Photo credit: Ursula Poole

I am a PhD candidate (ABD) at Columbia University in the Classical Studies Program. I am trained broadly as both a classicist and philosopher. My dissertation, “Paradox and the Fool in Seneca,” explores the role that paradox – matters, claims, and language that contradict expectation – plays in Seneca’s philosophical and literary account of human ignorance, which, if Seneca is to be believed, is the cognitive state of us all. My work focuses primarily on the Letters on Ethics and concerns the nature of paradoxical experience in its psychological, epistemic, affective, and ethical facets and its expression in Seneca’s oft-noted and (in)famous use of paradox as a stylistic tool. In particular, I argue that paradox is a central feature of our unsatisfying experience as fools, shaped by the incoherent worldview that is ignorance,  and is wholly absent in the “smooth-flow” of the sage’s life. At the same time, Seneca uses paradoxicality as a rhetorical tool in the Letters on Ethics to try to bring our condition into sharp relief and reflect our lived experience in the experience of reading the text in order to foster the recognition of our condition, its source, and its remedy.

More broadly, I am interested in psychology, ethics, and normative epistemology in ancient philosophy, particularly in Stoicism. I am especially interested in the nature of Stoic practice and what its aim is and how it brings this about, and I often use modern psychology as an illuminative analogue. Moreover, I am quite interested in how philosophers’ literary style, rhetoric, and forms of argument supplement and complement the understanding of the content they express. Conversely, I am also interested in the expression and manipulation of philosophical ideas, philosophical schools, and philosophers in non-philosophical texts, such as in the poetry of Solon, Herodotus, and the satirist Lucian.

At Columbia, I am currently teaching Literature Humanities, a survey of the Western canon from antiquity to the modern era. I have previously taught a self-designed course on Stoicism in the original Greek, as well as both Latin and Greek language courses.