The Verbal Art of Plato

Ancient Greece in the Modern College Classroom

About the Seminar

​The seminar, designed primarily for non-specialists, addresses the challenge of keeping alive in undergraduate education classical texts such as the Iliad, Odyssey, Homeric Hymns, poetry of Hesiod, and Histories of Herodotus that a generation ago were read and understood by every college graduate. Full-time CIC faculty members in all disciplines who might have occasion to use classical texts in their courses may be considered for nomination.

In his dialogues, Plato “stages” encounters between Socrates, his mentor, and some of the most celebrated intellectuals in the second half of the fifth century BCE, including Diotima, the priestess-seer, and Aspasia, the “mistress” of Pericles. The language of these conversations, capturing the thoughts of the various interlocutors, reflects Plato’s keen ear for the complex traditions of verbal art. What comes to life in Plato’s works is a wide range of debates, ongoing in the era of Socrates—a half century before Plato’s own—about the artistry of such classical forms as epic, lyric, and drama. At the same time, Plato assimilates and reshapes these and other forms of public discourse, such as political and forensic oratory, into his own sophisticated genre of dialogue. The seminar will examine selected works, including the Ion, Apology, Symposium, and Phaedo, observing how Plato constructs a Socrates based on the historical person but transformed into a character who both articulates and embodies Plato’s agenda. The readings for the seminar also will include a number of complementary texts such as selections from the Homeric poems and the dramas of Athenian playwrights.

Faculty members in all disciplines who teach the philosophy of Plato or incorporate the dialogues and other works of ancient Greek literature into their courses are encouraged to apply for the program. Materials for the workshop will be available in electronic formats in advance of the seminar. Participants will be expected to read the dialogues and share some of their preliminary impressions with the other participants through the seminar’s website before arriving at the Center for Hellenic Studies (CHS). Participants also will have the option to participate in an inter-institutional course for undergraduates on Plato during the spring semester of 2018 and contribute to the planning for the course as part of the seminar in Washington. In addition, successful applicants will have the opportunity to nominate their students to participate in the center’s undergraduate summer internship program. More information is available at the center's website.

The seminar is made possible through the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Seminar Leaders

Gregory Nagy headshotGregory Nagy is Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and professor of comparative literature and, since 2000, director of the Center for Hellenic Studies at Harvard University. He has served as chair of Harvard’s Literature Concentration, chair of the Department of the Classics, and president of the American Philological Association (APA). His publications include The Best of the Achaeans: Concepts of the Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry, which won the APA’s Goodwin Award of Merit; Greek Mythology and Poetics; Pindar’s Homer: The Lyric Possession of an Epic Past; Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond; Homeric Questions; Plato’s Rhapsody and Homer’s Music: The Poetics of the Panathenaic Festival in Classical Athens; and Homeric Responses. Beginning in 2013, Harvard has offered his popular class, The Ancient Greek Hero, as a massive open online course through edX.

Kenneth Scott Morrell headshotKenneth Scott Morrell is associate professor of Greek and Roman studies at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, and is currently the director of fellowships and curricular development at the Center for Hellenic Studies. In addition to publishing articles and teaching courses on ancient Greek and Latin literature, he has participated in an archaeological survey in southwestern Turkey and been active in a variety of initiatives related to the use of information technology. Morrell was an original member of the Perseus Project and more recently has been involved with Sunoikisis and the Collaboratory for GIS and Mediterranean Archaeology Project.

Current Status

Approximately 20 full-time faculty members from CIC member institutions were selected by competitive nomination.

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Current Status


Approximately 20 full-time faculty members from CIC member institutions will be selected by competitive nomination.

Selection of participants will be announced by Friday, March 17, 2017.

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Nomination Information

Up to 20 individuals will be selected by competitive nomination. Participants must be full-time faculty members at CIC member institutions and can be in any discipline or department.

The chief academic officer of the nominee’s institution must nominate the faculty member who wishes to participate. Each institution may nominate more than one individual, and faculty members of all academic ranks are eligible to participate. The seminar is open to individuals who have participated in previous CIC/CHS seminars, but preference will be given to first-time participants.

The nomination deadline is Friday, February 10, 2017.

Selection of participants will be announced by Friday, March 17, 2017.

To submit a nomination online, please refer to the brochure and nomination form:

Location and Expenses

​The seminar took place at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, DC. Housing will be provided at the center. Lodging, some meals, books, and other expenses will be covered by CIC, CHS, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The only expense to participants or their institutions will be transportation to and from Washington, DC, although CIC will provide participants a stipend of up to $400 to help offset the cost of travel and meals.

Contact Information

​For questions about the seminar or the nomination process, contact Stephen Gibson, CIC director of programs, at or (202) 466-7230.