Submitted by Christopher S. van den Berg on Monday, 3/26/2018, at 5:28 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 working a number of interrelated research projects.

1) A study of Cicero's dialogue of 46 BCE, Brutus, provisionally titled Crisis and Judgment: Cicero's Brutus, the Makings of Literary History, and the Fall of the Republic.  This book argues that Cicero in the Brutus has created the field of literary history as we understand it today; he outlines its main 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.  He also offers a new type of narrative of Roman cultural memory that not only supports his own aesthetic aims but also counteracts the rise of Julius Caesar and his administrative control of the Roman world.  The manuscript (100K words) is complete and currently under review.

2) A larger study, titled Critical Turns: Literary Criticism, History, and Theory at Rome.

This book offers an interpretive survey of Roman discussions of literary criticism and history.  It argues for a close and essential interrelationship of “primary” and “secondary” poetics in the Roman tradition, that is, that an author’s explicit discussion of how to judge and categorize literature (secondary poetics) can only be understood in light of the employment and manipulation of literary values within that same author’s text (primary poetics).  It covers the major figures in Greek and Latin from the 2nd century BCE to the 2nd century CE, as well as the central themes (decline, Atticism/Asianism, evolution and the plastic arts) and main vocabulary of criticism (nature, artistry, talent, judgment, labor, and intention).

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 contract with Johns Hopkins University Press.

Empire of Eloquence will provide 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 I am interested in how rhetorical understandings of texts and people 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.