- Additional Programs
Martha K. Woodruff earned her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale University with support from the Mellon Humanities Fellowship. She also studied for two years at Universität-Freiburg with a grant from DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) and received her B.A. from Haverford College. Her main areas of research and teaching include Ancient Greek philosophy and its influences on 19th and 20th Century German thought. A more recent interest focuses on women and gender in Greek philosophy and tragedy. She teaches a range of 10 courses at Middlebury.
Her publications have examined Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, and Heidegger, considered both individually and comparatively. She has completed one book manuscript and started another; both examine retrievals of the Greeks by contemporary thinkers. In addition, she served a three-year term as Co-Director of the Ancient Philosophy Society and a five-year term as Chair of the Philosophy Department at Middlebury. She has also participated in the German-language Philosophy Reading Group at the Middlebury German School (summers 2013-2019), with support from a One Middlebury grant.
She has also received grants awarded from the Engaged Listening Project, the Institute for the History of Philosophy at Emory University, and the Whiting Foundation.
"The Ancient Quarrel": Greek Philosophy, Tragedy, and Comedy
In Plato's day there was a “quarrel” between philosophy and poetry, a rivalry for the ethical education of citizens. How do the tragedies of Aeschylus and Sophocles communicate ethical dilemmas? Does Aristophanes in The Clouds suggest a serious critique within his comic satire of Socrates? Why does Plato banish the poets from his ideal city in The Republic, but develop his own philosophical poetry? Why does Aristotle in the Poetics emphasize the catharsis of the tragic emotions? Finally, we will consider Nietzsche's interpretation in The Birth of Tragedy: Socratic rationalism deals the fatal blow to tragedy, yet Plato transforms Socrates into a tragic figure. 3 hrs. sem.
Liberal Arts in Greco-Roman, Medieval, Renaissance History & Philosophy
In this intensive reading course, we will explore the origins of liberal arts education in ancient Greek, Roman, medieval and Renaissance traditions. What sources and subjects have informed the evolution of liberal arts as an ideal for free citizens? What were the original meanings of artes liberales? What were the medieval liberal arts of trivium and quadrivium? How do these histories influence contemporary debates on education? Readings from Greco-Roman authors include the Pythagoreans, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Seneca. Readings from medieval and Renaissance Europe include Boethius, Isidore of Seville, Herrad of Landsberg, the Scholastics, Leonardo Bruni, and Pier Paolo Vergerio.
Introduction to the Western Philosophical Tradition
This course will introduce students to fundamental philosophical issues concerning the nature of reality (metaphysics), the possibility of knowledge (epistemology), and the nature of value (ethical theory) through a reading of a number of important primary texts of thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, Mill, Nietzsche, and Freud. Cannot be taken by students with credit for PHIL 0151. 3 hrs. lect., 1 hr. disc.
Ancient Greek Philosophy
This class introduces students to the range and power of Greek thought, which initiated the Western philosophical tradition. We will begin by exploring the origins of philosophy as found in myth (primarily Hesiod) and in the highly original speculation of the Pre-Socratic thinkers (such as Heraclitus and Parmenides). We will then focus on Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, examining their transformations of these earlier traditions and their own divergent approaches to ethics and education. We will also consider the influences of Greek philosophy on later thought. 3 hrs. lect.
Philosophy and Literature
In this course we will explore the border both separating and joining philosophy and literature. How does literature evoke philosophical problems, and how do philosophers interpret such works? How does fiction create meaning? Beginning with Greek tragedy, we investigate Plato’s “quarrel” with, and Aristotle’s defense of, poetry. Then we will turn to modern works, mostly European, on topics such as: tragedy and ethics; style and rhetoric; author and reader; time and temporality; mood and emotion; existence and mortality. Literary readings after Sophocles will be selected from Borges, Calvino, Camus, Kafka, Tolstoy, and Woolf. Philosophical readings after Plato and Aristotle will be selected from Bergson, Danto, Freud, Murdoch, Ricoeur, and Nussbaum. Not open to students who have taken PHIL/CMLT 1014 or FYSE 1081.
Philosophy of Plato
In this class, we will explore the significance, influence, and development of Plato's thought, paying special attention to the form of the dramatic dialogue and topics such as Platonic love, rhetoric and politics, learning and recollection, and the theory of forms. We will begin with the early period (dialogues such as the Meno and the Apology) focused on the historical figure of Socrates, continue to the middle period (Symposium, Republic), in which Plato develops his own distinctive views; and conclude with the later period (Philebus, Parmenides) in which Plato suggests a critique of Socrates and his own earlier positions. (Previous course in philosophy or waiver)
Research in Philosophy
Supervised independent research in philosophy. (Approval required).
