Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature

Jula on Nelson’s Monument, Carlton Hill, Edinburgh 2007

When I first came to AUP for the job interview and met those wonderful colleagues from what was to become my future department, I immediately fell in love. This love has never abated. I am grateful to be able to work with men and women whom I so deeply respect both as a scholar and as a person. It is inspiring to encounter all those different outlooks and approaches as well as the diversity, tolerance and the sincere interest everyone takes in other people’s ideas.
The other reason why I love AUP is that here, for the first time, I am allowed to teach my discipline in the way I always thought it should be taught: extremely student-centered; flexible and open to the questions and interests that course participants bring with them; and free from those artificial boundaries that larger universities and classics departments are often forced to set up for organizational reasons. Here, I’m not only allowed to be creative in the service of my students, I even got a prize for it!

I teach the languages, literature and philosophy of ancient Greece and Rome. AUP is a great place for classics, not only because it is a base for exploring some of the best museums of the world. AUP is an environment that fosters various forms of creativity: art, writing and performance, and I have had opportunities to include all of these in my teaching, e.g. in team-taught Firstbridge courses with the artist Jonathan Shimony or in a course Socrates, Sophists and the Stage in which Oliver Feltham and I had students study, analyze and imitate the revolutionary literature of classical Athens and also to perform Plato’s Thrasymachus as a play. Greek and Latin students have presented their readings and translations as Voices of Greek and Latin. With another class, we attended scholarly lectures at the École Normale Superieure and discussed Stoicism with one of my French colleagues in the sunny garden of the ENS at rue Ulm.

Probably the most unique offer I can make are my Greek and Latin courses. The format I devised for teaching these languages and original literatures at AUP is, I dare say, a world novelty. At many places ancient languages are taught individually but, I’d contend, not within as tight a procedural grid and not systematically right from the beginning. The teaching of Greek and Latin at AUP combines the flexibility of an Oxbridge tutorial with the rigor of a frontally taught group course. At the elementary level students work with a host of material specially designed for this teaching format. Students receive an individual syllabus, have to do weekly written homework assignments on which they receive written feedback, are assessed at each weekly meeting and are formally examined three times during the semester in two oral and one final written exam. Everyone works with a textbook or text of their choice, and apart from certain minimum standard requirements they are free to go at their pace and focus on that which interests them most. Visiting students can work parallel to the course of their peers at home; who is particularly eager to learn can proceed more quickly and try to skip a level. Having taught the ancient languages at various universities in Germany and the UK and seen what students usually achieve in such courses, I’m really proud of my students. They all tell me that the courses are very hard work, but when I see how much they have learned by the end of the semester, I cannot help feeling that it was worth the effort.
As concerns my own research, one of my current projects is yet another translation for the German publisher Philip Reclam jr , now of Plato’s Republic. I’m also writing a book on Pragmatics of Diatribe, in which I try to present a new account of that multiform, aggressively nudging discourse that, under the influence of the Cynic movement, became the standard idiom of therapeutics and moral edification among the intellectual elites of Hellenistic Greece and, in the Roman empire, was perfected by men like Seneca or Epictetus as well as exquisitely parodied in the satires of Horace and Juvenal. A third book project, gradually coalescing from different papers, is an investigation of Identity, Self and God in Stoicism. Since I began research for my habilitation thesis, I’ve been fascinated with Stoic ontology: their strikingly obstinate commitment to corporealism, the manner in which this seemingly rigid and primitive concept of being comes to life when one realizes that every body is a little universe in constant motion and change and, finally, the integration of these bodies into functional units and one divine cosmic organism, where they exist both beside and within each other. How this is possible and what it means for the conception of a good life, are some of the questions I try to tackle.
Last but not least, I wish to share with you my excitement about a little discovery that is in the process of being published in a paper. I believe to be able to prove that two different accounts of the Stoic theory of emotions, one by a certain Arius, transmitted within in the Anthology of the 5th-century compiler of ancient wisdom John of Stobi (“Stobaeus”), the other by Cicero in his Tusculan Disputations, go back to a common source text. This is important in itself since now we can read one text as supplementing the other and so reconstruct a whole that is more than its parts. What however makes me so excited is that according to the evidence I have found, Cicero’s and Arius’ common source may be based on the lost Therapeuticus of my favorite ancient philosopher, Chrysippus, that brilliant second founder of Stoicism, famous for his indigestible, weird terminology and his intellectual honesty with which he used to supply his Skeptic opponents with all the arguments they needed for their polemic against Chrysippus’ school. It’s one of the perverse joys of classicists that they sometimes start writing themselves the texts they are supposed to study, and this joy is doubled when you do it with an author you love.

Jula’s official AUP webpage is here.