James J. O’Hara

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George L. Paddison Professor of LatinJames J. O'Hara

Jim O’Hara has taught at UNC since 2001.  He received his A.B. in Classics from the College of the Holy Cross in 1981, and his Ph.D. in Classical Studies from the University of Michigan in 1986. From 1986 to 2001, he taught at Wesleyan University, where he was Professor of Classical Studies and served as Department Chair. At UNC he has been Chair of the Department (2003-2007), Director of Graduate Studies, Director of the Post-Baccalaureate Program, Director of Admissions, and Placement Director.

His research and teaching interests are in Greek and especially Latin poetry, with special interests in the Augustan period and in epic, didactic and satire; other interests include Roman Civilization, Hellenistic poetry, the ancient novel, and the mythological handbook.  His book Death and the Optimistic Prophecy in Vergil’s Aeneid (Princeton 1990, paperback 2014) argues that readers of the Aeneid are put in a position similar to that of characters within the poem who receive deceptively optimistic prophecies. In True Names: Vergil and the Alexandrian Tradition of Etymological Wordplay (Ann Arbor 1996, new expanded paperback edition 2017; also at Amazon), he discusses etymologizing in Greek and Roman authors before Vergil, and the form and function of Vergilian wordplay, and offers an annotated catalogue of examples of etymological wordplay in Vergil.  His book, Inconsistency in Roman Epic: Studies in Catullus, Lucretius, Vergil, Ovid and Lucan (Cambridge 2007) (also at Amazon), in the series “Roman Literature in its Contexts,”  explores the possibility of interpreting, rather than explaining away, inconsistencies in Greek and Roman poetry, especially Roman epic, and offers a unique perspective from which to consider recent approaches to Latin literature.

His articles and book reviews have dealt often with Vergil, but also with Homer, Callimachus, Apollonius of Rhodes, Catullus, Lucretius, Propertius, Tibullus, Ovid, Lucan, the novel, and Percy Jackson and the Olympians, as well as a strange lost Greek poem on the “six sex changes of Tiresias” by a mysterious poet named Sostratus.

Currently he is part of a team working to produce a new classroom commentary on the Aeneid for Focus Press.  Randall Ganiban has been general editor of Books 1-6, for which Jim has done Aeneid 4, in two formats.  One is in a volume on Aeneid 1-6 for advanced undergraduates, and one has been published separately with more extensive notes on the Latin for intermediate students.  For Books 7-12, Randy and Jim are sharing the duties of being general editor, and Jim is working on Aeneid 8, and his standalone Aeneid 8 will be out in SP 2018.

His current book project is a monograph entitled Teaching, Pretending to Teach, and the Authority of the Speaker in Roman Didactic and Satire.  In SP 2010 and in SP 2015 he gave a seminar on “Didactic and Satire,” which examined common problems in the study of a number of Greek and Roman texts in these two genres.  He has spoken on this project as Brittingham Lecturer at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and as John and Mary McDiarmid Lecturer at the University of Washington, Seattle, and as Paul M. Maty Skiela Lecturer at Temple University.  His work on this book has been supported by a James Gilmore Fletcher Whitton Faculty Fellowship at UNC’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities and by a fellowship to work on this book from the Loeb Classical Library Foundation.

His graduate teaching also includes courses on the Aeneid, Vergil’s Georgics, Readings in Latin Literature of the Augustan Age, Catullus, Lucretius, and Horace.  His undergraduate teaching has involved those authors, as well as Homer, Sophocles, Tibullus, Ovid, and Juvenal.  In 2013 he won a Teaching Award from UNC’s Student Undergraduate Teaching and Staff Awards (SUTASA) Committee.

M.A. Theses and Ph.D. Dissertation Directed at UNC:

Dennis McKay, Aspects of Fortuna in Lucan’s Bellum Civile (M.A. 2002)
Arum Park, The Pastoral Landscapes of Vergil’s Georgics (M.A. 2004)
John Henkel, Some Aspects of the Golden Age in Vergil’s First Georgic (M.A. 2004)
Christopher Polt, Latin Literary Translation in the Late Roman Republic (M.A. 2007)
John Henkel, Writing on Trees: Genre and Metapoetics in Vergil’s Eclogues and Georgics (Ph.D. 2009)
Chris Polt, Catullus and Republican Dramatic Literature (Ph.D. 2010; won Linda Dykstra Distinguished Dissertation Award from UNC)
Zack Rider, Empedocles, Epicurus and the Failure of Sacrifice in Lucretius (M.A. 2011)
Ted Gellar-Goad, Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura and Satire (Ph.D. 2012)
David C.A. Wiltshire, “Hopeful Joy”: A Study of Laetus in Vergil (Ph.D. 2012)
Tedd Wimperis, Genre and Rhetoric in the Reception of Virgil’s Georgics: Poliziano’s Rusticus as Didaxis and Epideixes (M.A. thesis 2013)
Zack Rider, The Divinizing Role of Knowledge in Didactic Poetry from Hesiod to Manilius (Ph.D. 2016)
Tedd Wimperis, Vergil and Political Myth: Collective Memory and the Constructed Ethnicities of the Aeneid (Ph.D. 2017)
Keith Penich, Vision and Narrative in Apollonius’ Argonautica (Ph.D., in progress)

Committee member for theses or dissertations on: Prodigals and Prodigality in Classical Antiquity; Jason’s Leadership in the Argonautika of Apollonios Rhodios; Gender and Time in Latin Love Elegy; The Dream as a Narrative Device in the Metamorphoses of Apuleius; The Semantics of CHRE in Aeschylus; Truth, Falsehood, and Reciprocity in Pindar and Aeschylus; A New Manuscript of Tiberius Claudius Donatus at UNC-Chapel Hill; The Prolongation of Life in Early Modern English Lit. & Culture, with Emphasis on Francis Bacon; Women’s Bodies in Latin Elegy; Cicero’s letters to Terentia; Violence and Vulnerability in Ovid’s Amores; Prudentius’ Use of Vergil and Lucan in the Fifth Combat of the Psychomachia; Hetaireia in Homer; A Commentary on Pindar’s Odes to the Sons of Lampon; The Voyage of the Argo and Other Modes of Travel in Apollonius’ Argonautica; Death and the Female Body in Homer, Vergil, and Ovid; The Chronicle of Novalese (in progress); Literary and Archaeological Etruscans in the First Century BCE (in progress); The Avignon Manuscript and the Transmission of Rufinus’ Translation of Origen’s Peri Archōn (in progress)

E-mail: jimoharaATuncDOTedu
Personal Website with Curriculum Vitae