Al Duncan’s research considers the ways audiences, both ancient and modern, create value from classical Greek theater. Considering plays not simply as poetic texts but also as scripts for performance, his work focuses on the production, materiality, and aesthetics of the dramas of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes. His in-progress book, Ugly Productions: Genre and Aesthetics in Athenian Drama, explores the ways ugliness established and mediated genre in the nascent art form of theater.
Other research interests include cognition; philosophy and literature; dramatic fragments; the reception, translation, and transformation of classical works (especially in South Africa), and connections between performance and pedagogy. In addition to two forthcoming articles on theatrical masks, he is in the early stages of a book-length study of the so-called deus ex machina speech in Greek tragedy. The book will argue that the ex machina speech—far from being an aesthetic liability Aristotle and others have claimed—offered a coherent artistic response to civil strife, modeling ways out of locked conflict which have continued to speak to audiences to the present.
Al Duncan received his BA in Classical Literature & Languages and English from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and his PhD in Classics and Humanities from Stanford University. From 2012 to 2015 he was Assistant Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature at the University of Utah, where he taught undergraduate courses on drama, classical mythology and culture, prose and poetry in Latin/Greek, and a graduate seminar on the ethics of ugliness. At North Carolina he teaches classical Greek literature at all levels as well as broader courses on ancient Mediterranean culture in translation, such as The Age of Pericles and Athletics in the Greek and Roman World. He has directed, produced, translated, consulted for and acted in a number of performances of classical drama, and from 2013-2016 has served on the Society for Classical Studies’ Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance.