Niall works on ancient Greek literature and thought. His research focuses on the relationship between myth, philosophy, science and drama, and how these different ways of thinking and putting forward a view of the world paved the way for one of antiquity’s most important – and most challenging – legacies to the modern world: democracy.
Other interests include the cultural impact of widening use of alphabetic writing in Greece from the 8th century BC onwards – a technological revolution comparable with the modern internet revolution, from the Web itself to Twitter and beyond – and the development of distinctive styles of political action in Athens in the 4th century BC, across a spectrum that would include modern ideas of spin, statecraft and political theory.
I welcome proposals for research projects in any of the subjects described above or in related areas. I am particularly interested in supervising projects on myth, writing and cultural memory in ancient Greece; citizenship and performance in democratic Athens; and the various ways in which participants in modern politics of every hue have used, or been inspired by, ancient Greek models.
Completed research degrees supervised:
Dr Efthymia Karaouza: PhD, ‘Cohesion and text structure in Attic Greek prose’ (2007). Co-supervision with Prof. Michael Toolan (English)
Dr Jacquelyn Austin: PhD, ‘Writers and writing in the Roman army at Dura-Europos’ (2010). Co-supervision with Dr Tom Davis (English). External examiner Prof. Alan Bowman
Deborah Kerr: MPhil, ‘Hags versus sorceresses: the figure of the witch in ancient literature’ (2007). External examiner Prof. Daniel Ogden
Annabel Heath: MPhil, ‘Ancient Greek tragedy: a study in the nature of dystopianism’ (2010). External examiner Dr Ian Ruffell
Current research supervision:
Deborah Kerr: PhD, ‘Doorways, ideas of liminality and magic-working in ancient literature’
Matthew Kears: PhD, ‘Resident aliens and the concept of citizenship in democratic Athens’
Nick Silverman: MPhil, ‘Reception of Plato’s Republic in 20th-century utopian literature’
Emmanouela-Maria Giamalaki: MPhil, ‘Demosthenes and the rhetoric of the prooimion’
The book I am writing at the moment, Athens: The City as University, looks to the first great democratic society we know for a better understanding of how we define our identity as members of a community, how we learn to succeed and play our full part in society, and how we can take control of the way our society is run: in other words, of the idea of citizenship.
Citizenship is about three inseparable things: a sense of solidarity and belonging, willingness to contribute to the common good, and the right to have a say in how we live together. I argue that, for all its problems and complexities, the example of ancient Athens – a society in which individual citizens routinely voted on the most important decisions, on both policy and executive action; in which ordinary people were summoned by lot to fill top government jobs; and where there was a process for ejecting unpopular politicians not just from government, but from the country – can help us renew our understanding of citizenship, and get beyond some of the problems of political disengagement that face us today.
Assorted more specific, and more miscellaneous, interests include:
writing in early Greece, especially epigrams (poems written, originally, on objects like gravestones or gifts to the gods), graffiti, and things written during party games and in other informal contexts
the historian Herodotos of Halikarnassos, especially his interests in myth, writing, memory and popular traditions
learning, performance, and citizenship in ancient Greece and today (see below)
magic and other marginalised or unofficial traditions of wisdom, philosophy or religion in ancient Greece
Isokrates of Athens and Alkidamas of Elaia, 4th-century political gurus less well known, but no less interesting, than their contemporaries Plato and Xenophon
the 3rd-century BC poet Nossis of Lokroi – fan of Sappho, brilliant epigrammatist, and, in the overwhelmingly male canon of ancient literature, a women writer who deserves a better hearing
modern performances of ancient Greek drama, especially when used to explore what it means to be part of a community and how, in the face of mortality and the absurdities of the human condition, we can and should still make a difference to the way we live
ancient Greek language: rhetoric, style, grammar, and the application of modern linguistic theories to ancient Greek texts
Niall Livingstone on academia.edu
K. Dowden and N. Livingstone (eds), A Companion to Greek Mythology (Malden MA, Oxford & Chichester: Blackwell, 2011). Includes K. Dowden and N. Livingstone, ‘Thinking through Myth, Thinking Myth Through’ and N. Livingstone, ‘Instructing Myth: From Homer to the Sophists’
N. Livingstone and G. Nisbet, Epigram. Greece & Rome New Surveys in the Classics 38 (Cambridge: CUP, 2010)
‘Isocrates: Philosophia as Refined Civic Discourse’, in F. Woerther (ed.), Literary and Philosophical Rhetoric in the Greek, Roman, Syriac and Arabic Worlds. Europaea Memoria: Studien und Texte zur Geschichte der europäischen Ideen 66 (Hildesheim, Zurich and New York: Olms, 2009)
M. Fox and N. Livingstone, ‘Rhetoric and Historiography’, in I. Worthington (ed.), A Companion to Greek Rhetoric (Malden MA, Oxford & Chichester: Blackwell, 2007), 542-61
Isocrates' Busiris: a Commentary (Leiden: Brill, 2001)