John W. Wetzel Professor of Classics and Professor of Government, Franklin and Marshall College
Editorial Board, Polity
Editorial Board, Journal of the History of Ideas
Don, New College House
Recipient, Lindback Award for Outstanding Teaching (2013)
Recipient, Bradley R. Dewey Award for Outstanding Scholarship (2006)
Fellow, Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington, DC (1999-2000)
Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley (1989)
M.A. University of California, Berkeley (1985)
B.A. Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois (1982)
Summa cum laude; valedictorian
(Political Science and Economics; concentration in Math)
“The Power of Social Voice,” TEDx talk (Apr. 2, 2015)
“Learning After Dark,” Lindback Award for Excellence in Teaching, Franklin and Marshall College (2013). Video.
Roman Political Thought: From Cicero to Augustine (Cambridge University Press, 2014). See blog , "Why the Romans?"
Editor. A Companion to Greek Democracy and the Roman Republic (Wiley Blackwell, 2014)
Roman Political Thought and the Modern Theoretical Imagination (University of Oklahoma Press, 2008)
The Iliad as Politics: The Performance of Political Thought (University of Oklahoma Press, 2002).
The Puritan Tradition in Revolutionary, Federalist, and Whig Political Theory: A Rhetoric of Orgins, in edited series "Major Concepts in Politics and Political Theory" (Lang, 1998).
“Thinking about Participatory Communities: The Greek and Roman Contexts,” in Hammer (ed.), A Companion to Greek Democracy and the Roman Republic (Wiley Blackwell, 2014).
“Roman Political Thought,” one of the featured, 6000 word entries, in Encyclopedia of Political Thought (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014).
“Authoring within History: Reflections on the Legacy of Roman Politics,” Classical Receptions Journal (2015)
with Michael Kicey, "Simone Weil's Iliad: The Power of Words." Review of Politics 72 (2010): 71-96 [student co-author].
"Roman Spectacle Entertainments and the Technology of Reality," Arethusa 43 (Winter 2010): 63-86.
"Homer and Political Thought," in Cambridge Companion to Greek Political Theory, ed. Stephen Salkever (Cambridge, 2009).
"What is Politics in the Ancient World?" in Blackwell Companion to Greek and Roman Political Thought, ed. Ryan Balot (Blackwell, 2009).
"Toward a Political Ethic." Reprint of selections from The Iliad as Politics in Homer's The Iliad. Updated Edition (Bloom's Critical Interpretations), ed. Harold Bloom (New York: Chelsea House, 2007), 155-79.
"Bourdieu, ideology, and the Ancient World," American Journal of Semiotics 22 (2006): 87-108.
with Aaron Wildavsky, "L'entrevista semistructurada de final obert. Aproximació a una guia operative." Catalan translation of "The Open-Ended, Semi-Structured Interview" (1989). In El repte de les fonts orals, ed. Lluís Ubeda (Barcelona: Reinbook, 2006).
Reprint of "Hannah Arendt and Roman Political Thought: The Practice of Theory," Political Theory 30 (2002): 124-149, in Hannah Arendt: Critical Assessments of Leading Philosophers, ed. Garrath Williams (Routledge, 2005).
"Ideology, the Symposium, and Archaic Politics," American Journal of Philology 125 (2004): 479-512.
"Plebiscitary Politics in Archaic Greece," Historia 54 (2005): 107-31.
"Hannah Arendt in Germany." Review Essay of Alois Prinz, Beruf Philosophin oder Die Liebe zur Welt; Claudia Althaus, Erfahrung denken; Julia Kristeva, Hannah Arendt; and Michael Weingarten (ed.), Warum Hannah Arendt? Bulletin of the German Historical Institute of London 24 (2002): 36-49.
"Hannah Arendt and Roman Political Thought: The Practice of Theory," Political Theory 30 (2002): 124-149.
"The Iliad as Ethical Thinking: Politics and Pity," Arethusa 35 (2002): 203-305.
"Homer, Tyranny, and Democracy," Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 39 (1998; pub. 2000):331-60.
