New Approaches to Classics Lecture Series

New Approaches to Classics (formerly Myth and Religion) is the departmental lecture series of the Boston University Department of Classical Studies. Typically there are two or three lectures in each semester by invited speakers from the US and abroad. Since 2022, the lecture series has been particularly focused on showcasing the work of junior scholars and scholars from diverse backgrounds; work that connects the ancient world to contemporary issues and concerns; and work that challenges the boundaries of what ‘Classics’ can and should mean today. Beginning in Spring 2023, one speaker per year is determined by the vote of the graduate students. All lectures are free and open for anyone to attend.

The New Approaches to Classics lecture series is generously funded by a grant from the Boston University Center for the Humanities.

For more information, contact Department Chair, Prof. Uden ( or Senior Program Coordinator Joe Knapik (

Presenters for 2023-2024 include:

Professor Stephen Hinds (University of Washington)
Friday, March 1, 2024. 5:00-6:30pm
CAS B36, 725 Commonwealth Ave
Title: Latin poetry across languages:  micro-negotiating classical tradition, with Joachim Du Bellay and John Milton

Description: A try-out of material from my soon-to-be-completed Latin Poetry across Languages: Adventures in Allusion, Translation and Classical Tradition (working title), framed with remarks on the book’s era-straddling plan.  I will lead off with some observations about the poetic interaction of Latin and Greek in the ancient Roman world (from Part I of my book), focusing on paradoxical elements in that much-studied relationship. Then, moving forward in time, I will sample two early modern case studies from Part II, ‘Readings between Latin and vernacular’:  (a) ‘Du Bellay in Rome, between Latin and French’ (drawing on that poet’s French Antiquitez de Rome and his Latin elegy Romae descriptio, both from the 1550s), and (b), more briefly, ‘Reverse-engineering Milton’ (in which, against the background of Milton’s 1645 double book of Poems English and Latin, I conjure up a virtual Latin ‘twin’ for the great epic which Milton did not write in Latin, Paradise Lost.  Poetic conversations throughout will be driven by close engagement across space and time with (especially) Horace, Ovid and Virgil.

Professor Victoria Pagan (University of Florida)
Thursday, October 5, 2023. 5:00-6:30pm
STH B19, 745 Commonwealth Ave
Title: Sallust and the Open Society

Description: When read through the lens of Karl Popper’s The Open Society and its Enemies, Sallust’s Bellum Catilinae becomes a unified meditation on the nature of change, the conditions of leadership, and ultimately the difference between tyranny and democracy. But of course, it is also the prototype of conspiracy narratives in Roman literature, and Popper’s formulation of the “conspiracy theory of society” sheds light on both the form and the content of Sallust’s monograph.

Professor Katherine Lu Hsu (College of the Holy Cross)
Monday, October 30, 2023. 4:45-6:15pm
CAS B36, 725 Commonwealth Ave.
Title: Meet Me Outside: Mythological Courage and Cowardice Beyond the Hero

Description: This talk will examine the representation of courage and cowardice beyond the paradigmatic hero in early Greek myth. We will look at examples of courage on the battlefield among foreigners and women, and consider why non-elites seem to be excluded from the kleos economy. This study reveals some of the “hard lines” that limit the mythological imagination, suggesting an enduring anxiety about internal stasis.

Professor Niek Janssen (Amherst College)
Wednesday, November 15, 2023. 4:45-6:15pm
CAS B18, 725 Commonwealth Ave.
Title: Making Fit: Parody and Decorum in Greco-Roman Literature

Description: The concepts of decorum and to prepon pervade Greco-Roman ethical and aesthetic thought. Yet ancient theorists from Plato to Dionysius, Cicero, Horace, and Quintilian struggle to articulate what “appropriateness” is and how it is grounded. By confronting these theorists with parodic and comedic texts, which stand in a double, transgressive-yet-conservative relationship to decorum, I argue that this inarticulability is a feature, not a bug, of the concept. Texts like Hegemon’s Parodies, Plautus’ Asinaria, and the Pseudo-Virgilian Culex reveal the instability of decorum as a basis for normative thought–as a principle for aesthetic judgment and social inclusion/exclusion.