Senior Independent Research
In this course senior philosophy majors will complete an independent research project. The course has two components: (1) a group workshop in which students refine their research skills and develop parts of their projects, and (2) individual meetings with an adviser who is knowledgeable about the student's research topic. Students will engage in research activities such as tutorials and peer reviews. Before the course begins, students’ research topics and advisers will be decided in consultation with members of the department. (Senior majors.) 3 hrs. sem.
“Nietzsche on Moods, Passions, and Styles: Greek Inspirations.” In The Agonist: A Nietzsche Circle Journal, Vol. XIII.1 & 2 (Fall 2019 & Spring 2020)
“Why I Love Socrates,” Middlebury Magazine, Fall 2014
“Why the Humanities Still Matter,” New York Times, leading letter, August 2014
“Katharsis Revisited: Aristotle on the Significance of the Tragic Emotions.” Newsletter of the Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy Vol. 8.2 (February 2008)
“Untergang und Übergang: The Tragic Descent of Socrates and Zarathustra.” Journal of Nietzsche Studies, Vol. 34 (Fall 2007)
“Plato’s Different Device: Reconciling the One and the Many in the Philebus.” In Philosophy in Dialogue: Plato’s Many Devices. Edited by Gary Alan Scott. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2007
“The Cat at Play: Nietzsche’s Feline Styles.” In A Nietzschean Bestiary. Edited by Ralph Acampora and Christa Davis Acampora. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004
“The Music-Making Socrates: Plato and Nietzsche Revisited, Philosophy and Tragedy Rejoined.” International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 34:3 (Fall 2002)
“The Ethics of Generosity and Friendship: Aristotle’s Gift to Nietzsche?” In The Question of the Gift. Edited by Mark Osteen. New York, NY: Routledge, 2002
“ ‘Strange and Sweet’ Metaphor: Aristotle’s Remembrance of Xenia in Poetics and Hermeneutics.” Refereed paper, selected for Ancient Philosophy Society, DePaul University, April 2020 [conference cancelled due to COVID-19]
“Intersections of Philosophy and Literature.” Refereed poster presentation, APA Eastern Division, Philadelphia, January 2020
“Socratic Legacies Today.” Intensive, short course at Middlebury Alumni College, August 2019
“The Early Nietzsche on the Pre-Socratics: ‘The Republic of Geniuses.’ ” Refereed paper, North American Nietzsche Society Conference, New York City, October 2016 [presented in absentia]
“From the Kantian Sublime to the Nietzschean Tragic: A Commentary.” American Society for Aesthetics, Philadelphia, March 2015
Participant, “Classics in Extremis,” Centre for Classical Reception, Durham University, July 2014
“Plato’s Other Pharmakon: A Commentary.” Ancient Philosophy Society, University of South Florida, April 2014
“Aristotle on Truth in Fiction: A Commentary.” American Society for Aesthetics, Philadelphia, March 2014
Participant and presenter, “Renewing the Ancient Quarrel: Plato, Hegel, Adorno,” Institute for the History of Philosophy, Emory University, June 2013 (including research grant)
“Plato on Belief and Persuasion: A Commentary.” University of Texas at Austin, 35th Annual Workshop on Ancient Philosophy, March 2012
“Heraclitus and Nietzsche: Flux, Play, Logos.” Invited paper, Haverford College, February 2011
“On Platonic Education: Four Commentaries,” Conference on “Greek Paideia Revisited: Ancient Remedies/Contemporary Ills,” University of South Florida, February 2011
“Aristotle on Soul and Self-Movement: A Commentary,” Ancient Philosophy Society, Michigan State University, April 2010
“Art after the End of Art: A Commentary.” APA Eastern Division, Panel on Continental Aesthetics, Philadelphia, December 2008
“Antigone on Eros, Friendship, and Androgyny.” Invited paper, “Year of Antigones” conference, DePaul University, May 2008
“Katharsis Revisited: Aristotle on the Significance of the Tragic Emotions.” Refereed paper, Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy, APA Pacific Division, Pasadena, March 2008
“Über die deutsche Sprache und die deutsche Philosophie.” Invited presentation in German, Middlebury College Summer School of Languages, August 2007
“Plato’s Self-Enacting Methods in the Philebus,” Refereed paper, International Plato Society, Trinity College, Dublin, July 2007
“What Makes the Liberal Arts Liberal?” Invited paper, Haverford College, Symposium for Professor Aryeh Kosman, November 2006
“The Style and Substance of Aristotle’s Language: Challenges for Translation.” Invited paper, Ancient Philosophy Society, DePaul University, April 2006