James I. Porter

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

Department Chair

BA Swarthmore College
MA, PhD (Comparative Literature), UC Berkeley

Portraits (136 of 234) cropped


354B Dwinelle

Office Hours: Weds. 2:15-4:15 PM (354B Dwinelle or Zoom) and by appointment. Office hour sign-ups here. Instructions here. Make sure your calendars are set to PT. Please cancel any unwanted appointments to make room for others.)

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

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 (under contract with Princeton University Press); a book on philosophical reflections about ecologies of self and world in Greek and Roman philosophy (Being Beyond the Self: Heraclitus to the 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 (under contract with Oxford University Press); and, down the road, a book-essay on the philosophy 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.


Recent Essays:

Statue Fever in the Heroicus.” Cambridge Classical Journal, 2022    

“Horizons of History in Nietzsche,” in B. Fricke and Lucas Burkart , ed. B. Fricke and Lucas Burkart, eds. Horizonte: Eine Linie und ihre Bewegung in Kunst, Geschichte und Literatur  (Schwabe, Basel, 2022), 262–78

“Whose Homer Is It Anyway?: James I. Porter.” Lapham’s Quarterly, (The American Agora Foundation, October 6, 2021).

Living on the Edge: Self and World in extremis in Roman Philosophy,” Classical Antiquity, vol. 39.2 (2020): 225–283

“P.Mich.Inv. 2754: New Readings of Alcidamas, “On Homer,” Classical Philology 2021.

“Hyperobjects, OOO, and the Eruptive Classics—Field Notes of an Accidental Tourist,” in Posthuman Antiquities, ed. E. Bianchi, S. Brill, and B. Holmes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, early 2019), 190-210.

“Nietzsche’s Untimely Antiquity,” in The New Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche, ed. T. Stern (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, March 2019).

“Epicurus in Nineteenth-Century Germany: Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche,” in The Oxford Handbook of Epicureanism, ed. P. Mitsis (New York: Oxford University Press 2020).

“‘On Epic Naïveté: Adorno’s Allegory of Philology,” in S. Gurd and Vincent van Gerven Oei, eds. Pataphilology: An Irreader (Brooklyn: Punctum, 2018), 95-117.

“Materialism,” Oxford Classical Dictionary, 2018.

“Old Testament Realism in the Writings of Erich Auerbach,” in Jews and the Ends of Theory, ed. S. Ginsburg and J. Boyarin (New York: Fordham University Press, 2018), 187-224.

Disfigurations: Erich Auerbach’s Theory of Figura,” Critical Inquiry 44 (Fall 2017): 80-113

“Forum on Bonnie Honig’s Antigone, Interrupted,” ed. M. Leonard and J. Porter, International Journal of the Classical Tradition (Fall 2014)

Lacan and the Classics, ed. J. I. Porter and M. Buchan. Special double issue of Helios, vol. 31, no. 1-2 (2004) 


Council of Graduate Schools/UMI Distinguished Dissertation Award for Best Dissertation in the Humanities from 1986-88

NEH Fellowship for University Teachers 1988, 2005

NEH Texts and Translation Grant 1992

Stanford Humanities Center Fellowship 1995-96

Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung Fellowship 1998

Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professorship, Institute for Advanced Studies and the Department of Classics & Ancient History, University of Bristol, UK 2003

Old Dominion Fellow in the Council of the Humanities, Princeton University 2004

Getty Research Institute 2006

Director, NEH Summer Seminar 2008

C. J. Goodwin Award of Merit from The Society for Classical Studies for The Sublime in Antiquity (Cambridge, 2016) 2017

John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship 2019–20