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Mark Payne

Biography and Interests: 

Mark Payne

Title: Professor of Classics and the College, and in the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought
Education: Ph.D. Columbia University 2003
Office: Wieboldt 119
Areas of Specialization: Hellenistic poetry; poetry and poetics; literary theory; animal studies; ecological theory; reception studies

My research focuses on the literary imagination and its recursive effects on our everyday life worlds. My first book, Theocritus and the Invention of Fiction (Cambridge University Press, 2007) brought recent theories of fiction to bear on pastoral as the first fully fictional world of the ancient literary imagination.

My second book, The Animal Part: Human and Other Animals in the Poetic Imagination (The University of Chicago Press, 2010) looked at how poets from Archilochus to William Carlos Williams engage with the lives of other animals. It received the 2011 Warren-Brooks Award for Outstanding Literary Criticism.

My current book project, “The Choric Con-sociality of Nonhuman Life,” investigates the representation of Nature as a choric presence around human life in Hellenistic poetry, German Romanticism, and the Anglo-American weird tale. I have written papers on many aspects of ancient poetry and its reception, from Pindar to Paul Celan, and I am currently working on the relationship between ancient poetics of play and the painting of Cy Twombly. I am a faculty sponsor of the Animal Studies and Rhetoric and Poetics workshops, and a member of the Poetry and Poetics Program. In the last few years, I have worked closely with members of the Postclassicisms Network.

Video of talk at Chicago Humanities Festival:


  • 2010. The Animal Part: Human and Other Animals in the Poetic Imagination. The University of Chicago Press.
  • 2007. Theocritus and the Invention of Fiction. Cambridge University Press.

Recent Articles:

  • In preparation. “Callimachus, Twombly, and the poetics of childhood,” Proceedings of the Conference: Miniature and Minor, edited by Jonathan Ready.
  • In preparation. “Before the law: Imagining crimes against trees,” Proceedings of the Conference: Crime in Law and Literature.
  • In preparation. “Aristophanes, animal studies, and democratic life,” in The Brill Companion to the Reception of Aristophanes, edited by Phil Walsh. Leiden.
  • Forthcoming. “Nature deficiency, nature hunger,” The Yearbook of Comparative Literature Special Issue: Ideas of Nature.
  • 2014. “The natural world in Greek literature and philosophy,” in Oxford Handbooks Online in Classical Studies, edited by Gareth Williams. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199935390.013.001
  • 2013. “The one absolute didactic poem, and its opposite: Schelling on ancient didactic poetry and the scienticity of contemporary lyric,” Classical Receptions 5. DOI: 10.1093/crj/clt018
  • 2013. “The understanding ear: Synaesthesia, paraesthesia, and talking animals,” in The Other Senses: Antiquity Beyond the Visual Paradigm, edited by Shane Butler and Alex Purves. Durham, UK: 43-52.
  • 2013. “Aristotle on poets as parents and the Hellenistic poet as mother,” in Classical Myth and Psychoanalysis: Ancient and Modern Stories of the Self, edited by Ellen O’Gorman and Vanda Zajko: 299-313. Oxford. 

Recent Courses:

  • Plotinus (with Gabriel Lear)
  • Philosophy and the Poetics of Presence in  Postwar France (with Alison James)
  • Hölderlin and the Greeks (with Christopher Wild)
  • Intermediate Greek: Sophocles
  • Greek elegy and iambic poetry
  • Introductory Greek