"Freedom and Fatefulness: Augustine, Arendt, and the Journey of Memory," Theory, Culture, and Society 17 (April 2000): 83-104.
With Addie Maudsley, "The Politics of Courage: Kennedy's Profiles as Political Thought," Journal of American Culture 22 (Summer 1999): 65-69. reprinted in Nonfiction Classics for Students, Vol. 2 (2001) [student co-author].
With Jessica Bleiman and Kenneth Park, "Between Positivism and Postmoderism: Hannah Arendt on the Formation of Policy Judgements," Policy Studies Review 16 (Spring 1999): 148-82 [student co-authors].
"The Politics of the Iliad," The Classical Journal 94 (Oct.-Nov.1998): 1-30.
"The Cultural Construction of Chance in the Iliad," Arethusa 31 (January 1998): 125-148.
"What the Iliad Knows: Why Lyotard is Wrong about Grand Narratives," Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal 81 (Spring/Summer 1998): 137-56.
"Achilles as Vagabond: The Culture of Autonomy in the Iliad," Classical World 90 (July/August 1997): 341-66.
"Who Shall Readily Obey?': Authority and Politics in the Iliad," Phoenix 51 (1997):1-23.
"Hannah Arendt, Identity, and the Politics of Visibility," Contemporary Politics 3 (Winter 1997): 321-339
"Incommensurable Phrases and the Narrative Discourse: Lyotard and Arendt on the Possibility of Politics," Philosophy Today 41 (Winter 1997): 475-90.
"Vaclav Havel's Construction of a Democratic Discourse: Politics in Postmodern Age," Philosophy Today 39 (Summer1995): 119-30. Reprinted in Critical Essays on World Literature. Eds. Marketa Goetz-Stankiewicz and Phyllis Carey (New York: G. K. Hall & Co., 1999).
"The Puritans as Founders: The Quest for Identity in Early Whig Rhetoric," Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation 6 (Summer 1996): 161-94.
"Cultural Theory and Historical Change: The Development of Town and Church in New England Puritanism," Politics, Policy, and Culture, eds. Richard J. Ellis and Dennis J. Coyle (Boulder: Westview, 1994).
"From the Covenant to the Revival: Rhetoric and Meaning in the American Presidency," Perspectives on Law and Public Interest (Spring 1996).
"The Interactive Journal: Creating a Learning Space," PS: Political Science and Politics (March 1997): 70-73.
"The Oakeshottian President: George Bush and the Politics of the Present," Presidential Studies Quarterly 25 (Spring 1995): 301-13.
"The Historical Novelist as Didactician: Safire's Lincoln," Journal of Popular Culture 28 (Fall 1994): 105-12.
"Giving Flesh to Ideas: Constructing a Cultural Dialogue," PS: Political Science and Politics 27 (June 1994): 259-61.
"Meaning and Tradition," Polity 24 (Summer 1992): 551-67.
With Aaron Wildavsky, "The Open-Ended, Semi-Structured Interview: An (Almost) Operational Guide," in Aaron Wildavsky (ed.), Craft Ways (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1989). Translated and published as "La entrevista semi-estructurada de final abierto," Historia y Fuenta Oral, No. 4 (1990): 23-61.
With Aaron Wildavsky, "The Recruitment and Retention of Quality Public Servants: A New Perspective," New York Charter Commission, January 1988.
Review of David Elmer, The Poetics of Consent: Collective Decision Making and the Iliad for Classical Journal (forthcoming).
Review of Dana Villa, Public Freedom, for Perspectives on Politics (2010).
Review of Eric Nelson, Thomas Hobbes, Translations of the Iliad and Odyssey, 2 vols, Political Theory (2011).
Review of Paul Cartledge, Ancient Greek Political Thought in Practice, for Ancient History Bulletin (forthcoming).
Review of Carl Richard, The Golden Age of the Classics in America, for Classical Review (2010).
Review of Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, Why Arendt Matters, for Political Theory 35 (2007): 689-92.
Review of Johannes Haubold, Homer's People, for Classical Journal (2002) 285-87.
