Christopher Star
Office
Twilight Hall 214
Tel
(802) 443-5910
Email
cstar@middlebury.edu
Office Hours
S24: M 11:15-12:15, T 11:15-1:15, and by appointment

I received degrees in Classics from Bates College (BA), the University of Cambridge (MPhil) and the University of Chicago (PhD). I also studied at the Humboldt University in Berlin. My teaching and research focus on the late Roman Republic and early Roman Empire. My long-standing interests lie in considering how the Romans came to grips with the transition from freedom to autocracy, how this transition shaped their concept of the self, and how their ideas continue to inform modern debates. My first book, The Empire of the Self, looks at the relationship between two of the emperor Nero’s advisors, the Stoic philosopher and dramatist Lucius Annaeus Seneca, and Petronius, the author of the proto-novel the Satyricon. I have also written Seneca, an introduction to his life, works and legacy, the first of its kind in English in several years.

My current research focuses on eschatology and accounts of global catastrophe. I have published Apocalypse and Golden Age: The End of the World in Greek and Roman Thought. I am also working with the inaugural Humanities Research Seminar on the topic, “Crisis, Catastrophe, and Recovery.” Supported by a grant from midd.data, I am developing a digital project that documents and analyzes the history and uses of the word “apocalypse” from ancient Greece to contemporary media.

You can listen to an interview I gave to VPR on Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, and her newly renovated statue atop the Vermont State House.

Courses Taught

Course Description

The Rise and Fall of the Roman Republic
This course is an introduction to the literature, politics, culture and history of the Roman Republic (c.509-31BCE) - a period which saw Rome grow from a small city on the Tiber to the supreme power in the Mediterranean, and also saw the development of Latin literature. Our readings cover a broad variety of literary genres and authors: comedy (Plautus and Terence), lyric (Catullus), epic (Ennius), political speeches and letters (Cicero), history (Caesar, Sallust, Polybius), and didactic philosophy (Lucretius). As we read we will be careful to investigate how these texts present different and often conflicting ideas of what it means to be Roman, as well as how different ideologies of Rome compete throughout each work. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2020, Fall 2022, Fall 2024

Requirements

EUR, HIS, LIT

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Course Description

Roman Philosophy
In this course we will seek to answer the question of what is Roman philosophy - philosophia togata. Is it simply Greek philosophy in Roman dress? Or, while based in its Greek origins, does it grow to have a distinctive and rigorous character of its own, designed and developed to focus on uniquely "Roman" questions and problems, in particular, ethical, social, and political questions? We will investigate how some of the main schools of Hellenistic Greek thought came to be developed in Latin: Epicureanism (Lucretius), Academic Skepticism (Cicero), and Stoicism (Seneca). As we read we will investigate how each school offers different answers to crucial questions such as what is the goal of life? What is the highest good? Should one take part in politics or not? What is the nature of the soul? What is the nature of Nature itself? Is there an afterlife? Can we ever have a certain answer to any of these questions? 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2023

Requirements

CW, EUR, PHL

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Course Description

Apocalypse When? Reason and Revelation in the Ancient World
Apocalypse: why does this word, originally meaning “revelation,” hold such power today? In this class we will investigate the origins of apocalyptic and eschatological thought in order to understand Greek, Roman, Jewish, and Christian ideas about the end of the world in their historical context and to see how they shape contemporary visions of the end. We will read and discuss a wide range of texts, including Hesiod, Plato, Lucretius, Cicero, Seneca, and Daniel and Revelation from the Bible. The ways in which globalization and political leaders have shaped apocalyptic thought from ancient times to today will be an area of particular focus. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2021, Spring 2024

Requirements

CMP, EUR, PHL

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Course Description

Seminar in Classical Literature: Roman Epic
Vergil’s Aeneid exerted a profound influence on all Latin poetry that followed. This seminar will examine the epic tradition after -- and in response to -- Vergil. We will explore defining aspects of post-Vergilian epic such as its obsession with evil, fascination with familial and civil violence, subversion of the gods, and political engagement. Readings will concentrate on poems such as Lucan’s Civil War, Statius’ Thebaid and Achilleid, Valerius Flaccus’ Argonautica (a.k.a. Jason and the Argonauts), and Silius’ Punic Wars. We will also examine the major trends in scholarly literature on these poems. 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Spring 2023

Requirements

CMP, EUR, HIS, LIT

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Course Description

Independent Study
(Approval required)

Terms Taught

Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Winter 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Winter 2024, Spring 2024, Fall 2024, Winter 2025, Spring 2025

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Course Description

(Approval Required)

Terms Taught

Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Winter 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Winter 2024, Spring 2024, Fall 2024, Winter 2025, Spring 2025

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Course Description

Senior Essay for Classics/Classical Studies Majors
(Approval required)

Terms Taught

Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Winter 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Winter 2024, Spring 2024, Fall 2024, Winter 2025, Spring 2025

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Course Description

Shakespeare's Rome
Throughout his career, William Shakespeare wrote several plays set in ancient Rome. Why did he and his contemporaries find the dramatization of events from Roman history so appealing? Why do we continue to do so today? In order to address these questions, we will read Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus. We will also consider Shakespeare’s ancient sources, such as Senecan drama and Plutarch’s biographies, as well as contemporary stage and film adaptations. In addition to exploring the complex ways in which Rome has served as a mirror for later cultures, we will pay close attention to the relationship between republic and autocracy, public and private life, and drama and history.

Terms Taught

Spring 2023

Requirements

CW, EUR, LIT

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Course Description

Intermediate Greek: Attic Prose-Lysias & Plato *
Readings in major authors. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2024

Requirements

EUR, LNG

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Course Description

Readings in Greek Literature I
Readings in major authors. Students should have had some formal study of Greek and should consult with the instructor during the first week of classes to determine whether or not the class is at the appropriate level. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2023

Requirements

LIT, LNG

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Course Description

Beginning Latin I
The course offers an intensive introduction to the Latin language that prepares students to read the major authors of ancient Roman literature. In addition to their systematic study of grammar and syntax, students translate excerpts from Vergil, Seneca and the Vulgate Bible. This course is designed for students who have had no previous experience with Latin, as well as those who have had some Latin but want to review the fundamentals of grammar.

Terms Taught

Winter 2023

Requirements

LNG, WTR

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Course Description

Readings in Latin Literature II: Vergil’s Aeneid*
Readings in major authors. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2021

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Course Description

Advanced Readings in Latin II
Readings in major authors. . Students should have had some formal study of Latin and should consult with the instructor during the first week of classes to determine whether or not the class is at the appropriate level. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2024

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Course Description

Advanced Readings in Latin III
Readings in major authors. Students should have had some formal study of Latin and should consult with the instructor during the first week of classes to determine whether or not the class is at the appropriate level. 3 hrs lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2020, Fall 2022

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Course Description

Advanced Readings in Latin IV: Flavian Literature
Readings in major authors. 3 hrs lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2024

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