James I. Porter

Professor, Department Chair, The Irving Stone Chair in Literature, Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric and Classics, Program in Critical Theory


Latest Research

I began teaching at the University of Michigan in Classics and Comparative Literature (1986-2007), and then at UC Irvine, Classics and Comparative Literature (2007-2015), where I was Director of Critical Theory from 2014-2015. I have held visiting professorships at Princeton and Bristol University (UK) and have also taught at UCLA. I am co-editor of “Classical Presences,” a book series in Classical Reception published by Oxford University Press (2005-present), and am a member of The Postclassicisms Collective that held workshops from 2011-2016. The final workshop, “Swarms, Collectivities, Intensities, Networks, and Nodes (SCINN),” was held at Berkeley in 2016. We’ve since collaboratively produced Postclassicisms (Chicago University Press, 2019). In 2019 I received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for 2019-20 and in May 2019 I delivered the J. H. Gray Lectures at Cambridge University on the topic of “Thinking Through Homer.” 

My teaching and research has followed a few different trajectories. One is a study of Nietzsche’s thought, early and late (Nietzsche and the Philology of the Future and The Invention of Dionysus: An Essay on ‘The Birth of Tragedy’ (both Stanford University Press, 2000). Another is a study of models of aesthetic sensation, perception, and experience in ancient Greece and Rome, which I explored in The Origins of Aesthetic Thought in Ancient Greece: Matter, Sensation, and Experience (Cambridge University Press, 2010; pbk. 2016). A continuation of this inquiry is The Sublime in Antiquity (Cambridge University Press, 2016; pbk. 2020), which received the C. J. Goodwin Award of Merit from The Society for Classical Studies (2017). My most recent book is Homer: The Very Idea  (University of Chicago Press, 2021; pbk. 2023), which captures some of my interest in classical reception studies. I have been co-editing a series called “Classical Presences” with Oxford University Press since 2005, the goal of which is precisely to promote this agenda. A further strand is Jewish literary and critical thought from Spinoza to Freud to Erich Auerbach (Time, History and Literature: Selected Essays of Erich Auerbach; Princeton 2013; pbk. 2016) and Rachel Bespaloff.

Ongoing and future projects include a collection of essays titled Nietzsche and Literary Studies (Cambridge University Press, fall 2023); Existence, Tragedy, and Faith: Selected Essays and Letters by Rachel Bespaloff (in progress, Princeton University Press); Ecologies of Self, Nature, and Community: Heraclitus to the Roman Stoics; a study of Jewish scholars working in and on philology at its margins and in oppressed circumstances (Philology in Exile: Spinoza to the Present; University of Chicago Press); a continuation of my studies on Homer’s reception: Thinking Through Homer (Cambridge University Press); an introduction to a reissue of Rachel Bespaloff’s On the Iliad (Princeton University Press); an edition of Philodemus’ On Poems, Bk. 5 (Oxford University Press); and, down the road, a book-essay on the philosophies of life in antiquity and modernity. I will also be rounding out two trilogies with two further titles, Literary Aesthetics After Aristotle and The Seductions of Metaphysics: Nietzsche’s Final Philosophy. All of these topics spill over into my teaching, and many of them have begun their life there, because I find that the classroom is one of the most productive places you can ever be.

Education: BA Swathmore College
MA, PhD (Comparative Literature), UC Berkeley

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Research interests: 

Greek and Roman literature and philosophy | Modern philosophy (materialism, aesthetics, ethics, subjectivity; Kant, Nietzsche, Foucault, Critical Theory) | Interactions between politics, culture, and critique | History and theory of classicism and postclassicism



354B Dwinelle, Wednesdays, 2:15-4:15pm