Review of William Thalmann, The Swineherd and the Bow, for Classical Journal 95 (Oct/Nov. 1999): 75-77.
Review of Leonard W. Levy, Blasphemy: Verbal Offense Against the Sacred, from Moses to Salman Rushdie, Sociology of Religion 55 (Fall 1994).
Mortality and Meaning
From the earliest of oral tales and written records to contemporary art and music, the inevitability and finality of death occupies the human imagination. In the ancient Mesopotamian epic, Gilgamesh (c. 1800-800 B.C.), Gilgamesh is anguished by the death of his friend Enkidu: "Enkidu, my friend whom I love, has turned to clay!/ Am I not like him? Will I lie down, never to get up again" (trans. Kovacs, X, 145-46)? LIke each of us, Gilgamesh has always judged the meaning of his actions by what those actions accomplish. but when faced with the finality of death, all those actions ultimately seem to accomplish nothing. the prospect of our death, thus, leads us to ask, "What is the purpose of life?"
In this course, we explore various ways in which poets, artists, theologians, philosophers, and political theorists have attempted to give meaning to the fleeting nature of human life. I have organized the course around what I see as three fundamental responses to death. One response is the possibility of immortality, in which one's actions endure in the memory of others beyond one's death. A second response is the possibility of eternity, or of life after death. A final response is to accept that death brings nothingness. I this way, life is not lived in terror of death nor in the hope that something comes after death. Each of these responses carries with it implications for how we are to lead our life.
GOV 241: Classical Political Theory
Democracies depend on a lot of things for their health and survival. They depend on equality of law (or isonomia) in which laws are applied equally to all individuals. Democracies depend on an ability of individuals to have access to political influence, whether it is through the ability to be heard or to run for office. Democracies also require particular formal protections, like the right to speak, the right to due process, or the right to assemble. And democracies depend on openness, or transparency, so that citizens have a basis for making decisions and holding leaders accountable. But overlooked is one of the most important components of democracy, and at the core of Athenian democracy: frank speech (parrhesia).
What does it mean to speak frankly? It meant to speak one's mind, not on behalf of an ideology or a political agenda, and not from a script. There is something both extremely powerful, and extremely unsettling, about frankness: people, given the freedom to speak and act, may voice anger, frustration, dissent, and defiance and may challenge the ideals, beliefs, and traditions held most dear. Frank speech, simply put, exposes the viscera of democracy: the raw truths that lie at the heart of our political system.
We don't expect frankness from our politics. And worst still, precious few individuals - not other elected representatives, not political officials, not the press, not the people - have the courage, strength, or will to speak frankly. Frankness, instead, has been suppressed by the collusion of large organized interests and elected representatives, silenced by threats and fear, and replaced with ideology.
Frankness is a fragile commodity in democracy. It's existence in Athenian society depended both on a set of cultural expectations and on institutional protections. But the very institutions that bring stability to democratic societies work relentlessly against the frankness they were designed to protect. In this course, we look at assertions of frankness and the ways in which frankness is undermined. In the process, we ask why frankness matters for democratic survival.
GOV 343: American Political Tradition
In this course, we will be examining the struggle to define American political culture during one of the most tumultuous times in American history, a period spanning roughly from the Civil War to World War II. It is during this time that the American culture faced the difficult transition from a frontier nation to an industrial, world power. In making this transition, American society has to contend with the lasting divisions of the Civil War, the social impact of urbanization and immigration, and the economic dislocation brought about by industrialization. Each of the voices we will be studying provided their own diagnosis of the cultural challenges facing America, and each, in doing so, offered their own understanding of the meaning of American life.
GOV 445: Hannah Arendt: Politics and Memory
This course focuses on Hannah Arendt, who remains one of the most fascinating, controversial, and important political thinkers of the twentieth century. We will looks at her life and work, examining her effort to recover a notion of politics that she feared had been lost in the modern world. We will examine her philosophic works. And we will read her correspondence with friends, as well as a biography of her life, that traces her own personal struggle with these issues.