PhD, 2008, The University of Chicago
Janet Downie’s main area of research is Greek prose. She studies the tradition of rhetoric and oratory in the classical world, with a special interest in the innovative Greek writing of the Roman imperial period. Questions of literary craft and rhetorical experimentation were central to her first book, At the Limits of Art: A Literary Study of Aelius Aristides’ Hieroi Logoi (Oxford 2013), which explored Aristides’ authorial aspirations in this eccentric first-person narrative of dreams, illness and divine healing.
Recently, she has turned to questions of geography, travel, space and place in the ancient world. She is currently working on a book about the heroic landscapes of imperial Asia Minor, investigating what resonance the storied regions of the Troad and the Black Sea had for the people who built, inhabited, and pondered the real and imagined landscapes of the eastern empire. The project deals with a range of imperial geographical texts in Greek and Latin –- by Pliny and Strabo, Pomponius Mela and Dionysius the Periegete –- and takes its inspiration from Philostratus’ quirky dialogue, On Heroes, written at the beginning of the third century CE. The book’s central proposition is that while Rome and Athens were, in different ways, obvious centers of power and culture, imperial writers created a special place for Asia Minor in the geography of the oikoumene, based partly on the heroic heritage of the region.
Janet Downie received her BA in English Literature and Classics from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, an MA in Late Antique and Byzantine Studies from the University of London (King’s College), UK, and her PhD in Classics from The University of Chicago. From 2008 to 2014 she was Assistant Professor of Classics at Princeton University where she taught undergraduate courses in Greek and Latin language, tragedy, Plato, classical and post-classical rhetoric and oratory, the Greek novel, and mythology, as well as graduate seminars on Second Sophistic and imperial Greek literature. In 2012-2013 she spent a stimulating and formative year as a Solmsen Fellow at the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At UNC she is teaching Introductory Greek, a first-year seminar on travel writing in the ancient world, and (in Spring 2015) the graduate survey of fourth-century Greek literature.