s Theory of Certainty and Its Afterlife in Early Modern Italy,” for publication as a monograph, provisionally titled Humanist Certainty. Broadly speaking, my dissertation 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 matter of customary agreement. This consensus-based understanding of certainty, built upon earlier sources including Aristotle and Cicero, exerts an enormous influence on Quintilian’s humanist readers, who use it to ground their writings on law, logic, and science. You can find a copy of my dissertation as well as an abstract at Columbia’s Academic Commons website.
  • An article based on some of this dissertation research is forthcoming in Rhetorica. In the article, I discuss Lorenzo Valla’s use of Quintilian’s notion of certainty in a variety of works, particularly though a consistent application of certum and related terms. I have posted an abstract of the article on this site.
  • I’m co-editing a book on ambiguitas with Michael Fontaine at Cornell and William Short at the University of Exeter. The volume includes contributions on matters of linguistics, literary theory, Renaissance humanism, and more. In addition to my editorial work, I’m contributing an essay on the notion of ambiguity in rhetorical education, not merely as a stylistic flaw to be avoided (as ambiguitas is often understood in grammatical texts) but as a point where an expert courtroom advocate can use his strategies of legal interpretation.
  • After a bit of a hiatus during my year in Germany, I’ve started to re-learn some piano pieces that have gotten rusty: a couple Chopin preludes and etudes, Bach’s inventions, and a bit of Fred Hersch.
    (last updated 9/29/2017)